‘Nasty polemics’? Egypt media under fire over fiery remarks
Critics question the professionalism of Egyptian media over fiery opinions recently expressed by show hosts and journalists
Egyptian media have come under criticism this week after several talk show hosts and journalists expressed opinions seen by critics as extreme and short of professional values.
Amany al-Khayat, a presenter on the privately owned television channel ONTV, went on a tirade against Morocco last week, claiming the kingdom was “ranked among the top” in HIV prevalence and saying its economy was based on “prostitution.”
Contrary to her claim, the CIA’s World Factbook lists Morocco as 162 in HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate – out of 170 countries listed, while Egypt ranks at 136.
The claims sparked a diplomatic and popular crisis between Egypt and Morocco, leading to several apologies issued by the channel, Egypt’s foreign ministry and Egypt’s embassy in Rabat.
Khayat’s comments came after she aired a video of Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, asking for Moroccan assistance to liberate Palestine.
Opinions by Egyptian journalists and talk show hosts on Hamas and the ongoing Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip have also sparked criticism.
“Khayat’s remarks were simply bizarre. As for more politically significant criticism of Hamas in Egyptian media that in extreme forms have turned into fervent attacks upon the people of Gaza and even all Palestinians,” said Abdallah Schleifer, veteran journalist and professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo.
Schleifer noted that “extreme” comments made in the Egyptian media “have more to do with nasty polemics than with journalism.”
He said these remarks are also an “extreme expression of very widespread sentiment … that over and over again Egypt has responded to the Palestinian cause with the sacrifice of the lives of tens of thousands of Egyptian soldiers.”
Recently, Hekmat Abdel Hamid, a state television presenter, told viewers that helping Gaza was not Egypt’s duty.
“Get killed, it is none of our business,” she said during her a segment of her “Good Morning Egypt” show.
“For the last four years they have done nothing but cause us trouble,” she added.
Other presenters have gone even further, with some praising Israel's “Operation Protective Edge” against Gaza.
Azza Sami, from state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, extended her thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her personal Twitter account, adding that she wished God would bring "more like [him] to destroy Hamas!"
Popular show host Tawfik Okasha attacked Palestinians live on air. “Gazans are not men,” he said during an episode of his show “Egypt Today.”
“If they were men they would revolt against Hamas,” he said. "He who defends Gaza is a dog like Hamas," he added, speaking in an angered tone of voice.
Okasha also saluted the “Israeli army, people and leaders” and took off his shoes in scorn of Hamas.
Okasha’s statements were picked up by Israeli media which said the episode demonstrated Egypt’s support for Israel, according to AFP.
Anshel Pfeffer, a writer with Israeli daily Haaretz, wrote on his twitter account: “Incredible that #Israel is going into #Gaza and the greatest Arab state #Egypt is not saying a word of criticism, just blaming #Hamas.”
“These cases of unprofessional journalists should not be used as a generality. There are other hosts, both in the private and public sectors, who are taking Egypt’s traditional position toward the conflict,” Yasser Abdul Aziz, a writer and media analyst, told Al Arabiya News.
“Some comments like Amany [al-Khayat]’s statements are harming Egyptians and costing the country a lot,” he said.
“People like Amany tend to think they are political analysts and forget about their initial job, which consists of informing people and presenting facts, not accuse people or societies,” Safwat al-Alem, a media professor at Cairo University, told Al Arabiya News.
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