Egyptian media 'needs own revolution'
Cairo - Arabstoday
The Egyptian media needs a revolution of its own, according to an article published in UK newspaper the Guardian. The article criticized the Egyptian army’s censorship of the media as well as internal nepotism and patron-client systems reminiscent of “ancient Rome or the modern-day mafia.”
In the article, titled ‘Egypt’s media must undergo its own revolution,’ author Austin Mackell, argues that with a 40 percent illiteracy rate, television is the “main and most trusted” source of news in Egypt. He says this is something Egyptian activists are trying to change as they look for ways to inform people beyond social media circles on Facebook and Twitter.
Mackell argues that the only major difference between state media before and after Egypt’s January uprising is that “Before the instructions had come primarily from the ministry of information; now, they come almost exclusively from the military.”
A nonprofit broadcaster in Egypt, which some activists are working to launch, would be a start, says Mackell. However, “such a channel would still be vulnerable to direct military intervention,” says Mackell, referencing the fact that security personnel have entered TV studios in Cairo on multiple occasions.
Mackell goes on to say that journalistic integrity is “far from universal” among Egyptian media, saying state media have even “made themselves accomplices in state terror.”
He cites the deadly October 9 Maspiro clashes as an example, saying state television anchor Rasha Magdy “directly incit[ed] sectarian violence” by reporting that armed Christians had attacked soldiers and calling for “’honorable citizens’ to come to the streets and defend the army.”
A former state television employee told Mackell how commands “would filter down from management to report a story a certain way, or to ignore it, or to wait for an official statement – the reading of which would be as far as coverage on that issue went,” he says.
He adds that the same reporter gained their job through “networks of nepotism,” and says that nepotism, rather than professional merit, determine employment and promotion in Egypt.
“These networks of client-patron relations… are not limited to state TV, but infect every element of Egyptian bureaucracy, business and society and are the wire that holds the old order in place,” writes Mackell.
“Before this revolution can be complete they will all need to be challenged. The state broadcaster is a perfect place to start,” he concludes.