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Week of March 5, 2018

Election stress brings out media prosecutions
Talk-show hosts chime in

Reporters with that irritating capacity for shining a light on dark spots more often than not find themselves targets of abuse - and worse - from those offended. In late February the BBC aired a documentary report - The Shadow Over Egypt - from Middle East correspondent Orla Guerin about torture and “enforced disappearances” of citizens at the hands of Egyptian security services. The report, which included interviews with alleged victims, brought a swift response from authorities.

Egyptian State media - nearly all the country’s media - called the report “fake news.” A pro-government TV channel “found” one of those interviewed, who refuted the story. Prosecutor General Nabil Sadiq directed staff to monitor all media for “false news,” reported Reuters (February 28). Legislation was drafted to criminalize any slight to the army and security forces. A lawsuit was filed to force Orla Guerin’s deportation.

Unsurprisingly, an election will be held at the end of March in which President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is seeking a second term. Opposition is virtually unseen. The Economist (March 8) referred to the election as “farcical,” hardly a unique view. (See more about elections and media here)

Determined to root out all “evil forces,” pro-government talk show host Khairy Ramadan was busted for “defaming police forces,” reported Al Ahram (March 5). He was “detained” for four days before making bail. Police officers, reportedly, complained of “psychological” distress from a discussion on the talk show (Egypt Today) of low pay and family strife.

“These sorts of cases waste the time of the prosecution,” said well-known bombastic pro-government talk show host Amr Adeeb, who interviewed the “found” victim in the BBC report. “But this leaves a bad impression.” President el-Sisi is a regular on Amr Adeeb’s ON E channel talk show.

The mother of the alleged victim, who also appeared in the BBC report, was arrested after reiterating her original claim on a Turkish TV channel sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, said Al-Jazeera (March 5). Shortly thereafter, Amr Adeeb called for a ban in Egypt on Turkish TV channels.

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