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Egypt’s Press Cemetery

Egyptian journalists light candles during a protest the death of the Egyptian journalist Mayada Ashraf, in Cairo, on 28 March 2016 [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]
Egyptian journalists light candles during a protest following the death of the Egyptian journalist Mayada Ashraf, in Cairo on 28 March 2016 [Amr Sayed/Apaimages]

Throughout the history of the Egyptian press, newspapers have been filled with many major journalists from various approaches and backgrounds, such as Abbas Mahmoud Al-Aqqad, Ibrahim Al-Mazini, Tawfik Diab, Mohamed El-Tabii, brothers Mustafa and Ali Amin, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, Ahmad Baha-Eldin, Salah Hafez, Anis Mansour and many others. However today, and specifically since the military coup in 2013, and since the adoption of a fascist policy of repressing freedoms and gagging, the newspapers have been filled with shallow figures who have no history in journalism or experience in the media. They are merely servants used by the authorities to carry our their orders and say what they are told to say. In other words, they are nothing more than mouthpieces for the leadership and do not belong in the press.

These mouthpieces have a high status in the eyes of the political and security decision-maker, because they all repeat the same discourse and justifications. They even use the same terms and vocabulary given to them by the intelligence agencies, which control the entire press scene. The intelligence bought private newspapers and satellite channels, as well as establishing a private television network called DMC. Those appearing on this channel all represent the discourse of the intelligence and there is no room for any opposing or contradicting discourse. During the presidency of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, in order to beautify the image of the government to the world and present the state as a democracy, the opposition was allowed to express its opinion and there was freedom in the country.

However, this government does not care about how it is seen by others, as the US and West in general are supporting it because it eliminated political Islam, and specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, who were haunting them and posed an existential threat to Israel.

READ: Rights activist reappears in Egypt after 167 days of forcible disappearance

Gresham’s Law says that bad money drives out good, and this is happening in Egypt at the moment. The mouthpieces, or to be more accurate, the mercenaries are the stars in the media at the moment, while the good professionals – many of whom preferred to remain silent, withdrew from the profession, or immigrated – have declined. This is a fatal blow for the media and the press has departed to its final resting place. Visual media has become a nightclub where dancers are competing to present what they’ve received from the intelligence. They all take turns dancing to the tunes of the government in order to please the government and receive more rewards.

Unfortunately, this is the media situation in our beloved Egypt; a group of hustlers.

Freedom of press in Egypt - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Freedom of press in Egypt – Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

We are facing a government that still lives in the 1950s and 1960s and has been fossilised in them. It hasn’t heard of open skies and the major communications revolution that has made the world a small village. The freedom to share information is available to everyone. Nothing is hidden or censored anymore, but the fascist governments think they are protecting themselves behind high metal walls and no one can reach them or know what is happening behind these walls. However, the time when such secrecy was possible is gone for good.

Al-Sisi has repeatedly said that Gamal Abdel Nasser was lucky with his media, and since he staged his coup, Al-Sisi has been trying to make the media follow the approach and policy of the National Guidance Ministry established by Abdel Nasser after the July 1952 coup, and make the media speak his words. He had once said: “Don’t listen to anyone else but me.” So, for the past six years, he has wanted us to listen to one harmonious tune and read one speech dictated by the intelligence. Remember the time a news reporter read a statement live on TV and ended it with “Sent from a Samsung device”. She was a mouthpiece, nothing else. They have eliminated her brain.

READ: Egypt misusing counter-terror law to prosecute regime critics, says Amnesty

As for those who deviate from this system, even by a small margin, even if they are followers of the government, their fate is prison with the ready-made charges of promoting false news and joining the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group. Funnily enough, some Christians were accused of this, proving that the government has lost its mind. It recently accused Mada Masr, a liberal website affiliated with the US Embassy, ​​of these charges. After the news site’s headquarters were raided and its journalists arrested, they were released hours later due to the embassy’s interference. Meanwhile there are dozens of journalists in prison for years without anyone paying attention to them, as they are not affiliated with any embassies, but rather follow their own conscience. The press has been killed in Egypt and there is no consolation for the journalists.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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