News coverage leading up to elections criticised

Egypt: neutrality, objectivity 'missing' in media coverage

GMT 13:37 2012 Tuesday ,12 June

Arab Today, arab today Egypt: neutrality, objectivity 'missing' in media coverage

Egyptian Radio & Television Union HQ
Cairo - Shimaa Mekkawy

Egyptian Radio & Television Union HQ Several television hosts in Egypt are reportedly biased in their commentary on Egypt's second round of presidential elections, especially after the initial round resulted in a run-off between the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Morsi and former regime-linked Ahmed Shafiq. Some hosts apparently launched smear campaigns against a certain candidate, while directly helped spread propaganda.
Arabstoday spoke to some media experts and television hosts for their opinions about this issue.
 Media studies professor Dr Mahmoud Khalil said: "Unfortunately it is true that several TV hosts are not neutral, which is required while working in the media. It is essential for media professionals to remain neutral and not let their personal views affect their work, so they can reflect an objective view about the issues they introduce to their viewers. We can take Mahmoud Saad as an example, as he announced he is against Ahmed Shafiq, so he was accused by Shafiq's supporters of taking a stance based on personal disputes between him and Shafiq...that shows that not being objective could put the TV hosts in uncomfortable positions."
Another media professor, Dr Ali Reda, said he was unhappy with the recent performance of Egypt's media stations. "They suffer from a lack in professionalism, especially after the revolution, as some artists, singers or even jobless people have turned into TV presenters," he said.
Dr Reda said that Egyptian media needed sweeping changes which could take several years, in order to be assured that media institutions are committed to professional standards of media coverage.
 TV personality Moataz al-Demerdash, presenter of the political show "Masr al-Gadida" (New Egypt) on al-Hayah TV said every TV host had to be aware of the difference between the freedom of speech and the impartiality in media coverage, "as freedom is sometimes used as a justification for being biased."
 "The talk-shows had always enjoyed a fair level of freedom in discussing people's problems, and I have done this for five consecutive years in my previous show '90 Minutes' on al-Hayah's Channel 2. I was always eager not to be partial, even in discussing some critical issues like torture in police stations, which cost me my car, as some thugs destroyed it shortly after the episode," said Demerdash.
He added: "I believe talk-shows that commit to professional standards have helped make people aware, which is one of the reasons the Egyptian people could change their country. I call all my fellow hosts to maintain the same performance after the revolution, and in covering the presidential elections in particular. I also think that founding independent institutions to assess media coverage will help on that front."
 Another telelvision presenter, Mona al-Hosseiny said impartiality was largely missing in Egyptian media coverage, not only regarding the presidential elections, but almost in all the events witnessed in Egypt.
"As media professionals, we have a great effect on public opinion, so we have to be very careful in discussing or reviewing any event or issue, the country is going through a very critical period in which we all need to restore calm and avoid any kind of provocation or partiality," said Mona.
Dr Safwat al-Alem, the political media professor in Cairo University, said ensuring more freedom was the answer to many defects in the Egyptian media, saying that although there are some negatives in the coverage of the independent TV channels for the presidential elections, the coverage of other channels; like al-Haya, Nahar TV and CBC was very good. "This shows that the model of ownership of media stations is not the most important thing in reaching the needed quality and integrity in media coverage, but the policies and standards adopted by each station," he said.

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بناية النخيل - رأس النبع _ خلف السفارة الفرنسية _بيروت - لبنان
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