No one can doubt that the media—print, visual or audio—today shapes the biggest part of the public’s awareness, sentiments and culture. As such, it bears
substantial responsibility. While education is controlled through the supervision of curricula, the media—whatever its objective or inclination—has the potential of freely invading minds and souls. The sway today’s visual media holds over viewers underscores the need for recipients to be armed with critical thought and wisdom; otherwise they risk falling prey to dishonesty or deceit that ultimately work to falsify awareness, corrupt sentiment, and misguide insight.
The danger increases in case of satellite channels which parade under religious guise, since this lends their performance an added ethical and behavioural weight. In Egypt, viewers harbour great expectations—and apprehensions—of newcomers to the religious media, who then have to prove their professional, ethical and behavioural credentials.
At Watani, and even though we are not professionally linked to any of the Christian channels, we sense an obligation to sort the wheat from the chaff among them, since we realise that operating under a Christian guise carries very serious overtones, especially where tolerance and acceptance of the other is concerned. Christian channels frequently print advertisements in Watani and, even though it is a given in the media that the message relayed by an advertisement is the sole responsibility of the advertiser, meaning that the publication cannot be held responsible for it, we have more than once met with reader disapprobation of some particular ad. In one case that concerned a Christian satellite TV channel which has the reputation of being fanatic, the discontent was so strong at what readers saw was as a Watani ‘promotion’ of the channel, that we decided we had to decline printing the advertisement in the future. We could not take it upon our conscience to be seen as endorsing fanaticism.
A few weeks ago, news circulated of a new Christian channel al-Hurriya that was to broadcast in Arabic from outside Egypt. Even before the channel was launched, it was the victim of arbitrary allegations of fanaticism, perhaps owing to apprehensions that it would be broadcasting from outside Egypt. The channel came under intense critical scrutiny from the media, especially in what concerns its owners and their religious and political inclinations, as well as the sources of funding of the channel. I followed all this with keen interest since, as I already explained, Watani is bound to find itself in the fray.
In this regard, I received a letter entitled “Al-Hurriya channel between truth and slander”, signed by Dr Ra’fat William. Since the letter tackled the mission, policy and inclinations of al-Hurriya, I am printing here some passages.
· Al-Hurriya channel was established to act as a spiritual course that links the wealth of Church heritage with the current actualities of the community and its changing needs, in order to be a fountain of the truth described by our Saviour: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Al-Hurriya represents a serious attempt to extrapolate the patristic heritage of our Church into our daily lives.
· Al-Hurriya channel derives its roots from the age-old Coptic Church which has, throughout history, preserved true faith and will remain until the end of times the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The channel envisions itself as a link between heaven and earth, connecting current pains and joys with the glorious past, and opening a window of hope on the dreams for tomorrow. It is a channel that includes all and serves all of every age, intellect, religion, culture or social origin.
· Al-Hurriya channel records the pulse of the street and deals with events from a spiritual perspective. It tackles politics, defends rights, and covers sports, medicine and science. Women in it stand tall as befits their equal, complimentary role to men; and young people find in it special focus. Al-Hurriya gives voice to all that are marginalised and oppressed.
· Al-Hurriya channel achieves its objective through live broadcasting; spiritual, artistic, and literary programmes; as well as talk shows and interaction with viewers.
I selected these passages to shed the light on Al-Hurriya, and to counter the fierce, unjustified attack against it even before it started. I am in no position to defend the channel; this is the task of those in charge of it. I merely report on what it alleges are its principles, and it is up to the viewer to take them for their word once they go on air.
10 March 2013