Why controlling the media doesn’t ensure Egypt’s security

Western media have recently been full of reports expressing worries over deterioration of human rights situation

Diana Moukalled
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European and western media have recently been full of reports and articles expressing worries over the deterioration of human rights situation and the road to democracy in Egypt. Referring to western media is a must on this issue considering the differences within the local media outlets in Egypt and considering the restrictions imposed on whoever attempts to perform independent journalistic work there.

It is useless to confront growing criticism in the West made by local media personalities who use loud rhetoric but are poor in content and arguments. They never tire of blindly commending the authorities and demonizing even those who are merely being satirical. We see that online media, which includes social networking platforms, demonstrate significant gap between media outlets flattering the authority and common people circulating what the western media is writing about Egypt. An uproar can thus be heard in the social networking space.


Murder most foul

The western media’s attention in the past few days has been focused on the horrible murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni who was tortured to death and then dumped in a Cairo street. American and Italian newspaper reports exposed faults in the investigation into the murder, on the level of investigations and the conduct of the interior ministry. This confused the Egyptian government and there were weak attempts to contain the situation locally.

Following conflicting official versions related to the cause of Regeni’s murder, some media outlets added to the confusion by basing their reports on rumors. They implied that Regeni may have been killed because he was a spy or it could have been a relationship issue. Perhaps the worst point was reached when a guest on an Egyptian television station said: “People, it’s only one person (dead), not more!” the comments reeked of a culture of underestimating the value of people’s lives.

Regeni’s murder was preceded by policemen’s assault and humiliation of doctors. Prior to that, two young men were detained because of a satirical video. Then there was murder of a young man in al-Darb al-Ahmar. Another young man was killed by a policeman, which led to protests by outraged citizens. Videos and photos on social media voiced anger over security forces’ repeated assaults on citizens.

A lot of people follow western media reports on Egypt as they have had enough of local media’s loud and empty reports

Diana Moukalled

Such news items emerge routinely in the western media and are widely circulated. They cannot be ignored not because they are conveyed via western media but because they reflect the level of discourse at a time when the government’s official dailies have reported that it is allocating new land to build more prisons.

Yes, a lot of people follow western media reports on Egypt as they have had enough of local media’s loud and empty reports. Such people also tend to be cautious and often advise others to tone down their criticism on Facebook and Twitter which are almost the only available outlets of expression. Calls to control posts on social media are usually justified on the pretext that it is time to fight terrorism and is therefore inappropriate to stir this entire issue of human rights.

However those who believe in intimidation miss the fact that pushing people to remain silent on what’s going around them does not give a sense of stability or security. On the contrary, it contributes to solidifying a culture of systematic violence and generalizing it to the extent of completely distorting general awareness.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 22, 2016.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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