Mad at the media

31-12-2011 12:29 PM

Injy Samy


A recent demonstration held by Egyptian journalists in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate in Downtown Cairo decried the harsh treatment of journalists at the hands of military, and their occasional detention. Passers-by stopped to ask the journalists what they were protesting

A recent demonstration held by Egyptian journalists in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate in Downtown Cairo decried the harsh treatment of journalists at the hands of military, and their occasional detention. Passers-by stopped to ask the journalists what they were protesting
                                                             
                                                                     Mad at the media.jpg
 against. When they understood. they turned, almost unanimously, against the journalists, directing nasty words at them and bitterly criticising them, and all the media, for “putting Egypt on fire”. In an almost unprecedented move, the public vociferously accused the 25 January Revolution and the media of “ruining Egypt”.
State of flux
The startling incident gives reason for contemplation. Why does the Egyptian citizen feel so galled with the press? And does such discontent extend to the visual and audible media?
Almost all media experts in Egypt agree that the Egyptian media is currently in an unprecedented state of flux. A huge number of independent satellite channels, online and print papers have been launched since the January Revolution, to say nothing of the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The content presented by the media races to keep pace with the events and changes Egypt is undergoing.
Experts do not expect all the media outlets to thrive. An inevitable process of “filtering out” is bound to take place in the near future, whether because viewers and readers will steer away from publications which do not hold their interest, because of economic non-viability, or because of possible new rules to be set by the upcoming ruling regime. 
Criminals as superstars
As to the Egyptian in the street, opinion varied on the reasons for discontent with the media. Maged Gamil, a student at the Faculty of Media, told Watani that the ‘yellow press’ which depends mainly on sensationalism to raise circulation, has extended to the other papers. This sensationalism leads to exaggeration and even fabrication of stories. Facebook has become among the main resources for journalists and talk-show producers; they pick up a video or an anecdote posted on the social network, and make an elaborate story out of it.
Peter Magdy, a lawyer, said that the rapid succession of events since last January has stressed Egyptians out. Satellite channels compete to heat up events, each in its own way. Several channels applauded and feted killers and criminals such as Aboud al-Zomor and Sheikh Gaber, who had terrorised citizens and for that they spent decades behind bars and were finally freed following the January Revolution; these channels turned the criminals into super stars hosted by prominent talk shows. 
Sensational vs objective
Mohammed Hashim, a student at the Faculty of Arts, begs to disagree. He believes that the media has become more developed, conveying news in details and credibility. Unlike State-owned media, Hashim said, it presents the facts as they really are on the ground. This has led Egyptians to view talk shows even more than their beloved TV drama serials.
For its part, Watani conducted a survey on Facebook for bloggers’ opinion of the media in Egypt: whether it was non-biased and objective, or tended towards sensationalism. The results was that 80 per cent of those polled saw the media as tending towards sensationalism, and 20 per cent said it was objective.
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