Mostly Harmless

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Tahrir on TV: more than just Al-Tahrir and OnTV

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Forgive the horrible pun, I couldn’t resist.

Ever since the 18-day uprising from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11 that ousted former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power, the iconic Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo has witnessed major protests at least once a month, and more often than not protesters and security forces, be they police or military, clashed.

The way these protests and clashes were portrayed in the Egyptian media was extremely different from one station or newspaper to the next, to the point that one might think they were covering different events.

One recent example is the clashes that took place in front of the cabinet building near Tahrir Square earlier this month. While some outlets such as Al-Tahrir channel and the liberal OnTV showed the full brutality of the violence military officers and soldiers inflicted on protestors, others were careful to point their cameras only at the protestors fighting back bullets with rocks and molotov cocktails, labeling them thugs and saboteurs.

The privately owned CBC (Cairo Broadcasting Channel) had the best live coverage of the events, with on field camera men capturing most of the scenes that would later become iconic of the military’s brutality. Below is a clip caught on CBC’s cameras that shows soldiers beating and stripping a female protester. The video would later go viral and inspire thousands of women to hold a women’s march the very next day:

Unfortunately in contrast to CBC’s fair reporting, it provided what at best could be described as slanted analysis. CBC presenters and hosts regularly contradicted what their on field reporters and camera men told them, and in one case viewers were treated to presented Khairy Ramadan blatantly contradicting his reporter and overruling him every time the reporter corrected him.

The reporter said that soldiers had started the violence and were throwing molotov cocktails at protestors, a fact Ramadan seemed unwilling to acknowledge. Ramadan also reported that protestors had set fire to the Institute d’Egypt without having any footage to back such claims.

Furthermore, Ramadan reported the Institute catching on fire 24 hours before it did. He is now facing questioning from the authorities as to how he got such information.

Although CBC showed live footage of the military’s first wave of attack, the transmission was cut momentary after. It is unclear whether the channel did this themselves or if the authorities took them off air, but the incident was never mentioned when coverage resumed.

CBC’s biased coverage came no where near that of state owned media, however.

State TV’s Channel 1 went beyond its usual labeling of protestors as thugs and showing hazy shots of Tahrir where the viewer could not discern what was going on this time.

State TV’s  cameras were always stationed on the side of the soldiers, thus only showing the protestors throwing rocks and ignoring what the soldiers were doing.

Furthermore, Channel 1 broadcasted scenes of supposed thugs that were arrested on the scene of the clashes admitting to receiving money in exchange for attacking soldiers and burning down government buildings.

It was later revealed that those “thugs” were in fact arrested days before the clashes in relation to a completely different case and were tortured into confessing their involvement in the clashed live on Channel 1. The video below, in Arabic, details this incident:

The lack of professionalism, slanted coverage, and outright lies that State TV continues to subject viewers to are a perfect argument for why governments should never own media.


Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

December 28, 2011 at 7:22 am

Posted in Egypt, Media

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