Shame, many British hacks failed readers/listeners reporting Egypt.
Is British media (with very few exceptions) confusing or misleading readers, viewers and listeners on the situation in Egypt? Sadly the answer is yes.I might (largely but not entirely) disagree with several Egyptian commentators who accuse British media of deliberate bias, or at least being selective in not showing the entire picture.
Egyptian commentators see conspiracy and believe it to be a part of the British Foreign Office design to see the Muslim Brothers ‘stable’ rule. Historically the British Secrete diplomacy was responsible for creating and funding the Muslim Brothers in 1920s and 1930 to combat the national movement, so goes the wisdom in Egypt.
However, with few exceptions in left wing media ( whose deep seated Anti-Americanism makes them sympathetic to Ismaists in an open anti-US anti Israel bias), it is sheer ignorance and laziness that making seasoned correspondents in all Fleet Street papers and BBC not checking facts or leave them out.
Failure to put Egyptian republic in historic context
Take the Egyptian new president Dr Mohammed Morsi, whose election defines the end of the First Republic 1953-2012 ( by itself illegal and unconstitutional staring with an illegal military coup in 1952) and the start of the second republic.
He is first democratically elected president since Egypt ( unconstitutionally ) turned republic exactly 59 years ago (June 1953), and the first elected head of state in over 6000 years.
All fellow fleet street hacks, and networks BBC, SKY, ITN etc, failed to explain this important information. And given the 100s of years history of Egypt, with which every British school child is familiar, it would have been interesting and informative.
This would have also put the republican presidential institution in contest which differs of what we understand. The weight of history and the centralised authority of the state, which goes back near 7000 years as the Nile was/is central to economy, gives the president a Pharaoh-like status; which what the Egyptians tend to do. The exception was the parliamentary system period ( 1922-1954) with separation between state headed by a king and government changes by election and headed by a majority executive prime minister.
Comical exaggeration of ” American Educated”
Not only non of this important historic background was missing from British media reporting, nearly all hacks referred to Dr Morsi as ” American Educated.” The man only spent about three years in California studying for his PhD between late 1978 & 1982. This was a time when Islamists flooded western universities in post-graduate studies and almost all lived in their little cultural ghetto of an Islamic Emirate , turning their back on culture arts and other forms the west provided. This doesn’t exactly make that devout traditional Islamist ( not just a Muslim but an Islamist) politician ” American educated” .
Missing events outside Tahrir Square
Nearly all TV cameras, and reporters pitched their camps in Tahrir Square, missing events in Nasr City, east of Cairo where secular activists gathered in 100s of thousands, mainly supporting Ahmed Shafik, and The Military.
One understands al-Jazeera ( both Arabic and English) ignoring every event which is not backing Dr Morsi ( al-Jazeera owned and financed by the Sheikh of Qatar, which backs and finances the Muslim brothers and al-Jazeera is a platform of their ideologue Shiekh Youssef Qardawi who was denied visa to enter UK for his support of terrorism) but bizarrely, BBC and Sky ignored marches ( reached more than a Million last Saturday) Thursday-Sunday in support of Shafik remaining in Tahrir Square.
Selective information about candidates
Take BBC reports (or two ways with London presenters) by Hugh Sykes from Cairo. He was totally obsessed with secular presidential candidate Ahmad Shafik ‘military career’ and being a Mubarak official. While making not a single mention to Muslim Brothers candidate Mohammed Mursi’s convictions by criminal court on terrorism charges. Mursi was serving a prison sentence when prisons were broken into last year. Like most correspondents from major Fleet street papers Sykes ignored that Shafik retired from the Air Force over 15 years ago. He took economic and technocratic positions like head of the Civil Aviation authority, believing in reforming the loss-making sector along free-market lines, he turned Cairo airport from a national scandal into one of very few public sector service that actually made money.
Factual Historic Errors
Coverage by the Guardian, the Independent, The Daily Telegraph etc, included some scandalous errors showing total ignorance of one of Africa’s and the Mediterranean most important countries with huge effect on Arabic speaking nations.
Mistakes like repeatedly labelling last autumn parliamentarian elections as ‘ the first free parliamentarian elections in Egypt’s history’ which is plain wrong.
Any A level history student ( or even reading any reference book or ‘ History for Dummies) would know that Egypt had a functioning strong, Westminster style parliament between 1922 – 1954 ( when abolished by Army military coup in 1952), with free election and change of government ( majority party/coalition asked by the King to form government and would go to the people when losing a no confidence vote or at the end of the four years mandate).
Nearly all British media correspondents mislead their readers, viewers and listeners on the question of Muslim Brothers. In describing the group as ‘banned by successive governments,’ or ‘ long repressed by dictatorship’ or ‘ persecuted for 80 years,’ etc without explaining to the readers or the listeners why. In fact the Muslim Brothers were banned by court orders obtained by two civilian democratically elected successive governments in 1942 and 1948 following the group’s long sustained campaign ( started around 1932) of terrorism, violence and assassination; intimidating women, planting bombs in cinemas, theatres, bars and nightclubs and assassinating judges who sentenced the bombers ( although it was only three years sentences). Yet most British reader or BBC listeners remained ignorant of those well documented and accessible historic facts. Not a single British paper, or media outlet mentioned the Muslim Brothers great crime of burning the centre of Cairo, its hotels, cinemas and bars in one night ( 26 January 1952).
Then comes the label that all British media stuck on one of the first round of presidential election runners, ‘moderate’ Islamist Dr Abdel-Moneim abu-Alfutoh. Because he ‘resigned’ from membership of the Muslim Brothers. No mention that he was head of the Gamat Islamyiah responsible for some of the worst acts of terrorism (like the killing of 62 tourists including a dozen British subjects in Luxor 1998). Even in his election campaign he never disassociated himself of acts of terrorism or condemned violence, on the contrary he praised former terrorists from the group as ‘martyrs’.
There is a long list of errors, miss-presentation of facts and laziness in not checking well documented events by many of my fellow hacks…. it is really shame when we fail our readers/listeners who trust us to do our job properly in the first place.