What is at stake
Time was when, for Egyptians, the media of the western world was infallible. Those born in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s can remember well the time when their radios or their parents’ were always tuned to the BBC,
the Voice of America or the Monte Carlo Arabic services to hear the news. This was a time when Egypt’s media was heavily censored, and the source of reliable news on what was happening in the world or, more importantly, at home was the western media.
Even when censorship over the media was fully lifted—and this only occurred during the Mubarak times, a matter we can testify to first hand in Watani—the western media remained an unquestionable source of precise information.
Today, Egyptians are aghast at the contrasting scene. At a time when all sources of information are a mouse click away, news about Egypt are more often than not reported in such a distorted way, that has Egyptians look around them and ask: why? Why are the several-thousands-strong demonstrations by Mursi supporters inflated by the media to appear bigger than they really are? Why are the real numbers—and they are in the millions—of the anti-Mursi protestors made to look as though they are the same size as the pro-Mursi protestors? Why are the vicious attacks by Mursi supporters against non-armed Mursi opponents or civilians reported as “clashes”, as though both were offenders? Why aren’t the atrocities and flagrant outlaw activity by the Islamist Mursi supporters ever given coverage in the western media? We read nothing there about the cruel torture, in many cases leading to death, dealt by the Islamists to any non-Islamist who falls in their hands. Nothing about the disfigured bodies cast outside their camp at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo or the Nahda Square in Giza. Until last week, 11 such bodies were found near the former, and four in the vicinity of the latter; to say nothing of the numbers found in other towns in Egypt. Watani reported on the 22-year-old Abadir Maqar from Assiut who was near a mosque between life and death and moved quickly to hospital. And there are countless similar cases. We also read nothing about the exploitation of Islamist women as human shields—three were killed, shot in the back at close range, as they stood on the front line of a pro-Mursi demonstration in the East Delta town of Mansoura—and the use of children as ‘prospective martyrs’ who move around in shrouds, which generated a horrified outcry from Egyptian child rights groups.
The sometimes subtle, sometimes flagrant, bias towards the Islamists by the media in the free world is unquestionable. Why?
“Don’t we count?”
Add to this the vocal defence by western regimes of Mursi and his supporters. Anti-Mursi, anti-Islamist Egyptians—and they are in the wide majority as a simple comparison of the numbers on the street proves—are asking: “Don’t we count for anything at all? Has the ‘free world’ sold us off to the Islamists and, now that we have shirked them off and are determined never to go back to Islamist rule, are rushing to defend their allies? And against who? Against us the people? Is this democracy as the free world understands it? No-one can claim that the masses of Egyptians did not make their stance known. They went out, more than 33 million of them, into the streets to declare they’re having no religious rule. True, they had—in the wake of the 2011 revolution—been willing to give the Islamists a chance, but all it took was one year of Mursi in power to open the eyes of Egyptians to the truth about Islamist rule; that the Islamists were stealing the nascent democracy and throwing it to the wind, never to be regained. Egyptians realised they had to prise their stolen democracy out of the hands of the Islamists who were consigning it to history. And that was when Egypt rebelled on 30 June; it was now or never.
The free world insisted that a “freely-elected president” could only be removed through the ballot box. But Egyptians knew that, under the Islamists, the ballot box would be manipulated to bring in only Islamists. Since this was not difficult to understand, why did the West appear unable to grasp it? Did the West have a stake in installing Islamist regimes in Egypt or, for that matter, in all the Middle East?
As Egyptians see it, the stakes are high in Egypt. The journalist, researcher, and analyst Soliman Shafiq says that decision making and public opinion in the West is a three-pronged process that involves political administrations, the civic society and, finally, the media.
As far as politics are concerned, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are adept at dealing with the international community, not least because they are in essence a pan-national organisation that does not honour nationalism. For them Egypt is no nation; it is but a part of a pan-world Islamic caliphate. In this capacity, it has been a treasure trove for the US; it offered the Americans the Egyptian soil Mubarak had refused to offer. It relinquished Sinai to the Palestinian Jihadis, and Halayeb and Shalateen to Sudan. It broke ties with Syria and declared jihad against the Assad regime.
In case of the civic society, many Egyptian NGOs have been long on the receiving end of aid from the West, and have not thus been effective in relaying the real face of events to the West.
The MB have a very powerful media apparatus, according to Mr Shafiq. The father-son Essam and Gihad al-Haddad are associated with work groups abroad that have paid more than a billion dollars to expert firms in the West to polish their image and market their thoughts. Today, Mr Shafiq says, the MB claim they are being illegally detained, even though no detentions are conducted except through orders by the prosecution. They attempt to initiate fights with the police and army. Using the principle of ‘martyrdom’ in a suicidal sense, they are willing to die then allege the Egyptian army is conducting genocide against them.
In the eyes of the political researcher and head of the Egyptians’ centre for political, legal, and economic studies Adel Amer, the US has lost an invaluable ally in Mursi. This explains the American confusion in the wake of the Mursi ouster. The US could not even make up its mind whether or not the 30 June protests which were later backed by the Egyptian army could be termed a coup.
“The US and the West are behaving as though they lost an agent in Mursi,” Mr Amer says. They show excessive interest in the demand to set Mursi free, even though he faces charges which include colluding with foreign parties, in this case Hamas, to escape prison; and killing of soldiers and prisoners in the process. “This points at a US stake in Islamist rule in the region, but America has already gained notoriety here as a sponsor of terrorism,” he says.
Even though an official Israeli response to the Mursi ouster has yet to be declared, Tel Aviv has said that Mursi had rendered it invaluable services by working to harness the power of terrorist groups in Sinai, reducing thus the number of terrorist operations against Israel.
And in a paradox Egyptians cannot miss, the Israeli media is present in force among the campers at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. Whereas Egyptian journalists and photographers are not allowed to set foot among the Rabaa protestors, the Israeli military correspondent broadcasts live reports regularly from there.
31 July 2013