Fabrication or Laziness? Appalling Errors in The Daily Telegraph Cairo Report

Once Fleet Street greatest paper on accuracy and checking facts thoroughly, the Daily Telegraph, unfortunately following the Guardian and the BBC in overlooking facts reporting rumours or views based on second-guessing as factual news.

Take today’s telegraphs report from their Cairo stringer, free-lance hackette Lousia Loveluck. entitled “Egypt’s Islamist crackdown intensifies” . The report contains some  factual errors which would fail A level media study students.

In what appears to be an over-zealous rush  to excite the Telegraph foreign desk to buy her story, Miss Loveluck ( in a news story where hacks are not supposed to opine) pens:

1- “Cairo administrative court ruled that al-Jazeera television’s local station Mubasher Misr, one of the last remaining television channels with perceived Islamist sympathies, should be taken off-air…… Government officials have accused it of operating without a permit and spreading rumours. The court ruled that four other channels should also be banned.”

This is factually untrue and had little to do with government officials but the court was ruling in case that has been going on long before the 30 June revolution when millions were out on the streets demanding fresh elections and army intervened.

The fact is it was a court ruling in case which has been going on for long time. Local media complaining that some TV service, including al-Jazeera Egypt direct ( Misr Mubasher) and three others were unfairly competing since they broadcast /transmit without air-wave & wireless licence which is a law requirement exactly as it is the case in UK and rest of the world. Those TV services do not pay ( the quite costly) annual licence fee which makes them sign undertaking to follow the board of broadcasting, communication  and wireless licence ( just like our OFCom code).

A law suit was filed at the administrative court by lawyers Mahmoud Farghaly Omran, Ayman Abdel-Azizi and Amr Kamal asking court to block transmission until the named services obtain the licence like dozens of other TV and broadcast services who have to pay the annual transmission fees.

It is most likely  the lawyers might have their motives, to do with media rivalry as they compete in a crowded market while rivals financed by sheikh of Qatar ( who has a very deep pocket) .. but still facts are facts. The Court ruling has nothing to do with Government officials as the hackette falsely reported

2- On  the court ruling again the hackette misleads readers with inaccurate reporting leaving out facts or not checking them :

“…. one Brotherhood member was handed down a life sentence, 48 were given jail terms ranging from five to 10 years, and three to 15 years in prison for their role in attacks on soldiers in Suez on August 14, which saw some of the fiercest clashes in recent memory. Twelve defendants were acquitted.”

Again here are the facts as presented by the Suez court official papers: 11 handed 25 years  sentences relating to charges of violence under Public Order Act and seven were acquitted. 45 others were given five years each, while eight defendants were acquitted of charges of assaulting army troops, burning military vehicles, throwing Molotov cocktails and attacking churches in Suez governorate.

Whether they were Muslim Brotherhood members or not (which wasn’t part of the hearing) is irrelevant as they were tried for criminal damage, assault, grievous bodily harm, arson and other charges that had nothing to do with their political views or affiliations.

3- Again in another place the reporter wrongly states ” The Brotherhood officially registered as an NGO in March, circumventing a 1954 court ruling that banned the organisation.”

Had she checked facts, instead of repeating a myth created by BBC and Guardian worse reporting she would have avoided this error. Here are the facts:  The Muslim Brotherhood was banned by a civil court in 1948, six years before the date mentioned in the Telegraph report. After several members of the MB were sentenced vy civilian courts ( over 15 years period)   on criminal law charges for terrorism ( bombs in cinemas, theatres and bars) and murders, conspiracy to murder or assassination of judges and political figures ( including Egypt Prime Minister in 1941 for declaring war on Nazi Germany)  they stood trial in 1948 for assassinating Prime Minister Naqrashi Pasha. Then another court ruling banned them as a terrorist organisation two months later. The 1954 was related to Col Nasser & Gen Naguib led Revolutionary Command Council Decree banning all political parties. In secrete agreement with Col Nasser – he later revealed- the MB went to the administrative court to argue they were an evangelist society registered as a charity ( the term NGO wasn’t heard of in 1954 as it wasn’t coined yet) and should be exempted from the political parties ban decree. They won the case. Nasser gave them two cabinet posts. They wanted more and tried to assassinate him a few months later in Alexandria, the bullets missed. Col Nasser cracked down on them.

4- Another misleading paragraph by putting a guess conclusion as fact while leaving out facts error : The reporter writes ” On Monday, a judicial panel set up by Egypt’s military-backed interim government supported a legal challenge to the organisation’s status as an NGO, recommending that it be dissolved.” since she bothered to opine that the government was ” backed by the military”  which is her guess, why did she leave out the other fact : Muslim Brotherhood involvement in terrorism which banned them in 1948 in the first place?

first there is NO unambiguous direct statement from Muslim Brothers revising or renouncing their 1930-1954 terrorism or commitment not to resort to terror the way the IRA did after Good Friday agreement.

Second MB leader M Beltagy on record saying he can halt jihadists terror attacks in Sinai within one hour of reinstating Morsi as president.

This selective choice of leaving out facts, and inserting a guess conclusion breaches first rule of journalism; Accuracy

All  errors could have been avoided had Miss Loveluck bothered to check facts. Facts  available in the public domain, Egyptian media, in print and online in English, French and Arabic. Hence no  excuse for this shabby journalism. When young freelancers behave that way they give Fleet Street a bad name and give excuses to enemies of free press like Hacked Off to push for regulations to censor the media. .

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