As Clashes Continue in Egypt, a Media War Breaks Out
On the third day of clashes between security forces and protesters in the center of the Cairo, a new battle broke out Sunday between Egypt’s state-run and independent media over whom to blame for the violence.
Citing what they called an official campaign of distortion intended to cover up military violence, human rights advocates argued that the growing uncertainty and insecurity were undermining the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
But what is really at stake in the propaganda war is the support of the public in the looming contest between a newly elected parliament and the military council over which will control the transitional government and oversee the drafting of a new constitution.
The fighting began Friday morning when military police cleared out a small sit-in left over from last month’s protests against military rule, a move that brought out crowds of new demonstrators.
After two days of a military crackdown on the demonstrators that left hundreds wounded and 10 dead — most from gunshot wounds — Egyptian state television presented news of a forensic report purporting to show that the fatal bullets were fired at close range. The presenters suggested this proved the dead demonstrators had been killed by infiltrators in their ranks, not the security forces.
Broadcasting scenes of protesters hurling stones and Molotov cocktails, a presenter declared, “These could never be Egyptians.” At other points, the station repeated a tactic from the last days of the Mubarak government by interviewing people who said that they were protesters who had been paid by liberal groups to attack the military.
Angry at the state media coverage of the violence, several state radio announcers and a few state television newscasters began using the Internet to urge listeners to call their shows in order to counter what they called a “campaign of distortions.” At least three radio announcers have been banned from the air for criticizing the ruling military council or its media management, said Ahmed Montaser, one of the state-radio dissidents.
“All the young radio broadcasters don’t approve the policies of the senior officials putting down a red line that they tell us we can’t cross,” he said. “We’re not organized in an official entity yet, but we’re trying to form something to represent us.”
The violence in Cairo comes at the midpoint in Egypt’s staggered elections for a lower house of Parliament and has already cast a shadow of the process.