Current Weather
The Spy FM

Egypt’s State TV Has New Masters, But Old Habits

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
June 27, 2011

When Egyptian protesters clamored for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February, State TV journalist Shahira Amin took a bold move: She quit her job, joined the demonstrators and denounced her network’s coverage.

Mubarak fled his presidential compound in Cairo on Feb. 11, and Amin and many others believed it would usher in a new era of media freedom.

She soon rejoined Nile TV, the English-language division of State TV, and said she hoped to help reform the agency.

But now, four months after the revolution, Amin and many other Egyptians are finding that it isn’t so easy to change the institutions that kept the Mubarak government in power for 30 years.

Mubarak tolerated little dissent, and state television was the unchallenged voice of his government. Critics say that since his departure, the state network has changed masters, but not its methods. Now the network reliably takes orders from the ruling military council instead of the Mubarak government.

In Mubarak’s final days, state television anchors denied that hundreds of thousands of ordinary Egyptians had taken to the streets to protest the government’s repression and corruption.

State TV talk shows now host opposition figures, including members of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

But Amin said the changes are mainly cosmetic.

“It’s the same editorial staff, the same anchors who sang the praises of the Mubarak regime and were part of the propaganda machine,” said Amin, who has worked at the network for more than 20 years as a reporter and an anchor.

“It’s the same mindset,” she added. “They’re still waiting for the directives to come, and they do come. They were coming before from the Interior Ministry and from the presidency. Now they’re coming from the staff, the Supreme Military Council.”

State TV has ignored or played down certain stories, such as violence against Egypt’s Coptic Christians, according to critics.

Earlier this month, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei was barred from appearing on a State TV talk show.

A State TV spokesperson said it was because the opposition figure is a presidential hopeful, and the network is not yet ready to allow appearances by potential candidates.

But after a public outcry, the network backed down.

Top officials at State TV insist that their policy is now more open. But the acting deputy director of Nile News said in a recent interview that the channel should have complete editorial independence from the government.

Pollster Ahmed Nagui Kamha says State TV lost the public’s trust because of its role as a government mouthpiece during the revolution.

He says viewers switched to international channels, such as Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, as well as a host of independent Egyptian channels that sprang up after the revolution.

But Kamha, a researcher at Cairo’s al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Egyptians have a historical tendency to support whichever government is in power.

Ever since the days of the pharaohs, he said, Egypt has been a conservative society that looks to the government for direction.

“So you need an official channel between the Egyptian people and their government,” he said. “It’s easy now to let people watch private channels, but still they need to hear from official channels.”

Kamha says the challenge now is not to disband State TV, but to reform it so that it reflects the values of a democratic society. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

9PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center