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- Written by Content Manager
- Category: Culture
Broadcast media remains the go-to source for Egyptian news consumers, despite a steady increase in internet usage (up almost 30% in the last year, according to the Ministry of Communications and IT). Walking by any cafe in the country, at any time of day or night, you are bound to find a TV tuned into a 24-hour news station, the proclamations and rhetorical questions of its superstar anchors reverberating through the alleys and sidewalks. MPs, academics, journalists, former state broadcasters with newfound purpose—all have found their way into the homes of millions of Egyptians who need them now, perhaps more than ever, not simply to tell them just what is going on, but also to reassure them that everything will turn out just fine.
Since the revolution, we have seen a deluge of private media broadcasters in the country becoming indispensable sources of information and insight into the relentless pace of developments. Whether its entirely new channels such as CBC (Capital Broadcasting Channel) with its star-studded nightly talk-shows, the decidedly revolutionary Tahrir TV or channels that were already around but are now breathing new life, such as the 24-hr, self-confessedly liberal ONTV, there truly is something for everyone. It should also go without saying that there are religious channels that like to put their own spin on the politics du jour, such as the Saudi-financed Al-Nas or Muslim Brotherhood-backed Egypt 25.
And it wouldn’t make much economic sense, would it, not to service the ample local market of conspiracy theorists? Consciously or not, Al-Faraeen fits that niche role, with its most prominent anchor, Tawfik Okasha, regularly being compared to the American Glenn Beck. For those who have seen both at work, the similarities strike of more than just mere coincidence (insert new conspiracy theory here about how America is now brainwashing Egyptians with a Glenn Beck clone).
The country’s private print journals have also seen similar growth. New dailies such as Al-Watan (The Country) and Al-Tahrir are the most recent additions, with pre-revolution pioneer Al-Masry Al-Youm (The Egyptian Today) adding a new English service, Egypt Independent, and Youm 7 (The Seventh Day) leading the way in online news consumption.
In short, the word is out.
Whatever the day’s news is in Egypt, someone somewhere is going to cover it. Perhaps not always without ulterior motives, and perhaps not always without handed-down directions on what can and cannot be said. We shouldn’t be too naïve, after all, regarding how media corporations really work, anywhere in the world.
But we also cannot ignore the essential correlations between a free, independent media and a healthy and functioning democracy. It’s one of those prerequisites that perhaps those Ancient Greeks never really bothered to mention: along with plebiscites, courts, and laws for citizenship, someone somewhere keeping track of it all.
Of course, in discussing Egyptian media, there remains the elephant in the room which hasn’t so much been avoided as been rendered irrelevant by the increased successes of its private counterparts: state-sponsored media, overseen by the Ministry of Information. Just to prove that it was either structurally unable or unwilling to conquer the learning curve of the revolution, it was back to its old ways. It had recently released an ad warning Egyptians of foreigners who could in fact be stealth spies, out to destroy Egypt, which it soon retracted after sharp rebuke.
When discussing the future of Egyptian media, the fate of state-owned information outlets, the country’s largest newspapers included, remains the million-pound question. Should President Morsi take the advice many reformers have administered and abolish the Ministry of Information in forming his new cabinet, this will prove one more giant leap forward in Egypt’s road to democracy.By Dahlia Rizk, Aslan Media
*Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO
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