A massive media campaign has started in Egypt against Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Egyptian pro-coup media and even British-Egyptians have labelled the left-of-centre Guardian as “affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood”, claiming that it is “funded by Qatar”.
The reason for the campaign is that on January 25, the newspaper published a photograph of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square; by mistake the caption described them as “anti-coup protesters” when, in fact, they were pro-coup. Once the mistake was discovered after 30 minutes, the editors corrected the error immediately.
The Guardian has gone to the extreme of making a statement to clarify its own position, pointing out that it is independent and owned by the Scott Trust Limited. It insists that it does not receive funds from any other group, state or body. The attack on the British newspaper represents the latest pressure against foreign journalists and mass media working in Egypt.
The Reader’s Editor at the Guardian is Chris Elliott: “At a tense time for international journalists in Egypt, as many are arrested or even attacked by mobs, a mistake by a colleague, even if quickly corrected, could have major consequences.”
Errors in a newspaper can be distressing and sometimes damaging, Elliott continued, but rarely are they life-threatening. “However, in the febrile atmosphere of Egypt’s streets, a simple word out of place in print or online can put reporters at risk. The government and its many supporters feel that foreign media are biased. International outlets have largely portrayed Egypt’s current predicament as a slide back to authoritarianism.”
He explained that pro-government Egyptians feel that the state’s hard-line measures against dissent are the only and legitimate means of getting rid of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which is portrayed as a “terrorist organisation”, and of re-establishing stability. “As a result, foreign correspondents are seen as acting in the Brotherhood’s interests, and are often depicted on local television stations and in newspapers as paid Brotherhood agents or spies.”