Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Media frenzy

Media figures and political commentators have criticised Islamist attempts to constrain the Egyptian media, writes Reem Leila

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eg931
Al-Ahram Weekly

More than 200 television anchors and producers marched from the TV and Radio building in Maspero to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest against Islamist attempts to control the country’s media on 9 December. As they made their way to Tahrir, the marchers chanted slogans such as “no to the Islamisation of the media” and “the media is free — it is the people’s property”.

The protest came in response to the sit-in staged by thousands of Salafis in front of the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPA) in 6 October city demanding a purge of the country’s media. The Salafis, followers of former presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail, have been chanting slogans such as “to hell with the media of atheists”.

They have also been chanting slogans against media figures like Lamis Al-Hadidi, Ibrahim Eissa and Emadeddin Adib, dubbing them “atheists”.

Abu Ismail, who attends the protest at the EMPA every night, has said that in his view the Egyptian media is corrupt and should be purged. “There are still hundreds of people in the media who supported the previous regime and who attack the Islamists for no good reason,” Abu Ismail said.

“The protesters intend to continue their sit-in until the draft constitution is endorsed.”

Essam Al-Amir, head of state-owned television, resigned his post on 6 December to protest against what he said was the Islamisation of the media and the clashes that had taken place between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi in front of the presidential palace on 5 December.

The clashes left seven dead and more than 750 injured, and Al-Amir claimed that state-owned TV was now presenting only one side of the story. “The state media is biased towards the Muslim Brotherhood in particular and the Islamists in general, which is not surprising since the minister, Salah Abdel-Maksoud, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Al-Amir also said that he was resigning in protest at Morsi’s controversial constitutional declaration announced on 22 November.

Though this has now been withdrawn and a new declaration issued, Al-Amir apparently does not intend to withdraw his resignation. “The new declaration has nothing new in it. Even the only positive article, which states that a new constituent assembly will be elected in case the referendum results are negative, has not been guaranteed. I don’t trust the Muslim Brotherhood — it could easily manipulate the results in its favour,” Al-Amir said.

TV anchor Khairi Ramadan, who works for the CBC satellite channel, also announced his resignation on air over disagreements with the channel’s administration on the same day as Al-Amir’s resignation.

Ramadan, host of a famous talk-show programme, resigned because the channel’s administration had banned former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, a secularist, from appearing on his show.

“Out of respect for myself, my profession and my guest, I am resigning,” Ramadan said on air. “They banned Sabahi even from entering the studio because he is against the president. Is this democracy,” he asked.

It had previously been reported that CBC officials had banned Sabahi, head of the Popular Current, because they were not informed of his appearance on the show. “The channel’s administration asked me not to have Sabahi as a guest on my programme, and so I apologise for not continuing with the programme,” Ramadan added.

Meanwhile, Al-Husseini Abu Deif, a journalist at Al-Fagr newspaper, was seriously injured during clashes near the presidential palace in Heliopolis. Abu Deif was shot in the head, causing him to go into a coma. He is now in a critical condition at the Al-Zahraa Hospital.

Members of the Press Syndicate condemned what they called the attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood against journalists and media personnel. Alaa Al-Attar, a member of the board of the syndicate, said that attacks on journalists and media personnel were “crimes against humanity. They targeted him [Abu Deif] deliberately,” Al-Attar said.

Al-Attar said that the Press Syndicate would not tolerate further attacks against journalists. “The syndicate will spare no effort to prosecute those who committed this crime,” he said.

The syndicate filed a complaint with the attorney-general demanding an immediate investigation into the incident and calling for the prosecution of those accused of inciting attacks on journalists. 

The editor-in-chief of Wighat Nazar magazine, Ayman Al-Sayyad, said that he believed that Al-Amir and Ramadan would not be alone in resigning their posts. “More TV anchors and professionals could easily follow,” he said. 

Al-Sayyad, who has resigned his post as one of president Morsi’s counselors, pointed out that the resignations came after the speech in which Morsi talked about democracy and freedom of expression, but also tacitly threatened the opposition.

“Morsi is curbing the freedom of the media and expression. He is trying to prevent opposition leaders from reaching the public. He does not want their voices to be heard. He wants only his voice and those of his followers to reach people,” Al-Sayyad said.

Mohamed Al-Baradei, head of the Constitution Party, condemned what he called Morsi’s attempts to control the media. Al-Baradei said on twitter on 7 December that banning Sabahi from the CBC channel was “an escalation of fascist control over the media. How come Morsi presents himself as a representative of the revolution and a preacher for freedom,” Al-Baradei asked.

According to Al-Baradei, this is not the first time Morsi has constrained freedom of expression. “Appointing a Muslim Brotherhood minister for the media is a shame in itself,” he said on his twitter account.

Al-Baradei said that he believed Morsi had not been sincere in his call for dialogue in his 6 December speech, because he had refused to cancel the constitutional declaration giving him wide-ranging powers. “The results of the meeting afterwards were not promising. Nothing has changed,” Al-Baradei said.

Al-Baradei continued by saying that Morsi’s call for dialogue with the opposition forces had turned out to be false because of his attempts to control the media and freedom of expression and prevent the opposition from reaching the public.

Constitutional legitimacy could only be achieved through building national consensus, he said, but Morsi was drifting away from this. “He is ignoring the demands of the people and serving only the interests of the Brotherhood,” Al-Baradei said.

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