Muslim Brotherhood Seeks To Control Egyptian Media

Yasser Abdul Aziz reports on how members of the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to control the Egyptian media — and why they are likely to fail.

al-monitor Alaa Mubarak, the son of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, raises his hand to cover the camera on his way to the courtroom for his trial at the police academy in Cairo, in this still image taken from video, August 15, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Reuters TV.

Topics covered

television, egyptian media, arab

Nov 19, 2012

Since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, not a day goes by without news of an attack on the press or of an attempt to control it.

The Brotherhood believes that the media is hostile toward the movement and some Brotherhood members think that the media has been “infiltrated” and “does not act responsibly or patriotically."

The Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badie, famously described the media as “Pharaoh's magicians” and that "the devil whispers into their ears." The Brotherhood's policy toward the media became clear with President Mohammed Morsi’s threat to "those who establish satellite channels to distort the facts" during his recent visit to Asyut.

Following these accusations, it is not surprising that some Brotherhood members have filed lawsuits against journalists — even the president has done it. Nor is it surprising that the "electronic committees" have been distorting the public image of the Brotherhood's opponents by means of "electronic bombardment" and that the "Brotherhood Partisans" intimidate journalists by assaulting them.

But the Brotherhood is not satisfied with lawsuits. It seeks to control the media in order to make its reporting more favorable and devoid of any criticism of the Brotherhood-dominated institutions: the government, parliament and Constituent Assembly.

Nobody can deny the serious errors that some journalists have committed. Nor can anyone ignore the "infiltrations" at a number of media outlets which have questionable agendas. But no sane person believes that the problem can be solved by repression and intimidation.

The Brotherhood is trying to quell any opposing or critical voice in the Egyptian media by pointing to a number of flagrant abuses and excesses, and by making use of the executive and legislative branches of government, which the Brotherhood dominates. Instead of reforming the media, the Brotherhood prefers to subjugate it.

In parallel to that offensive against the private media, the Brotherhood is successfully imposing its hegemony over the state-owned media to ensure the latter’s loyalty toward the ruling regime, no matter its nature.

They appointed an information minister who belongs to the Brotherhood in order to control TV, radio and state-owned media outlets, such as Nilesat, and to make them part of the Brotherhood's arsenal in its private battles.

Therefore, it was not surprising when the information minister started investigating journalists after they criticized the president, who considered criticism to be a punishable "insult." Nor was it surprising when some state-owned TV channels were prevented from broadcasting recorded programs that criticized the Brotherhood.

What's more, the Brotherhood-controlled Shura Council used its Mubarak-era powers to appoint the heads of state-owned media outlets and to punish those appointees for "making a professional mistake" or for "causing financial losses" a few weeks after their appointments.

So how the Brotherhood plans to subjugate the private media has become clear: The Brotherhood exploited the media's vulnerability and the mistakes by some journalists in order to incite the people against the media and these journalists. They use the executive branch to gain control of the state-owned media by appointing its leaders, covering its deficits and intimidating it.

A few days ago, the Brotherhood took a dramatic step. They used their executive powers to prevent Dream TV from broadcasting from its own studios.

Dream TV is a leading channel in Egypt. It is the country's first privately-owned satellite channel. Although there are questions regarding its work and administration, it is still considered a respectable media outlet. The channel played a positive role on the issues of freedom and democracy before the revolution. It strengthened the public’s opposition toward Mubarak's regime. It was one of the channels that hosted Brotherhood leaders when such a move was risky.

The government's actions against Dream TV are part of a series of actions designed to subjugate the Egyptian media. In the short term, the Brotherhood will succeed in that. But in the end, the Brotherhood will be disappointed. So says history.

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