For the fourth or fifth time in seven years, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi outrageously addressed opposition TV channels broadcasting from abroad, particularly from Turkey. This time Al-Sisi accused these channels of fabrication, lashing out at the Egyptian state and spreading false news about Egyptian internal affairs.
During my work for Mekameleen TV in its early days in 2014, I witnessed for the first time how these channels managed to highlight Al-Sisi’s rage. Leaks exposing him and his regime were coming in succession. The most significant and widespread of which were the ones in which he implicated Gulf leaders. Days later, in mid-February 2015, the General appeared in a video titled “The President’s Talk” to speak about fourth-generation warfare and to swear that he had talked to the media for 1,000 hours and that he had never spoken ill of any Arab leader.
Years later, Al-Sisi appeared to talk about the offshore-broadcasting channels. This time he did not defend himself, but rather threatened the channels’ broadcasters and other workers that they would not escape punishment, saying he would keep pursuing them for as long as he remained in power. Indeed, months later, Interpol issued red notices for those channels’ journalists and they were sentenced to five to 15 years in jail. They were also added on the terror list and prohibited from renewing their passports.
In mid-December 2014, the anti-coup camp woke up to the sudden news that Al Jazeera Mubasher had been blocked in Egypt, which was the most prominent media platform in post-revolution Egypt, only to suddenly be blocked due to the change of politics in the Gulf.
Ten days earlier, the first recording was leaked from within Al-Sisi’s office, announcing Mekameleen TV to the world, followed by another leak by Al-Sharq TV about the police vehicle massacre, bringing to an end the brainwashing being carried out by the media across large sections of Egyptian society both without and outside the country. Day after day, those channels were expanding their personnel, enhancing their expertise and offering training opportunities to their staff, while at the same time gaining new audience inside Egypt, pulling the rug out from under the channels of the Media Production City, which are loyal to Al-Sisi’s administration.
Each year, voices that are obtrusive to the anti-coup camp would rise, requesting these channels be banned. The regime is unable to stop the influence these channels have on the average Egyptian, so it decided to fight them from within, starting with promoting that these channels only serve the interests of their owners, an obvious fallacy.
What have the channels accomplished?
If the channels weren’t successful and influential, then why would Al-Sisi fight them on a daily basis through targeting their owners and staff, attempting to distort and restrict them, arresting their families and demolishing their homes in Egypt?
Certain channels have become the main target of the anti-revolution axis in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh and have become pawns to be used in the besiegement of Qatar. One state is demanding their closure, while another demands the extradition of its staff. This is a proof that these small channels have actually bothered the Gulf as they support dictatorships in the Arab world.
What if those channels didn’t exist? Egypt would simply go through a new setback similar to that of 1967. In fact, in the Abdel Nasser era Israel was occupying all of Sinai, while Ahmad Said and the authority’s media were convincing Egyptians that the Israeli aircrafts being demolished by the Egyptian army could not be counted.
Had Mekameleen, Al-Sharq TV and other channels not existed, Al-Sisi would have given up Tinar and Sarafin, Nile water and Egypt’s gas, and killed and jailed many with no one aware of what crimes he was committing.
These channels still represent hope for a large number of detainees. These channels still highlight their pain and suffering, and work for their release, it is the most important reason why they should continue with their vital work.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 06 September 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.