At a time when the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to woo national media outlets, to disassociate them from the Mubarak regime and to establish their reputation as institutions that pledge allegiance to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s regime, independent media outlets find themselves facing a new type of challenge. Opposition newspapers are now accusing the Brotherhood of trying to “penetrate” their ranks and hinder their operations.
Hassan Badih, acting director-general of the daily Al-Doustour, released a statement announcing that the chairman of the newspaper’s board, Rida Edward, had decided to close the newspaper down as a result of the Brotherhood’s “infiltrating” its ranks, undermining its editorial policy and funding protests against it. The paper’s owner accused a number of newly hired journalists of being members of the Brotherhood whose aim was to pressure him to sell or drive his opposition publication out of business.
Badih confirmed in an interview with As-Safir that the journalists in question had joined the newspaper’s staff recently, falsely claiming to oppose the Brotherhood’s policies. They began encouraging their co-workers to organize sit-ins and to go on strike, at a time when Brotherhood-affiliated businessmen attempted to purchase the newspaper.
The daily As-Sabah faces a similar problem, as its employees organize continuous demonstrations, and lawsuits were filed against its editor-in-chief, Wael al-Ibrashi. These actions led its owner, businessman Ahmad Bahgat, who also owns the Dream television network, to announce his intention to close the newspaper down, only to change his mind after the press syndicate intervened. Ahmad Younous, a journalist at As-Sabah, wrote an article asserting that the Brotherhood was to blame for the newspaper’s problems. He claimed that the group had attempted to infiltrate its ranks and exercised great pressure on privately owned newspapers, their proprietors and advertisers.
The daily Veto opposition newspaper was infiltrated in a different way. A duplicate website, bearing its name and logo, suddenly appeared on the internet plastered with nude photographs and pro-Brotherhood articles. The newspaper’s managing editor chalked it up to an attempt to tarnish the publication’s image. He added, “The Brotherhood’s cyber-warfare teams designed the website and utilized sophisticated ways of adding the fake site to any search results conducted on Google.”
A new form of pressure emerged recently when Sada Al-Balad’s former website managing editor, Said Sheib, submitted a memorandum to the Egyptian Press Syndicate claiming that he was fired as a result of an agreement between the site’s owner, Mohamed Abou El Enein, and the Brotherhood, whereby the Brotherhood would put an end to all sit-ins at the Ceramica Cleopatra companies owned by Abou El Enein if Sheib were fired. This, Sheib claims, is an example of the “Brotherhood infiltrating independent newspapers; for, as soon as I was let go, all the protests ceased in Abou El Enein’s manufacturing plants and companies.”