Egyptian Media Capturing the Revolution

Mohamad Hamas Elmasry and Mohammed El-Nawawy

Previous research into the Egyptian media has approached the subject from a number of angles. Studies have looked at the evolution of the national press system,1 news production under former president Hosni Mubarak,2 freedom of the press,3 journalistic professionalism,4 the political blogosphere,5 journalists’ perceptions and attitudes,6 the politicization of television talk shows,7 the structure of satellite broadcasting,8 the role of Egyptian media in the 2011 uprising against Mubarak,9 and the role of social media,10 among other salient issues.

To date, however, scholarship has not focused on critically comparing Egypt’s news media across three important periods in the nation’s recent political history—the late Mubarak era, the military-led transition period, and Mohammed Morsi’s presidency—nor has this scholarship offered practical suggestions on restructuring the press system to be more conducive to a democratic state. Such a comparison is important given the political turbulence Egypt has faced since the January 2011 uprising against Mubarak. Both the military-led transition period and the yearlong Morsi presidency were tumultuous, and news media were seen as playing a crucial, and arguably deleterious, role in Egypt’s attempted transition to democracy.11 Additionally, current Egyptian president Abdul Fatah el-Sisi has been accused by analysts and human rights organizations of heavy-handed repression of journalists,12 some exceptional cases of critical media coverage notwithstanding.13

This chapter will comparatively examine the role and performance of the Egyptian press during the late Mubarak period, the military-led Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (scaf) period, and the Morsi period in Egypt, and attempt to explain what Egyptian news media may have been able to do differently in order to play a more productive role in Egypt’s democratic transition. Issues of journalistic professionalism, news ideology, media education and training, concentration of ownership, government influence on the content of the press, and the structure of the media will be examined in turn and with reference to each of the three periods in question. The chapter, which will conclude with suggestions on how the Egyptian press system might be restructured to better serve an Egyptian democratic project, may serve as a useful guide if and when Egypt takes a meaningful democratic turn.

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