“The people have the right to know”, a quote attributed to Mostafa Amin and Ali Amin which they both adopted as a matter of principle when founding “Al-Akhbar” newspaper. This quote expresses recognition of an inherent right that should be guaranteed to every citizen; the right to seek information and knowledge. Journalism and media are the permanent link through which the right to information can be directly delivered to citizens. But knowledge is the inherent enemy of dictatorships and that’s why it has often been treated as a threat.
Like other national newspapers, “Al-Akhbar” newspaper is funded from the state’s general budget, i.e. from the people’s money. Therefore, it is supposed to practice professionalism and not be left to any whims, unlike private or partisan newspapers which naturally have a clear affiliation to serve the interests of those who run or operate them, be it a party or an investor. However, by noting several inconsistencies when monitoring Al-Akhbar’s news coverage, we can explain the extent to which the publication has turned into some kind of a center that releases a spate of deliberate pamphlets or handouts in a way that would satisfy the ruler’s whims and desires.
Why this paper?
As the so-called “independent journalism” completely fade away, national newspapers-especially Egypt’s three largest and most famous newspapers “Al-Ahram”, “Al-Akhbar” and “Al-Gomhouria”- have come to the fore. This paper monitors examples of the news coverage of one of the national newspapers “Al-Akhbar” at different periods of time; from 2011 to this day.
These examples are intended to illustrate the difference between the professionalism that should be expected of a newspaper that is funded entirely by public money, owned by the people, and the dramatic shift it has witnessed; after adopting statements destined to disseminate hate speech in most cases, or absurd words giving false impressions to the public, amid continuous applause for the regime alone, in order to appease a government official elected for the post of “President of the Republic”.
The constant pressure and constraints from the ruling political regime on journalism as a profession using various ways and forms have caused the Fourth Estate, especially print journalism, to shrink and diminish. These constraints are represented in banning articles by columnists by security orders. These journalists include: Fahmi Huwaidi, Al-Ahram’s editor Ahmed al-Sayyid al-Naggar, Abdullah al-Senawi, Abdul Azim Hammad, and many others. This is in addition to the blocking of most of news websites and the suspension of a large number of independent newspapers.
We, therefore, monitor today the occupational dysfunction in journalism at one of the national newspapers’ entities “Al-Akhbar”, which started off some editorial policies breaching the professional ethics and standards of journalism; by allowing some journalists’ pens to disseminate hate-fueled ideology against certain countries or groups. Such policies produce returns that are often reaped by the society as a whole starting from the professional journalist who wants to maintain the integrity of his profession.
“Al-Akhbar” newspaper: Funding and policies
Before we start monitoring examples of Al-Akhbar newspaper’s violations of principles of professionalism and how its policy fluctuates or swings from one side to another according to the whim of the ruling political regime, we will briefly explain the history of the establishment of national newspapers in Egypt, their objectives and their funding sources, as the saying goes: “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. In this case, the question would be: “Who is funding national newspapers? And who has the right to control them?”
In 1960, Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to nationalize the then-independent publications “Al-Ahram/Al-Akhbar/ Rose Al-Youssef” transferring their ownership to the state under the 1960 Law regulating the press. The stated purpose behind this move was to create national newspapers that would be the voice of the people and that would be concerned with people’s issues and news claiming that those newspapers, at that time, didn’t reflect the interest of the people or pay attention to its demands.
Reviewing Egypt’s 2019/2020 budget in the Parliament, a budget of 1.1 billion Egyptian pounds has been drawn up for the National Media Authority (NMA), LE 817.8 million of this amount goes for the National Press Authority (NPA) (1). However, this proposed motion has been met with objection from the head of NMA and called for the need to increase the budget so that he could be able to merely cover his expenses. National newspapers have incurred hefty losses during the recent period, and the total debt of the national press institutions amounted to 19 billion Egyptian pounds in 2017(2), prompting them to increase the price of daily and weekly newspapers to make up for the losses. But of course that’s not a solution; as citizens pay for these newspapers from their taxes which worth nearly 2 billion Egyptian pounds.
The reporting periods covered by the paper
The paper monitors examples from different time periods of the current decade to demonstrate Al-Akhbar’s editorial policy in news coverage, monitoring the changes in the following four time-frames:
The glorious January Revolution period; from 24 January 2011 to 12 February 2011.
The rule of the military junta “transitional period”
The rule of the late former President “Dr. Mohamed Morsi” until the statement announcing his dismissal
The period from the statement of 3 July 2013 until today; the second transitional phase under the rule of the honorary and interim President Adly Mansour, followed by the two terms of President al-Sisi.
News coverage before the Revolution & during the”18 days in the Square”
Following the victory of the Tunisian revolution on 14 January 2011, Egypt’s national newspapers started to act as the saying goes, “If the cap fits, wear it” (If it applies, take it to heart); by emphasizing that Egypt is different and would not have the same fate of Tunisia in fear of following in its footsteps, as headlines read:
“Zine El-Abidine flees Tunisia to an unknown destination amid mounting unrest”, followed by a front page-font headline:”Egypt moves forward… International institutions: Mubarak achieves highest rates of economic security for the country”- Al-Akhbar newspaper, Issue no. 3454, dated Saturday, 15 January 2011.
After January 25 Protests erupted in Egypt, and even after suffering hundreds of casualties, news headlines still continued to deny the fact that it was a revolution or even mass demonstrations. Rather, they called it a “plot” that is devised by foreign countries as part of a “conspiracy” to plunge the country into chaos. The idea was reinforced by many repeated front-page headlines including phrases like: “traitors”, a plot orchestrated by “Hamas”, “Iran”, “Al-Qassam Brigades” and “foreign” states, as shown in the following headlines:
“Documents reveal, in pictures: The most dangerous foreign plot to hit Egypt…Detailed tactics to take over the Egyptian Radio and Television Union and attack government headquarters and police stations”…” Hamas-backed Hezbollah’s Commandos Unit infiltrates through Sudan, breaks into Wadi al-Natrun Prison to release their prisoners”…”A plot orchestrated from abroad… Reports reveal details of an infiltration operation by Al-Qassam Brigades’ affiliated units to target the Egyptian security “- Al-Akhbar newspaper, Issue of 2 February 2011.
A couple of days later, on 11 February 2011, such complex and sophisticated “plot” had been changed by the same newspaper and turned into “a people’s revolution”. The publication’s editorial policy and terminology was changed, accordingly, to match the new stage that began after Mubarak had stepped down as president of Egypt bending to the people’s will.
Al-Akhbar newspaper eventually had a front page-coverage of the Revolution for the first time after 18 days of ongoing mass demonstrations all over the country: “Mubarak finally departs… Our Armed Forces: I am the People”…”The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assigned to administer the country’s affairs” (with a picture of the large crowds in Tahrir Square filling the whole page) – Al-Akhbar newspaper, Issue of 11 February 2011
The Military Junta’s era: News coverage in a period of convalescence
Despite the many violations of the right to freedom of expression, alongside other freedoms, during the period from 11 February 2011 to 30 June 2013, this period is considered the only stage that saw a breakthrough for freedom of expression, compared to the previous and subsequent periods. And as a result, the situation of journalism, whose main pillar is freedom of expression, was somehow better. National newspapers, during that time, had reached an acceptable level of professionalism delivering a reasoned discourse to the people, albeit showing some bias towards the interim government, i.e. the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Following are some examples of Al-Akhbar’s news coverage during this period:
“Mubrarak behind bars… Now the Revolution has succeeded”, a historic issue as characterized by the publication, dated 4 August 2011. The newspaper included a picture of “Alaa Mubarak” describing him as “a greedy man” and of “Gamal Mubarak” calling him “arrogant”, in addition to another picture of “Habib al-Adly” and his aides, and was captioned “The butcher and his gang”.
Headlines also read: “On 3 August 2011, Egyptians put their ruler in a court holding cell to hold him accountable in a fair trial for his crimes against the people”…”Glory Be to Allah, the BESTOWER of HONORS & the HUMILIATOR)
It seems that news reporting don’t need more than 84 hours to change its perception of incidents and what’s happening on the ground; from portraying the 2011 uprising as a “foreign plot” and a “conspiracy against the country” to framing it as a “revolution”, although nothing new had happened at the 48 hours, the only thing that happened is the change of power.
A red-bolded main headline reads: “The culprits…The Fact-Finding Committee’s report reveals those involved in the killing of January Revolution protesters… Mubarak is the first defendant, Al-Adly ordered the firing of live ammunition… 846 martyrs were killed and 6000 injured during the uprising… Tahrir Square’s snipers are officers at the State Security Prosecution’s Counterterrorism Bureau…The police withdrew from most areas, upon high directives, to intimidate citizens.”- Al-Akhbar newspaper’s issue of 20 April 2011.
Comparing these front-page headlines that were published during the 18-day period (on February 9), we can uncover the replacement of terms and phrases like: “conspiracy / Commando / occupation / Hamas / Hezbollah / Qassam Brigades / foreign plot / assault on security forces, and others- which were previously used by the newspaper to describe the same incident- with opposite terms like: “Mubarak, the first suspect / al-Adli ordered the shooting of live bullets / officers of the State Security Prosecution’s counterterrorism department / police withdrew upon command by high authority”.
At first, the newspaper reported that it possesses documents and information that would prove what happened was a “conspiracy”, which is completely untrue; not a single paper or document had been submitted in any court trial to say that what happened wasn’t a popular uprising. Also, the current Constitution, before and after amendments, legally recognizes January 2011 incidents as a “Revolution”. Nonetheless, Al-Akhbar in this issue already based its news report on the official Fact-Finding Committee’s report quoting some of its results. In other words, it had indeed performed its journalistic duty of presenting facts and conveying information to the people. So, it was, at a great extent, a national newspaper that reflects the people, not those in power.
“Omar Suleiman’s testimony confirms Mubarak’s complicity in the killing of protesters. He testifies before the court: “I was passing on to him every hour Al-Adly’s reports about firing live and rubber bullets/rounds against protesters. Mubarak didn’t show any objection nor did he order a ceasefire or give any orders to stop shooting of protesters. He was aware of every bullet fired”- Al-Akhbar newspaper- September 2011’s issue.
Throughout the first year after January Revolution, “Al-Akhbar” newspaper continued to deliver news and investigative reports alongside press articles in a professional way, supported by documentary materials, that would serve the interests of the people favoring its benefits over any others’, and this is something expected from any national newspaper. However, as a new and obvious power started to be formed with the imposition of a military rule, “Al-Akhbar” had started shifting its policy.
“Unknown men infiltrate Suez Protests, attack security forces”- Al Akhbar Newspaper, Issue of 9 September 2011.
Once the new government started to feature its grip on power in the country, the newspaper returns to its old habit of using phrases like “disguised people” and “attacking the security”, as the military junta began to take the reins of power in Egypt imposing its authority on everyone.
The Muslim Brotherhood in power, the news in service
Although it is difficult to find any examples of Al-Akhbar’s news coverage during the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)’s rule, it was clear that all national newspapers- especially Al-Akhbar- had completely taken down its archived stories released for this period, including articles of the chief editor and other columnists. But we managed to monitor some examples that indicated how the newspaper abandoned its commitment to professionalism and returned back to applaud the ruler in a complete disregard for the people and the opposition. These examples are:
“Mama Qatar supplies Egypt with gas”- The front page’s main headline, Al-Akhbar newspaper’s issue of 11 June 2013
The headline had inflamed public opinion forcing the publication to withdraw the issue and modify it. Qatar, which the newspaper accuses it now of “treason and terrorism”, was “Mama” in the MB’s era!
“Morsi displays intelligence, vision and statesmanship, as well as kindness and other precious humanitarian gestures, which were reflected in his decision to honor these former leaders”, noting that “the speed and the timing of the decision, coinciding with Rafah incidents, reveals his noble and patriotic character that only people close to him, especially members of the Muslim Brotherhood, may get to know.”- Al-Akhbar newspaper, issue of 13 August 2012(3).
This was an extract from an article by famous writer Momtaz El-Kot, who had used to support Mubarak during his work at Al-Akhbar institution, and who had once insulted the protesters of January uprising in one of his articles calling them “spies” and “traitors” working for foreign countries. Now, he turned to support the newly-formed MB-affiliated regime extolling ousted president Dr. Mohamed Morsi and al-Katatni among other symbols of the regime in many of his articles, before he turned, for the third time, of course, to support president al-Sisi and his regime.
Back to your seat, news reporting in al-Sisi’s era
On one hand, people have to hold national newspapers accountable for the losses they cause nowadays, and on the other hand, for the one-opinion news pieces they publish. These newspapers, which were basically established to be the voice of the people as it was supposed to be, have become a mouthpiece for the regime almost renouncing any adherence to professionalism during this recent period; starting from mid-2013 until today, as shown in the following examples:
The hostile language used by Al-Akhbar newspaper to describe Qatar and Turkey is clearly outlined in its news coverage during this period, reflecting the contradictions in the publication’s editorial policies. Regardless of the serious repercussions it may have at the diplomatic level, using this language highlights a lack of “professionalism” that press institutions, especially the national ones, should abide by. Here are some examples of how Al-AKhbar newspaper covers news about Qatar and Turkey:
“Muslim Brotherhood colludes with Hamas in Turkey to stir chaos and storm prisons”- The front-page’s main headline of Al-Akhbar newspaper, 9 May 2014 issue.
“Arab states enforce a land, sea and air blockade against the capital of terrorism… Last-hour secrets before the siege against Qatar”- Al-Akhbar newspaper, 6 June 2017 issue (4).
“Qatar and MB, the Devil’s Alliance”, a report published at Al-Akhbar newspaper, 22 May 2019 issue (5).
On the other hand, we can find unprofessional and offensive headlines, which are abusive to the profession of journalism, and which Al-Akhbar newspaper publishes to satisfy the whim of the regime, such as:
“The Guide torn apart”/or “The ruptured Guide”- A front-page headline, Al-Akhbar newspaper, 13 January 2016 issue.
This was a professional downfall for Yasser Rezk. Although he later apologized for it, using these words accompanied by a picture of the MB Guide Mohamed Badie to report the news of his suffering of umbilical hernia constitutes a gross professional error, over which he hasn’t been held accountable.
Of course, “Al-Akhbar” did not lag behind their counterparts of state-owned media outlets in stocking up a hate campaign prior to the dispersal of Rabaa Sit-in. One of the most prominent news headlines at that time was that published on 6 August 2013, about a week before the bloody breakup.
“Chemical weapons at Al-Nahda and Rabaa Sit-ins”
This headline calls to mind the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq invasion when he said the country had a large arsenal of chemical weapons, which were used as a justification for the invasion.
“Using live ammunition… A military and security stand-up to face saboteurs in Terrorism Friday”- A front-page headline, Al-Akhbar newspaper, 28 November 2014 issue (6).
Aside from describing a group of protesters belonging to Egyptian society as “terrorists”, the most severe professional downfall here is making the piece of news be crowned with the word “live ammunition”; as a sort of blessing that protesters are being killed using live bullets in order to face what they called “saboteurs”!
“15 fighters martyred, 27 infidels liquidated”- A front-page headline, Al-Akhbar newspaper, 3 April 2015.
The term “infidels” had of course sparked a flurry of sarcastic comments; as it is not supposed to use terms like “infidels” and “believers” in a security campaign launched by the state!
“Mohamed Morsi dies during trial session”, A headline (with a few lines), Al-Akhbar, 18 June 2019 issue.
All professional errors and hiccups can of course be crowned with the way “Al-Akhbar” newspaper reported the news of the death of the former president of Egypt after collapsing inside a soundproof glass cage during his trial. The piece of news is characterized as urgent, important and exciting or appealing, yet it was placed on an inside page (as opposed to the front page) and without mentioning his title as a former president (7).
Looking at the examples of news coverage recorded at different time periods, the full picture is now getting clearer and the pattern followed by “Al-Akhbar” newspaper outlining its editorial policies becomes apparent. The publicly-funded newspaper shies away from journalistic professionalism; it speaks in a way that only reflects the ruling regime and its whims and wishes, to the detriment of the people’s right to knowledge and information on the other hand. Furthermore, its editorial policy of ignoring the people and not voicing their concerns is one of the reasons for the financial losses they suffer.
Given all the aforementioned examples, in addition to clarifying the original purpose of “nationalizing” these newspapers, their funding sources and the total expenditure from the state budget, we can sum up the situation by saying that national newspapers have become a burden that rests squarely on the shoulders of citizens, causing financial losses on the one hand, and conveying false information and misleading messages on the other. They have become more like the post or the mail of the ruling regime and not a national newspaper that expresses or reflects the people, but even rather, they harm the profession of journalism in many cases when they deviate from the principles and standards of professionalism.
The critical crossroads at which press institutions have recently stood will not only affect the profession of journalism and journalists, but also it constitutes an indicator of risk for freedom of opinion and expression, the main pillar of journalism at both national and private press institutions. Though national newspapers have reached this situation- outlined in the examples we provided, the situation of privately-owned newspapers, for the most part, is even worse in terms of their adherence to professionalism. We, therefore, recommend trying to re-adjust the editorial content of newspapers in a professional manner that would serve the people’s interest and guarantee their right to knowledge and information. We also recommend that press institutions abandon the hostile language and the delivering of ill-considered statements to satisfy the whims of a ruler, who will inevitably leave his office at one day, leaving behind a detrimental impact on the profession and history of journalism and on the situation of freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt, not to mention the negative impact on society as a whole.
“Mobtada” website, “Looking into the general budget of press and media bodies at the Parliament “, published on May 15, 2019, visited on 8 August 2019, https://www.mobtada.com/details/840562
“Youm7” website: “Head of ‘National Press Authority”: debts of national press institutions amounted to LE19 billion”, published on 2/10/2017, visited on 6 August 2019. https://www.youm7.com/story/2017/10/2/%D8%B1%D8%A6%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A4%D8%B3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%AA-19-%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AC%D9%86%D9%8A%D9%87/3439600
Al-Balad Al-Youm website, “After writing about Mubarak, Momtaz Al-Kot returns with “Al-Katatni’s morality and Morsi’s magnanimity”, published on 15 August 2012, visited on 6 August 2019,
Al-Akhbar Newspaper website, “Sisi: Strict stances taken against countries supporting terrorism”, published on 5 June 2017, visited on 5 August 2019, https://akhbarelyom.com/news/newdetails/2025126/1/%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%A3-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1..%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A—%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%81-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%B6%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%A8
Al Akhbar Newspaper, “Qatar and MB, the Devil’s Alliance!”, published on 22 May 2019, visited on 7 August 2019, https://akhbarelyom.com/news/newdetails/2855276/1/%D9%82%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86..-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%86!
“Masrawy” website, Friday newspapers: “Live bullets … in the face of saboteurs”, published 28 November 2014, visited on 5 August, 2019
“Akhbar Al-Youm”, Breaking News |Morsi Mohamed Al-Ayyat dies after collapsing during his trial over “espionage” charges”, published on 17 June 2019, visited on 6 August 2019, https://akhbarelyom.com/news/newdetails/2867579/1/%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%AC%D9%84–%D9%88%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B7..-%D8%A3%D8%B5%D9%8A%D8%A8-%D8%A8%D8%A5%D8%BA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%AE%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%AA%D9%87%D9%85%D8%A9–%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%B1-