In an unprecedented step, the Egyptian minister of information referred Buthaina Kamel — a news presenter on the Egyptian state-run TV channel — for investigation, after that she described the news bulletin that she was presenting as “the Brotherhood news bulletin.” She did this in protest to what she claimed were attempts on the part of the Brotherhood to Islamize the media and silence the opposition. Azzaman interviewed her to shed light on the circumstances surrounding this case and on her point of view regarding the current political situation.
Azzaman: What is your reaction to being referred for investigation after you described the news bulletin as the "Brotherhood news bulletin?"
Kamel: I will be under investigation and I will enlist international journalist friends to clarify the facts, which were distorted. The truth is that the Egyptian media has not changed and we are used to a one-man media, as it was under the Mubarak regime. I have also hired a number of lawyers to file a lawsuit against the information minister for plundering public funds, because he is using the taxes collected from Egyptians to advertise for the interests of the Brotherhood.
Azzaman: Don’t you see that you violated your professional ethics when you described the TV news as the “Brotherhood news”?
Kamel: Any journalist of conscience who would like to live in a free society and to feel that he has value, a message and a role in elevating the prestige and dignity of the country will certainly be caught in a conflict with himself, if he finds that the state-owned media is far from abiding by the values of transparency and reliability of transferring information to people.
The hardest experience of any honest journalist is certainly to go against his convictions and make himself a mouthpiece for others and a servant for their interests, without being able to serve the people’s interests. This is especially true when he knows that he is transferring unreliable information to the people. This is advertising, unjustified paid advertising for a single specific group. Once this practice is repeated over the years, it will consolidate the values of corruption and the game that justifies it, and end with a moral collapse that is unworthy of the Egyptian media. This media was a pioneer and an respectable source for Arab and international audiences — from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf and all parts of the world — transferring information and news with high professionalism, integrity and neutrality.
Based on that, the journalist will be caught in a conflict with himself — before being in conflict with others — and will wallow in a moral crisis that may push him to take an unfamiliar position to express the contradiction between his beliefs and the news he is reading. He knows for certain that this news is undermining the entire country, while citizens strive and make costly sacrifices to enable their country to stand on its own feet.
As such, the state-owned media appears to be an outdated and isolated island that cares little for the homeland. They carry out their daily job of promoting the rulers' [policies], even though these policies are leading the country toward destruction, as is the case at present, particularly in these difficult hours. The state-owned media acts as a mouthpiece for sophistry and open denials. The best evidence of this is the explicit call for sedition and killings on the eve of the events in Maspero. Real media must always be for the governed, not for the ruler.
Unfortunately, the Egyptian state-owned media has dedicated itself to its rulers, which has been a recurrent tradition. This media has long exploited itself to promote the government, whoever they are. Yesterday’s enemy is today’s ruler, and everyone is at his service, which strongly proves a decline in media values, as well as indifference toward transparency and reliability of information transfer.
Under these circumstances, the journalist is commanded to do the unbearable, which violates all professional standards, destroys the image of the Egyptian media, pushes them to lie, tarnishes their reputation and violates the rules of professionalism that adhere to ethical standards. Thus, the journalist in these media outlets will find himself accused of their mistakes. The honest journalist will be pushed to express the views of that national media. If he expresses his position by saying a word here or there to unburden himself — in front of his professional conscience and compatriots — his words will be nothing more than his anger with himself and the media that he once used to obey and stopped.
Thus, he finds himself subjected to crucifixion and investigation, as if he betrayed his homeland. State-owned media must understand that the trust of their audiences has collapsed over the years and that they must work sooner rather than later to rebuild trust and credibility with the Egyptian people. Egyptians deserve to know the truth as it is. We don’t want to be the mouthpiece of one ruler after another, because that will be a betrayal of the people’s hopes, dreams and struggles for a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where free people are championed by free media.
Azzaman: As a political activist who actively participated in the 25 January revolution and the events that followed, how can we break the current stalemate in Egypt?
Kamel: I believe that after the bloodshed in Tahrir Square, al-Ittihadiya and other areas, Morsi and his group are now responsible for that, and I think that the only solution is his departure, trial and the establishment of a presidential council that will manage the country in the transitional period.
Azzaman: How do you evaluate the position of the opposition political forces?
Kamel: They are not political forces in the real sense of the world. These forces would rather make statements on TV and in closed meetings, while they let the youth sacrifice their blood. These forces — if they are serious — need to be involved in the heart of the events and make sacrifices just as the youth have done.
Azzaman: Do you think that a third party is behind these events, as some people claim?
Kamel: I think that if there is a third party, as some people claim, the Brotherhood is that third party, through its militia that it has employed to encourage killing and thuggery since the revolution began. This was revealed in The Secret of the Temple, a book by the defected leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Tharwat al-Kharabawi, who talks about the secret history of the Brotherhood and how it has hidden under the banner of religion.
Azzaman: How do you perceive the role of foreign countries in these events?
Kamel: Both America and Israel are certainly satisfied with Morsi’s policies. The presence of foreign-policy adviser Essam El-Haddad and Essam El-Erian in the US clearly indicates that the US has given Morsi the green light to implement his policies, which contribute to dismantling the state into small communities and minorities. Morsi also succeeded in calming the situation in the Gaza Strip, whereas Mubarak failed to do so, despite his strong ties with the US.
Azzaman: What scenario do you expect for the future?
Kamel: Events indicate that a civil war is likely to erupt, which would be a natural outcome given the Brotherhood’s policies and the internal and external forces’ plans to tarnish the reputation of the Arab Spring revolutions. These revolutions have certainly shaken the thrones of some Arab rulers.
Azzaman: Finally, why was the national dialogue — which the armed forces called on all political forces to participate in — cancelled?
Kamel: The dialogue was cancelled on the direct orders of the supreme guide, because he is the real ruler of Egypt, not Morsi.