Does the media represent a threat to the state?
Media chaos increases political and ideological polarization, which threatens social peace
The media has experienced chaos that harms state interests and stability. This comes amid the absence of a clear strategy to deal with the media in a way that serves the state, and takes political instability in Egypt and the wider Arab region into consideration. This chaos increases as the number of satellite and official TV channels and news websites has reached the hundreds, of which at least 20 have an audience that they influence.
All media outlets operate without understanding or fully knowing national security affairs, and without specifying goals that protect the state and take transitional phases into account. There are also uncontrolled forms of communication among media outlets, journalists and security apparatuses as documents, secrets and information linked to prominent political and social figures are being addressed.
Media chaos increases political and ideological polarization, which threatens social peaceAbdel Latif el-Menawy
These leaks create tension, especially with the spread of accusations of treason and collaboration among different parties. These accusations sometimes have no justification, and most of the time no legal basis. The absence of a context in which the media operates, and the lack of a central plan capable of mobilizing the public around one national cause, pave the way for spreading chaos.
Media chaos increases political and ideological polarization, which threatens social peace. This may reach the extent of some media figures’ incitement to murder as they assign themselves judges and detectives. Some media figures’ means of marketing themselves is to address the public via unprofessional rhetoric that respects neither laws nor ethics.
The media, intentionally or otherwise, emotionally blackmails the public and thus creates political problems. It also ignores social and economic affairs, and summons religious figures to address certain issues, thus increasing the severity of sectarian and ideological tensions. It also exposes society’s problems but without presenting solutions - this further threatens society.
Another aspect is the presence of media entities that appear disharmonious and create an incoherent image. Despite this, the Egyptian media has been divided into outlets owned by the state – though it is unknown what the state actually owns – or by private companies.
The latter outlets include small dailies or websites as well as giant media entities that are suffering great losses. This raises legitimate and serious questions about funding sources and the nature of these outlets’ aims.
This article was first published in al-Jarida on February 9, 2015.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy