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The fading faces of opposition media under Al-Sisi’s Egypt - Daily News Egypt

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The fading faces of opposition media under Al-Sisi’s Egypt

Egyptian media formed Al-Sisi's personality cult and is constantly emphasising the fight against “terrorism”

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“He stands straight and tall, impeccably attired and starched from head to toe. His freshly washed countenance and youthful zeal shield a Herculean strength and nerves of steel… a hero like no other… He is the chosen leader of the people because he is willing to be their servant.”

This is not a part of a historical romance novel. This was the beginning of a three-paragraph-long description of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi published in the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

Al-Sisi’s cult of personality first bloomed as a result of the pivotal role he played in the ousting of president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013. Twenty days later, when the general addressed the nation and asked people to take to the streets to demonstrate their support for military action against “terrorism”, most Egyptian media – both state-owned and private – rallied behind him.

“Sisi’s message has been received and the people answered: ‘we authorise you!'” was the title of the leading story on the front page of the state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper the next day.

Mustafa Hegazy, advisor of former president Adly Mansour, appeared on television on 1 August 2013 and spoke in English about what he termed “religious fascism”. A slogan stating “Egypt Fights Terrorism” was shown on the top left of the TV screen.

Following Morsi’s removal, the government shut down Islamist television networks. The Muslim Brotherhood-owned television channel Misr 25 went off air along with several other Islamist-run channels after the military statement announcing the ouster of Morsi. The Administrative Court ruled in favour of shutting down Islamist channel Al-Hafez.

Egyptian media took it upon themselves to largely praise Al-Sisi or glorify state action against “enemies of the nation” and “terrorists”.

On any given day on state-TV talk shows one could hear both hosts and guests cheering on the president and stressing the need to fight terrorism.

This situation continued toward the presidential elections in May 2014. Despite the elections law which stated that media should give the same amount of attention to all candidates, the media disproportionally gave greater coverage to Al-Sisi.

When the president spoke at the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York in September this year, talk show host Amr Adeeb said that Al-Sisi “changed the way presidents make speeches at the United Nations”. Adeeb then added: “[It was] a thing of genius…Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was the groom of the United Nations and Egypt was the bride.”

As the months go by, Egyptian media are becoming ever more supportive of the president and his policies. The editors-in-chief of several major state-owned and private newspapers announced in late October their support for all security measures taken by the Egyptian state to confront terrorism and to promote homeland security.

They declared their rejection of any attempt to undermine the role and the performance of the army and the police, and called for coordination between newspapers and satellite channels to “confront terrorist plans” and to “prevent elements who support terrorism from infiltrating the press”.

Several hundred Egyptian journalists rejected the measure in a joint statement, asserting that the agreement between the editors represented “the repudiation of freedom of opinion and expression”. But such bold assertions of independence are becoming increasingly rare given the current media climate in Egypt.

In December 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Egypt had become the world’s ninth most prolific jailer of journalists.

Eleven journalists are currently detained, including Ahmed Zeyada, Mahmoud Shawkan, and Alexandrian Ahmed Fouad, according to Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) researcher Sarah ElMasry.

 Al Jazeera Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and correspondent Peter Greste were sentenced to 7 years in prison, and producer Baher Mohamed to 10 years in prison in June 2014. Al-Sisi said on Tuesday that judicial rulings must be respected, and refused foreign intervention when the US called on their release.

195 journalists were assaulted and injured between 30 June 2013 and 30 May 2014, according to an AFTE report. Six were killed and 68 others were detained during the same period.

Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy spent 306 days in prison without charge until he was released in June 2014.

At least three journalists have been tried and sentenced by military tribunals in 2013. Sinai-based photojournalist Mohamed Sabry was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence in November 2014. Another Sinai-based journalist, Ahmed Abu Deraa, was given a suspended sentence of six months in prison by a military court in Ismailia.

In a move that could lead to the freedom of some of the foreign journalists currently in Egyptian prisons, Al-Sisi issued a law on Wednesday that grants him the authority to “transfer” foreign defendants and detainees to their home countries to be tried.

The situation is more complicated for Egyptian writers. Renowned writer and journalist Alaa Al Aswany announced in June that he stopped writing his weekly column because “as soon as you express a different opinion, television presenters insult you using the dirtiest language and accuse you of betraying your country. This is emotional terrorism and is carried out under approval of the authorities.”

Al Aswany had come under media pressure after criticising Al-Sisi. “Is it moral to accuse an Egyptian citizen of treason on television just because he disagreed with the president?” he asked. He went on to argue that in Egypt it is now only permissible to “glorify” Al-Sisi. “The environment of oppression and suppression of freedoms is growing every day,” he added.

The television show Al-Bernameg of doctor-turned-comedian Bassem Youssef was suspended after he joked about frenzied Al-Sisi supporters in November 2013. The show resumed later, but in May 2014, Youssef decided to stop Al-Bernameg citing he was under pressure.

Newscaster Shahira Amin was dismissed from her position for implying that the removal of Morsi was a coup. Amin later told the Wall Street Journal that “now is the worst ever”.  She added:  “It’s more Mubarak policies, but more dangerous for journalists.”

Pro-government television commentators typically use the catchphrase: “At least we are not Syria or Iraq” to dismiss any criticism of government.

According to a Pew Report in May 2014, Al-Sisi was viewed favourably by 54% of Egyptians, while 45% viewed him unfavourably, a more mixed picture compared to what many in the Egyptian media have reported.

The Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) stated on Sunday that the percentage of those who approve of the president’s performance has increased to 88%.

However, given the diminishing space for expressing dissenting opinions in today’s Egypt, the results of the poll may have been skewed by self-censorship and practical considerations related to the risk of singing outside the choir.

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  • Maged El Hossan

    Sisi; My words go through filters before I speak. The filter of truth, the filter of rightiousness, and the filter of … can it be said?
    Lack of regular maintenance resulted in leakage
    of all filters of the first authorised-by- people- to-kill-the people president

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  • twinkle

    Unfortunately the voice of opposition is not fading. Here you are slandering our government and then you claim the voices are fading. Love how you people contradict your own statements.

    • Anthony Thompson

      Yes, twinkle, those who oppose fascism must be punished. Because Egypt obviously is not ready for democracy.

      • twinkle

        Who are you tell Egypt what it is ready for or not? Egypt is said no to U.S. imperialism. .
        To the U.S. democracy means that Egypt should accept the U.S. installed puppet government called the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists when we refuse and elect the president that we like you say we are not ready for democracy.
        Egypt is much older than the U.S with one of the world’s oldest and greatest civilization you are still a relatively young state and your leaders are warmongering and many of them should be in jail but are getting honored.

        ever since Egypt overthrew these terrorists and elected the president they want the U.S. gov and its mainstream media and organizations who claim to be NGOs but are really political organzations have been slandering Egypt. .

        • Anthony Thompson

          Morsi and the MB won because they captured the most votes in a fair election. Why would the US support the MB? Be real. BTW, American ‘allies’ Israel and Saudi Arabia hated Morsi with a passion and wanted him out. So now you’ve got a new dictator, Sisi. And the old dictator is acquitted and released. Coincidence? No. Sisi and Mubarak are part of the old military system which will never allow Egypt to have a true democracy.

  • D T

    If it wasnt al Sisi Egypt will soon become Libya and eventually Syria under the discrimination and authoritarian policies of Morsi, strictly under the guidance of the Sultan Erdogan of Turkey. The irony is that Erdogan and his ”clan” artificial Turkish identity, are not even Arabs……

    • Hate MB

      Thanks so much for the honest words. The truth !!

      • Anthony Thompson

        Hitler had his adoring supporters, too.

    • Anthony Thompson

      You’re a Kool-Aid drinker. lol.

      • D T

        Taking the discussion to kool stuff is not helping to face the reality on the ground.Everybody ignoliged, including Egyptian people, that the country was going on the brink of chaos and they decided with the latest elections what they want. The order to form a government is given and taken from time to time and Morsi lunatics had been tested and failed….. Nobody can forget his ignorance when he appointed as a culture minister an accountant, simply because he was a,trusted friend of him……

        • Anthony Thompson

          Those ‘latest elections’ weren’t real elections. It was a farce staged by the military and Sisi. You know it deep down in your heart, my friend.

          • D T

            Many outside players accused Sisi for his way in July events however not a single one of them dare to call farce the elections.Beyond the elections however we have the reality and relief on the ground where public support for the islamists diminished, after the one year on power they had.Bottom line, they tested and fail.The sane happened in Tunisia a few days ago when trully moderate islamists loose in the elections…… by truly moderate parties….

          • Anthony Thompson

            Giving a president only one year to improve the country after decades of dictatorship was not fair nor was it legal (his term was for 4 years, right?). And the reason why I say the Sisi election was a sham was because the most powerful opposition (the MB) was not allowed to participate. And the state media were only allowed to publicize and glorify Sisi. Bottom line: In a democracy, if you don’t like what Morsi and the MB have done, you vote them out in the next election. A military coup is NOT a sign of democracy.

          • D T

            When a government becomes dangerous for its own people and did what it did in one year only, takings out crowds to the streets asking insistingly for its resignation, we all understand what was going to Egypt. Saving your country from becoming a Middle Ages state is not something that can be wait another three years to do so. Its like a government is leading a country to the IMF in the West and people go out to the streets demand and have the government resignation. The difference in Egypt is that the Islamist lunatics where not taking people under consideration, who can forget the July marches in Tahrir, and simply use the police to put them down. As for the state media is like telling me that CNN will start to promote the communist party in US equally with republicans or democrats, at the same moment they know that this party will take the country into a leap to the past.

          • twinkle

            They were real elections. During the Muslim Brotherhood elections Egypt ended up with Morsi an Islamist and Shafik who served as minister during Mubarak. This was a trap and the U.S. was meddling with these elections plus the MB terrorists were terrorizing Copts to prevent them from voting.

          • Anthony Thompson

            They were real in the sense that the process was orderly, etc., but they were a farce in the sense that the main political opposition (MB) was banned from participating. If Pres. Obama (Democratic Party) was somehow able to ban the opposition Republicans from participating / voting in the elections, he and his party would win an overwhelming victory. To have an election with a legitimate result, ALL the players must be able to contend and compete for votes.

  • Amira El Fekki

    There are more journalists and writers facing crackdown than the numbers mentioned, we are witnessing one of the most violent regimes. However, and I am a Sisi opponent, I do not understand the constant relation journalists keep making between Sisi and the MB. What we’re dealing with today does not need to be linked to what happened before, because despite the worst that I personally think of this regime, I honestly believe the MB was a disgusting dark period, what is happening now is a common Egyptian state vs. people struggle that we will face bravely, but common in the way that it has been repeated through history and will continue to. Not saying that MB is worse or not, I don’t think there could be a comparison, that was a totally different ideology. i think journalists should start putting words in that way: “The mass protests against Morsi and the wide support for Sisi hoped for better, but…”

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  • Blake

    Whats the latest stats pls? How many are still imprisoned?

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