Sunday,16 December, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)
Sunday,16 December, 2018
Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

In focus:Media and total power

Media power is a vital element of contemporary state power. But this point is not well understood in Egypt, writes Galal Nassar

اقرأ باللغة العربية

Strategy experts agree there are six factors to measure the overall power of a state. First, the geography of the country, including the state’s geopolitical capabilities in terms of sea access, natural resources, geographic connectivity to neighbouring countries, the size and shape of the country, length of its borders and sources of potable water.

Second, human resources in terms of the size of the population, their skills, education and cultural levels, awareness of humanity’s progress, openness to the world, geographic distribution since stability is threatened if population growth is disconnected from sustainable development plans, and training the population because otherwise growth would lead to poverty, unemployment and deteriorating health and education. 

Economic power is the third factor and constitutes the accumulative value of the state’s natural wealth and industrial and agricultural capabilities, with GNP as an indicator of the state’s economic strength. Average income also indicates how advanced the state is and the level of luxury it affords its citizens, as well as trade levels with other countries.

The fourth element is the state’s political power, in domestic and overseas influence. This focuses on the compatibility and harmony between the people and the regime, and the formula governing their relationship; the more democracy, transparency, rotation of power and good governance, the more powerful the people and stronger their innovative and creative energy in all aspects. The more a regime is a dictatorship or theocracy, the more oppressed are people’s capabilities, preventing them from creativity, threatening their existence during instability and revolution as institutions collapse.

Traditional and advanced military power is the fifth factor, the size of the army, level of training, armament, the size of reserve soldiers and officers, control of borders, protecting vital interests and resources by land, sea and air.

Due to great technological advancements by humanity, scientists added technology as a sixth element to measure the overall power of the modern state, because it is important in the progress of the state and assists military and economic capabilities. It has also become an important and complementary factor for political power, and is linked to education in schools, universities, research centres, innovation, overseas scholarships, and exchange of knowledge with the rest of the world.

While preparing my fellowship paper at the Nasser Higher Military Academy in 1998, I reached the conclusion and recommendation that more research is needed on the media, being a seventh factor in evaluating the total power of the state. This was confirmed as a yardstick and outcome in my Master’s thesis at Leeds University in the UK in 2001. At the time, the powerful role of international media outlets emerged and was established as an influential factor in the ability of the state to manage international relations. The more influential media outlets owned by the state, such as newspapers, magazines, satellite channels, news agencies, television, cinema and drama production, the more impact it had and the more able it was to press its interests and manipulate events through word, sound and image.

Many UN resolutions are formulated in the media before they are issued, while wars, political and military interventions occur under the cover of the media. Meanwhile, the rise and fall of nations taking place on television has made it a critical tool in managing conflicts, international crises and formulating the daily agenda of citizens and societies around the world.

At the same time, international news agencies play a key role in international news because popular media outlets rely on them for content, photos and video footage. Owning an international news agency has become a symbol of power, and influential global powers rely on them in manoeuvring foreign policy. The beginnings of these agencies are rooted in the colonial division of countries and regions in the mid-20th century.

Meanwhile, the majority of local and national news agencies are bound by law and strict supervision in these countries, which leaves them without credibility in serving the state’s national interests when they, other media offices and local information agencies clash with international media outlets and news agencies. 

The most recent example was the terrorist attack that killed Egyptian soldiers and officers on the Oases Road. The delay in issuing Egyptian news statements, by the official spokesman or national news agency or State Information Service, created chaos in the coverage of international and local media. There were conflicting figures and events given by unnamed sources, which reflected structural defects in how Egyptian media is managed and ignorance of the power and capabilities of the media in impacting Egypt’s national security and vital interests. The lack of understanding and human and technological resources to manage the media, resulted in obvious deficiencies and everyone failed the test.

It is unfortunate that complete denial of this deficiency continues, and finger-pointing about failures, low professional standards and lack of objectivity is the prevailing climate and dynamic. Some did not realise that influencing international media requires credibility and capacity, meaning possessing media power along with the abovementioned factors in order for Egypt not to be manipulated domestically or internationally as a result of ignorance, conspiracy or malign intent.

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