A video widely circulated on social media shows a TV anchor from an Egyptian channel owned by the General Intelligence Service reading from a teleprompter and ending with the words “sent from a Samsung device” leading to speculation that the script was Whatsapped to news editors by a government official.
— Stefan Simanowitz (@StefSimanowitz) June 18, 2019
Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi died in a courtroom on Monday after six years in prison spent in solitary confinement. Morsi, who had liver and kidney disease, was consistently denied medical attention whilst incarcerated.
Despite the fact that he was Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Egyptian newspapers all ran the same 42-word story on Morsi’s death. The story only featured as front page news in one newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, in Egypt.
A well trained press: The death of former president Mohamed Morsi only makes front page news in one newspaper today in Egypt. pic.twitter.com/DUvlKpI4n0
— Sharif Kouddous (@sharifkouddous) June 18, 2019
One had a seven line story in the crime and accident section of the publication:
State-owned media has #Morsi death published in 7 lines in the crime/accident news section Regardless of state political stance on ex-president, this is major news for any news outlet that has a minimum of professionalism. Not in #Egypt https://t.co/k7jcHaJXGq
— Amira El-Fekki (@afekki) June 18, 2019
The articles did not mention that Morsi was a former president, instead referred to him as “the accused” or “the deceased”. Media outlets did not publish an official statement from the government.
Under incumbent President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Egypt has tightened its grip on the media in the ongoing battle for public opinion. Security services have bought media properties, suggested mandatory training for members of the press at a Cairo military academy and passed an anti-terror law under which journalists could face jail time for publishing news contrary to government statements.
Whilst the Egyptian press support Al-Sisi, the foreign press and social media have proven harder to get a grip on, so authorities have resorted to blocking access to over 500 websites on the grounds that they are a threat to national security.
In the aftermath of Morsi’s death, Egyptian authorities added the Turkish state television TRT Arabi’s website and Anadolu Agency to this list.
The move comes as Morsi supporter Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wished “God’s mercy onto the martyr Mohamed Morsi, who took part in one of the greatest democratic struggles in history.”
Erdogan blamed Egypt’s “tyrants” for his death and said they were “cowardly” for burying his body with just a few family and friends present.
Egypt ranks 163 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.