New president Morsi faces hostile media
12 Jul 2012

Egypt’s newly-elected President Mohamed Morsi has been the target of a media campaign aimed at tarnishing both his image and that of Islamists.

The campaign, launched by several Egyptian media outlets suspected of having close links with both the former regime and the military generals (who ruled the country in the transitional period), has been defending the military council’s policies while vilifying their critics.

Newspaper editors and columnists have in recent weeks raised questions about  whether the new leader’s loyalty lay with Egypt or with the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide Mohamed Badie. An old photograph of Morsi kissing the forehead of Badie on the cover of state-owned magazine Al Mussawar seemed to suggest that the Brotherhood’s spiritual guide will be  in control rather than Morsi. The magazine also published interviews with  liberals opposing a Muslim Brotherhood presidency. They warned that “the Islamist group could change Egypt forever.”

Morsi was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood but severed his affiliation with the movement after his appointment as President. He has promised to be “a president of all Egyptians and to protect the rights of minorities.”

Talk show host Amr Adeeb told viewers on his show Al Qahera al Youm this week that he expects Egyptians to be flogged for their wrongdoings in public squares under “Islamist rule”. He went further, hurling insults at Islamists whom he described as “backward and retarded”. Adeeb also suggested the Islamists may try to kill him for speaking out against them.

“But I shall continue to speak the truth rather than die a coward,” he said.

Columnist Adel Hamouda claimed that Islamists had tried to blow up his home because he had been critical of them in the past. He had earlier warned that the Muslim Brotherhood planned to create an “Islamic emirate” of Egypt.

The front page banner in the independent Al Dostoor on 7 July meanwhile warned readers that Egypt was in “real danger.” The paper quoted Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini as saying “what is happening in Egypt now  is an extension to the Iranian Revolution.”

Earlier this week, state-owned Akhbar quoted on its front page a representative of the radical Islamic Party of Liberation (Tahrir el Islami) — an Islamic political movement that seeks to implement a pure Islamic doctrine — as saying: “We wish to revive the Islamic Caliphate from Cairo and advise Dr Morsi to renege on his promise to establish a civil state.”

In what some analysts described as “Mubarak-era tactics to terrorise the public”, several talk show hosts and newspapers appeared to deliberately hype up an incident in Suez in which a man was reportedly stabbed and killed by “bearded Islamists”. The presenters and journalists alleged that this was “just the beginning of a trend where Islamists would try to impose their ultra-conservative norms on the rest of society.” The man, who had been walking his fiancée home, got into a fist-fight with his assailants who had insisted that he reveal the identity of his partner and was killed. The presenters and journalists charged — even before investigations were conducted that “Islamist organisations seeking to Islamise Egypt were behind the killing.” Investigations later revealed that the suspects were not affiliated to any extremist organisations or religious groups and that the killing had been an accident.

Liberal media have also taken aim at Morsi’s wife, questioning if she was fit to represent Egypt. “How could she receive world leaders and still adhere to her traditional Islamic attire?” was the sarcastic question posed by a columnist in the weekly Al Fagr newspaper. Her new status presents “a comic scenario,” the columnist added.

Whether Morsi’s popularity has been affected by the negative publicity remains unclear. But in a country where the illiteracy rate is as high as 40 per cent, the public can easily be swayed one way or the other. Losing even a handful of his supporters may prove fatal for a president who has won the election with a margin of just 800,000 votes.

As Morsi struggles to wrest more power from the generals — who  have recently been guaranteed sweeping legislative and budgetary powers  by supplementary constitutional amendments issued just days before the run-off vote —  media coverage can be a make or break factor. A credible and unbiased media can certainly go far in helping the new president gain greater powers.

2 responses to “New president Morsi faces hostile media”

  1. […] suspension of the channel comes as Mubarak-era journalists wage a war of words against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), accusing its members of inciting […]

  2. Sami Halfawi says:

    Shahira this is an excellent article that shows the prime reason for most, if not all, of Egypt’s current problems: Illiteracy and poor education. As you rightfully said, the media of the old regime has all they can wish for amidst the prevailing ignorance and the crushing power of poverty that nearly half the Egyptians are within its grip. Add to that the immense wealth of the followers and worshipers of the Mubarak era, it would be very clear that the coming days for Morsi will not be smooth and easy. However, if Morsi really tries to distance himself from the Islamist parties, he will be on the winning side. Yes there are millions who enjoyed the unsurpassed corruption during the past era which made many of them wealthy and powerful, yet if Morsi could prove he is siding with the poor majority then he has nothing to fear. No one says the coming period is going to be a walk in the park, but that is our destiny and nothing comes by easy if we really want to make our new Egypt.