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Reporting the ballot box: election coverage in Egyptian media

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With the third, and final, stage of Egypt’s historic lower-house parliamentary elections approaching, local news organizations are competing more strongly than ever over who presents the most detailed, accurate and sometimes overwhelming coverage of the process.

Egyptian audiences are being regularly treated since late November to exhaustive coverage of the entire electoral process, and almost every newspaper, program and channel’s coverage goes somewhat like this:

  1. Predictions (and analysis of the previous round’s trends before the second round) start a week before election day
  2. Coverage of campaign promises and strategies throughout the week
  3. Detailed coverage of poll station security the night before, with interviews conducted with the highest ranking security official, police or military, the reporter/presenter can get access to
  4. Initial turnout numbers on election day across several voting districts
  5. Man-on-the-street interviews with voters standing in line visa-vis their choice of candidate and how they find the electoral process to be going so far
  6. A piece on the transport and storing of the ballot boxes overnight ahead of the second day of voting
  7. Stories on how turnout on the second day is less than that on the first
  8. Repeat steps 4 and 5
  9. Coverage of the boxes being transported to the counting stations
  10. Initial results from the counting start flowing and the preliminary predictions come with them
  11. Analysis of the results after they are officially announced

This is how the first and second rounds of the elections were covered, with small variations across each program or channel and the obvious limitations of print newspapers restricting them to summaries and analysis, and there is little to suggest that the third round will be dealt with any differently with the media well into steps 1 and 2 already.

However, there have been ways in which media outlets have been able to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.

Private satellite station CBC (Cairo Broadcast Channel), famous for its plethora of big name presenters and hosts such as veteran presenters, formerly of State TV Lamees El Hadidy and Khairy Ramadan, Al Masry Al Youm editor-in-chief Magdy Al-Galad, Al Fagr editor-in-chief Adel Hamouda, activist Abdel Rahman Yousef among others, each regularly hosting their own show, merged all of their slots into one big television slot running for over eight hours a day under the name “Egypt Votes” where the big name presenters take shifts.

A clip showing election analysis on “Egypt Votes,” hosted by Lamees El Hadidy, can be seen below:

Prominent daily newspaper Al Shorouk, already famous for its active and regularly updated online portal and website, created a second, specialized, online portal dedicated exclusively to the elections.

The website, titled “The Voice of my Country” goes beyond the cycle posted above, and offers extensive coverage of every district allowing readers to read about the electoral happenings in their local area, as well as categorizing news in several ways including district, electoral round, and by political parties or electoral coalitions allowing readers the chance to read all the news concerning a certain political party or group.

On top of that, the portal also conducts video reporting on the elections, allowing it to compete with even broadcast media. Furthermore, the website offers background information, statistics and interviews with members from every single party and coalition contesting the elections.

The "Voice of my Country" portal offers text stories as well as video reporting on all aspects of the election

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Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

December 27, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Egypt, Media

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