TV anchor Noha Darwish stands in front of Extra News TV’s camera earnestly reading- from the teleprompter/Autocue- statements by an official medical source on the death of former president Mohamed Morsi, and says with absolute confidence: “The source has stressed that all medical documents confirming his health care are present and will be submitted to the concerned authorities”. She then added without hesitation: “Sent from a Samsung device”.
Noha Darwish’s incident wasn’t just a mistake she has made, but rather a clear manifestation to the situation of most media outlets in Egypt. As we monitor this incident, we do not mean to offend anyone; we just want to demonstrate how the policy of security dictates and government orders can affect the media industry and influence public opinion in Egypt.
As much as this incident got us to learn about the benefits of the “teleprompter”, it made us wonder ‘who is standing behind the camera moving some anchors’ lips in the Egyptian channels with a uniform, beforehand-written and unedited news bulletin?’
A teleprompter, also commonly referred to as a prompter or Autocue, is a device that reflects what is written by the editor on the imaging camera in front of the presenter, allowing him/her to read a script whilst maintaining direct eye contact with the audience giving the impression of being skillful.
This monitoring research paper is for;
Monitoring and following up on the news coverage of some Egyptian media outlets, in terms of how they address news reports and their adherence to the criteria of professionalism taking into account the importance of the piece of news.
Seven media outlets were thereby selected, given the fact that they “are close to the regime and are not banned or blocked”. They are:
Al-Ahram, Al-Masry Al-Youm and El-Watan newspapers
Al-Nahar and Sada El-Balad satellite TV channels
Masrawy and Youm7 news websites
First: Examples of how Egyptian media reported the death of former President Mohamed Morsi
1- ‘Al-Ahram’ Newspaper
The death of Mohamed Morsi was featured on the fourth page (the “incidents” section) of Al-Ahram newspaper’s first edition on 18 June, covering the space of a single column and six lines while no picture was included in the news report. The story was of a different size in the layout of the newspaper’s second edition, as it was moved to the centerpiece of the page covering four columns and eight lines, after adding the statement released by the Public Prosecution.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s Belarus visit and news on Libya, Trump and other miscellaneous stories topped the front page of Al-Ahram, on the other hand, without reporting the death of a former president of Egypt
On 19 June, the fourth page (follow-ups) of Al-Ahram newspaper’s second edition reported the State Information Service (SIS)’s official response to Human Rights Watch’s comments and tweets, without presenting such tweets or the international organization’s point of view.
On 20 June, Al-Ahram devoted its third page to attack the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group and publish the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s response to the UN Human Rights Commission (OCHR)’s statements on Morsi’s death. The page was also topped by a colored archival photo on “Itahadyia incidents” published on a four-column space, in addition to a report under the heading: “Even death is invested by the terrorist group (MB) to achieve its despicable goals”. The page also included fire pictures from the arson of the Guidance Office at Al-Moqattam district, alongside a report entitled “Erdogan’s statements are a blatant interference in the Egyptian internal affairs”.
It is notable that Al-Ahram newspaper deliberately wanted to marginalize the news of former President Mohamed Morsi’s death; when it featured the news piece in the “incidents section” page, mentioned the name of Mohamed Morsi ignoring his title as former Egyptian president, and when it didn’t publish any picture of him, nor did it address the story in the opinion columns or in the three pages allocated by the newspaper to opinion makers. In other words, the turn of events has forced the newspaper to report the news story from the point of view of the government, only.
2- ‘El-Watan’ Newspaper
Morsi’s death’s news piece was published in El-Watan newspaper on 18 June in the lower half of its third page, on a two-column space under the title “Morsi dies in court during his “espionage” trial, Public Prosecutor: addresses the court for 5 minutes”. The top half of the page, however, featured a picture of the Prime Minister during his speech in the “Seamless North Africa” Conference. The newspaper’s front page was devoted to; President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s visit to Belarus, Thanawyia Amma (High school) examinations, Huawei sales slump, and the film “Casablanca”, in addition to Libya’s national forces conference and the African Cup of Nations tournament.
On 19 June, the newspaper published, on its third page, an article by Mohammed Abu Emiera addressing the SIS’s response to HRW’s report on “Morsi” death.
On the June 20’s issue, El-Watan was devoid of any news article or report pertaining to the incident (Morsi’s death), and devoted most of its pages to the Africa Cup of Nations.
El-Watan newspaper has noticeably followed the lead of Al-Ahram, and the only thing it added is the picture of Mohamed Morsi accompanied with the news of his death.
3- ‘Al-Masry Al-Youm’ Newspaper
On 18 June, Al-Masry Al-Youm gave the news piece of Mohamed Morsi’s death a prominent space by publishing it on the upper half of the newspaper’s front-page (in a space of 3 columns), next to the news of al-Sisi’s visit to Belarus and Romania. The piece was also accompanied with a picture of President Morsi during a trial session, and its title was written in red.
Although the content of the news was almost identical to that of other newspapers, the news’ editors Ahmed Shalabi and Fatma Abo Shanab mentioned Morsi’s title as a former president. They also added to the story the state of security preparedness and the Prison Authority beefing up security at prisons and wards where members of the “banned” MB group are detained.
The next day (June 19), the newspaper devoted a space of 5 columns in the bottom half of its front page to a news report, written by Ahmed Shalabi, Fatma Abo Shanab and Essam Abu Sadira, covering the news of Morsi’s burial and the funeral prayer as stated by Abdel-Moneim Abdel- Maqsoud, lawyer for the family of former President Mohamed Morsi. The report also mentioned Morsi by his former title as Egypt’s ex-President, and was accompanied with a picture of him during one of his trial sessions while wearing a blue suit. The second part of the report was published on the bottom half of the newspaper’s fourth page, in four columns accompanied by white and black pictures of the late president in 2 columns, and covered what happened during Morsi’s last trial hearing.
Al-Masry Al-Youm’s fourth page (urgent topical issues) also covered the State Information Service (SIS)’s official response to Human Rights Watch’s tweets on Morsi’s death, alongside an opinion article by Dr. Amr Al-Shobaki under the heading “The passing of Morsi “, while the fifth page published the opinion column of Suleiman Gouda under the title “The death of Mohamed Morsi!”.
As can be seen, Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper has broken all the restrictions imposed on the Egyptian media; when it published the news in a prominent place on the front page, giving the headline the red color to reflect the importance of the news story, besides mentioning Morsi’s title as a former president.
4- ‘Al-Nahar’ TV channel
Al-Nahar TV broadcasted the news of president Morsi’s death on the prime time news on 17 June. It was the last news report, aired during only 30 seconds, on the news brief which lasted for six minutes, and was read by the same uniform layout followed by all media outlets.
The news of president Morsi’s death was preceded by; president al-Sisi’s visit to Belarus and meeting with businessmen, securing sports installations and vital facilities for Africa Cup of Nations, the acceptance of a new batch of applicants for the health institutes of the Armed Forces, and the Foreign Ministry’s condemnation of the terrorist bombings in Mogadishu.
In ‘Akher Al-Nahar’ program, anchor Tamer Amin presented the news of Mohamed Morsi’s death while mentioning his academic title “Dr”. He asserted that Mohamed Morsi was a prisoner who was brought to trial over many charges, including espionage, corruption, abuse of power and etc., that he committed while he was in office before being ousted by the Egyptian people on 30/6/2013. Amin focused his attention on the accusations pressed against Morsi pertaining to spying for Qatar and Hamas and leaking/reporting news on the Egyptian national security and sovereignty to foreign parties, while stressing that Morsi died in a public hearing and has become history. He also attacked the social media saying that it will create a state of “media corruption” and would spread rumors regarding the incident, and kept confirming that Morsi had received special treatment in prison for being a former president. Then he went to talk about Qatar and its Emir, and after a commercial break, he read the statement issued by the general prosecution office and linked Morsi’s death with the persistence of terrorism. Then he talked about the arrest of Hisham Al-Ashmawi, and although it constitutes an old piece of news, he kept speaking about it and about terrorism for about five minutes. Aside from Tamer Amin’s program, the TV channel continued to broadcast its regular shows without any change.
5- ‘Sada El-Balad’ TV channel
– In the June 17 episode of “On My Responsibility” program presented by Ahmed Mosa on Sada El-Balad TV, the anchor dedicated the episode, which lasted about two hours and 27 minutes to the incident of Mohamed Morsi’s death. The episode was divided into two parts. In the first part which lasted for 40 minutes, Mosa hosted Ibrahim Rabei (for being a former MB leader) to speak about the Muslim Brotherhood group.
– Mosa started his episode by grieving over the victims of the armed forces and the police accusing Morsi and the MB group of killing them. He also accused Mohamed Morsi of inciting and ordering the killing of the army and police’s victims, calling him a “spy, a terrorist, a murderer and an instigator of the killing the army and police personnel”.
– Then he spoke about Mohamed Morsi’s death stressing that he died during his trial and that he had received special treatment in prison, where he was frequently visited by two doctors a day for a medical check-up (to check on his health every day). He added that the prison authority were keen on meeting all Morsi’s requests, including ordering food from outside the prison and allowing him to read newspapers on a daily basis.
In most of the episode, Mosa was pressing accusations in all directions; he accused Morsi’s sons of receiving killing orders from their father, and described each of (Mohammed Badie, MB members, El-Baradei, the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim) as “killers”.
He also accused human rights defender Bahy Al-Din Hassan of “espionage” and HRW of “monitoring and defending the rights of only terrorists, spies and traitors”. Tawakul Kerman wasn’t spared the onslaught launched by Mosa who accused her of “sabotaging Yemen”.
– Mosa then attacked the BBC channel and described it as “unprofessional news channel that is biased towards the MB terrorist group” saying that “it is parallel with the terrorism TV channel”.
– Mosa also threatened whoever defends Morsi or offers his condolences for his death to be placed in the back list, addressing his words to Abu Treika describing him as a “criminal, a traitor, a spy, and a thief”, then to al-Qassam Brigades, Hamdeen Sabahi and El-Baradei, calling the latter “No. 1 in espionage and spying”. Thereafter, the anchor read the public prosecutor’s statement and presented some archival footage from the courtroom where Mohamed Morsi was being tried.
6- ‘Masrawy’ news website
Masrawy reported the news of Morsi’s death through a number of news coverage on June 17, starting with a report published at 5:50 pm citing Egypt’s official TV under the headline “Ousted President Mohamed Morsi Al-Ayyat dies”, followed by another report featuring the details of his death when he collapsed during a court session. The website had published 12 news reports about Morsi’s death.
On June 19, Masrawy focused its coverage on the reactions of the parliament; the statements by the deputy speaker and the parliament’s official spokesman opposing the statements made by Erdogan as well as the spokesperson of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The website also reviewed the talk shows aired on 17 June, particularly Amr Adib and Mustafa Bakri. In its opinion articles section, the website published an article on Morsi’s death addressing the varying stance taken by the Salafist parties towards the incident and the nature of the relationship between the Salafis and the MB.
It is noticeable that Masrawy had swiftly and intensively reported the news of Morsi’s death, and some of its reports were short citing the Egyptian official TV or Al-Arabyia TV website, while the content of others had been replicated although carrying different headlines.
Reporting the death of Mohamed Morsi, Masrawy had merely been echoing the statements released by the country’s official media outlets with a very simple difference; which is mentioning the title “ousted president” before his name unlike the official media, and when it attempted to feature a profile for Morsi, it only highlighted the cases over which he was being tried.
7- ‘Youm7’ news website
Youm7 website chose to cover Mohamed Morsi’s death by publishing the official statements or citing some remarks from figures who are known to have close ties with the executive authorities, such as “Khaled Abo Bakr” and”Moataz Abdel-Fattah” who were asked on June 17 for their opinion in an attempt to simply Morsi’s death’s incident.
On that day at 7:20 pm, the website published the public prosecution’s statement on Morsi’s death, then a picture of the burial permit issued by the prosecution office, before it published 2 news reports on the Khaled Abo Bakr’s coverage of the death incidents in Al-Hayah Al-Youm TV show hosting Moataz Abdel Fattah to comment on the incident.
On 18 June, Youm7 reported Morsi’s death by featuring the objections voiced by the Liberal Constitutional, Mostaqbal Watan (Future of the Nation) and El- Moatamar parties, as well as the parliamentary committees, to the statements made by Turkey’s president’s on the incident.
Youm7 chose to be in the safe side by being a platform for the voices that are known for their loyalty to the executive branch of the government and its mouthpieces, without incurring any risks that could bring undesirable repercussions.
Second: The professional standards of news reporting
There are some agreed-upon media standards in news editing and publishing, whether in print media or visual media (TV shows), which are detailed as follows:
The more the news report fulfills the following conditions/requirements, the more it is worth publishing. These conditions are: (modernity; how recent the incident took place- how near the scene of the incident is- how it may concerns or matters a lot of people/citizens- how it may deal with an important or famous figure/person- how exciting or conflicting the news story is- how strange the news story is- and how it may provoke or arouse human emotions). The more these conditions are available in the news story, the more it deserves to top the news headlines. But before all that, the news story has to be in line with the editorial policy of the media outlet through which it is published.
Having regard to the news piece of former Mohamed Morsi’s death, in terms of media and away from any political views, we find that Morsi is a public and important figure. We are talking about a president who is being tried on a charge of communicating with a foreign country, in addition to being a member of an international organization. The Public Prosecutor releasing a statement on his death is a manifestation of his importance. In addition to that, the news of his death gains the interest of all Egyptian, whether they agree or disagree with him, since it can affect their lives.
Moreover, the news of Morsi’ death implies an element of excitement since he died suddenly during his trial, not to mention the conflict with the current authorities that he was brought into, and the human emotions that the story may raise. Hence, we can find that Morsi’s death news fulfill all the requirements that can put it at the forefront of free media’s coverage, but with the exception of the editorial policy’s requirement.
Here we would like to place “Reuters” news agency as a professional model- although not Egyptian- in covering the death of former president, and compare it with domestic media coverage and to what extent it adhered to such professionalism. Reuters reported the death of Morsi by placing it in the “Most Important News” section at 6 pm on June 17, which represents the speedy publishing of the news. It made a 900- word report on the incident, which represents a large number of words, and preceded Morsi’s name with the title “the ousted Egyptian president” accompanied with a large picture of him. The report also addressed the position of all key actors in the incident (the public prosecutor’s statement, human rights organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the heads of State or Government that mourned Morsi’s death), in addition to providing a short description (overview) of Morsi and the most important events in his life.
Then, at about 11 o’clock, Reuters made a profile on Morsi featuring in detail his major life milestones and influential incidents.
Third: The extent of Egyptian media’s adherence to the agreed professional standards
First, we have to confirm that we are not giving a lecture on journalism and the art of press editing or making an assessment of the Egyptian media outlets; rather we seek to reassure that the readers’ right to access correct information, without any political coloring of facts, is to be guaranteed.
From the above, we can say that all media outlets selected by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) – with the exception of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper- have reported the news of the dearth of former president Mohamed Morsi by underestimating the importance of the news or of the person, at the very outset, by sidelining and dwarfing its news story. However, after the news have invaded international and social media gaining the attention of international human rights organizations and the spokesperson of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the indifference towards the news story has turned into a vicious attack against the Muslim Brotherhood, the football player Abu Treika, OHCHR, Turkey and Erdogan, the international human rights organizations and against whoever mentioned the name of Morsi or mourned his death.
Therefore, the news outlets that are controlled by the security services have tried to distract and mislead public opinion, either by sidelining or dwarfing the story or by tilting at windmills, or else by exaggerating the news coverage of the African Cup of Nations tournament.
As for the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, it maintained a commitment to professionalism in covering the news story; by publishing it on its front page, and adding some elements to attract readers when it published the headline in red and accompanied the report with a picture, this is in addition to the moral obligation of mentioning the title of “former president” before the name. The newspaper also tried to review the news story depending on more than one source, and followed up on the news using journalistic arts such as opinion piece.
Therefore, in this area, we can refer to Al-Masry Al-Youm as “a professional newspaper despite restrictions”.
In the end, we want to say the news of the death of former President Mohamed Morsi has fulfilled all the elements of news story in terms of; (how recent the news is- the conflict- the importance- fame – excitement – humanity – strangeness- how near the scene of the incident is). However, this criterion hasn’t been accomplished in most Egyptian media outlets; due to the delayed publishing of the story or publishing it in the form of a press release that is issued by the Public Prosecutor, or due to the “editorial policy”, which is not defined or established by those in charge of the Egyptian media establishment; rather it is “most probably” dictated and imposed by the censor of the sovereign bodies. These bodies don’t only omit topics and news reports that they deemed inappropriate, but they went further to interfere in the writing and editing of the information material and media reports in most media institutions. These are not the conclusions that this paper came to, but rather they are certainties and facts that many media professionals have acknowledged; such as Abdul Rahim Ali, who admitted that the confiscation of “Al-Bawaba” news portal was because of a news report, the same as Al-Ahaly newspaper has admitted that sovereign bodies were behind the suspension of its publication for three consecutive times.
We have to admit that most media outlets in Egypt have become a poor means of propaganda and advertisements, after they have been held hostage by sovereign bodies that dictate what they write and impose on them a uniform publishing layout. Media professionals in such outlets have become just readers of the teleprompter/Autocue prepared beforehand by the sovereign bodies, while free media outlets continue to face confiscation and treason accusations, in addition to the imprisonment of its journalists.
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