Media Neutrality Should Matter to Egyptians

Societies under well established dictatorships, like the Arab Republic of Egypt, don’t understand the concepts of free media and neutrality. These are considered alien notions.

media-egyptiansTwo years after the 2011 Maspero army massacre against Christian protesters, a lead witness still receives threats. For those unfamiliar with the incident, some Christian demonstrators marching from Shobra to the Maspero building protesting the destruction of a church were killed by the army.

At that time, local media – specifically state media – sided against the marchers by telling Egyptians to support the military and to protect the army from the marchers. State media erroneously claimed that the demonstrators were attacking the army.

Today, the army wants to present itself as a hero after orchestrating a coup against President Morsi who was democratically elected by the same people who now dislike the democracy they seemed to acknowledge.

We still have many of the same laws which criminalize freedom of speech and belief. I don’t know how that intimidating and hostile situation would lead to a transition to democracy. Why didn’t people revolt against that from the beginning? They had extended periods of time, long before 2012 and 2013.

Societies under well established dictatorships, like the Arab Republic of Egypt, don’t understand the concepts of free media and neutrality. These are considered alien notions.

That’s why we saw an Egyptian guest on July 4 attacking CNN’s Anderson Cooper, western media and the American administration for describing what happened in Egypt on July 3 as a military coup. What does Anderson have to do, anyway, with the American government? Doesn’t that guest understand that western media is independent from western governments?! A CNN reporter near Tahrir Square was similarly attacked on July 5 by two protesters.

Regarding CNN-International’s coverage about Egypt after July 3, it was a role model for neutrality and professionalism. I think that other news sources should act in the same manner.

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The army prevented some foreign media and news agencies from covering Nasr City’s pro-Morsi protest that were attacked by thugs. The army shot dead one pro-Morsi protester, who was fortunately filmed by CNN’s crew on July 5.

Incitement against foreign news agencies and foreign news channels is now ongoing; surprisingly, not only by Islamists, but also by secularists. OK, if they don’t want us to follow foreign news sources, what do they want us to follow? The local media, state media or what? Are they kidding! So in 2011, many Egyptians were furious at the bias from local media, and they are now furious of the foreign media neutrality!

Prejudiced media only inflames conflicts. Supporters of deposed President Morsi felt that they were betrayed by most of the media which only cover anti-Morsi crowds. Apparently out of retaliation, some of the pro-Morsi crowds wanted to occupy Tahrir Square on July 5. Unless this was somehow staged on television, pro-Morsi crowds attacked some of the anti-Morsi protesters at the October bridge. Then, violence spread all over Egypt.

Emad el Dafrawi is a conscientious objector to military service from Cairo, Egypt. He is an occasional blogger and writes here. He is a pacifist, anti-militarist and campaigns for unpopular prisoners of conscience who were unjustly imprisoned in Egypt. Emad promotes tolerance, reconciliation and peace. He studied mass communication media, and continues to enjoy learning and reading especially about linguistics and technology. Follow him on Twitter @EmadPax.