Experts: Islamizing Media Headlines Misleading and Sensational Scaremongering
Echoes of the story of Adel Sabri, editor of the electronic Wafd Portal news website, and his expulsion, are still reverberating; yet interest in this story is altogether absent from the Egyptian press and the majority of media outlets established by businessmen affiliated directly or indirectly with the defunct repressive regime.
According to observers, these ‘old guard’ newspapers and media outlets mostly focus on inflating themes of "Islamizing the state, the media and the press" with huge headlines, such as “Confiscation and Closure of Newspapers”, “Freedom of Opinion Restricted”, “Freedom of Expression Violated”, and “Journalists Harassed and Intimated”, to impose false impressions on the media landscape.
By contrast, no such sensational headlines are witnessed in the Adel Sabri story, say, rejecting the decision to expel him, and certainly nothing like the statements made following an assault on another editor or the confiscation of a limited-readership newspaper on court orders after non-Brotherhood citizens filed a complaint against it.
According to observers, the Sabri story sums up the allegations made by dubious media outlets that emerged recently, within the Committee for the Defense of the Independence of the Press, including Magdi Al-Gallad and Adel Hammouda, which is escalating the ferocity of its attack against the Muslim Brotherhood for trying to introduce change with non-Brotherhood media figures.
Those media outlets, meanwhile, kept perfectly quiet about the incident where a fellow journalist was sacked for siding with the profession’s principles of objectivity.
The journalist Qutb Al-Arabi, Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood Journalists Committee, believes that the so-called scarecrow of "Islamizing national newspapers and state television" lacks credibility, and comes as part of a political war of attrition, attempts by some politicians, especially from leftist and Nassiri parties, to discredit any achievement made by their traditional Brotherhood rivals.
Arabi further added, "Refuting allegations of ‘Islamization’ does not take much effort here. For national newspapers, the Shura Council (SC – the higher house of Egyptian Parliament) had to change chief editors, because the legal term of their employment expired on March 17, 2012.
"However, the SC, whose inherent jurisdiction it is to appoint chief editors and boards of directors, showed clear determination to engage the journalists’ union in setting criteria and procedures for selection of new chief editors. The SC also held several hearing sessions with the profession’s most prominent and highly-regarded personalities, for the same purpose.
"Furthermore, the SC engaged a number of the profession’s well-known icons, well-respected figures and professors of Media, in the selection committee. Indeed, everything was going smoothly, until some chief editors, originally appointed by Safwat Al-Sharif or the military council (SCAF), suddenly felt threatened, and started a raucous riot."
Arabi also pointed that these colleagues ignore the fact that purging the national press was one of the essential demands of the January 25 revolution.
"The ‘Islamization’ scarecrow is now used in all areas. When the issue of reforming and restructuring the Ministry of Interior, for example, is raised, it is depicted as ‘Islamization’ of the Interior Ministry.
"Even when a campaign for public cleanliness and city beautification is launched, this gets labeled as an attempt to ‘Islamize’ this sector, and dubious parties incite garbage-collection workers to disobedience."
For his part, Salah Abdel-Maksoud, Minister of Information, in response to claims of so-called ‘Islamization of the media’, had this to say: "I do not seek to impose any specific ideology or political orientation. All I call for is that we should cooperate all-together to present professional, objective and impartial media expressive of all Egyptians across the political spectrum".
In response to criticism leveled at the government, after closing the privately-owned satellite TV channel Al-Faraeen and the confiscation of one issue of the Al-Dostour private newspaper, Abdel-Maksoud said: "In my opinion, the law should be allowed to handle violations and abuses. I whole-heartedly support all forms of freedom. I certainly am against shuttering any print or broadcast media outlet, just as I stand against confiscation.
"Indeed, I believe freedom should not have any ‘ceiling’ or artificial limits. However, there is a clear difference between freedom on the one hand and between libel, slander, character-assassination and incitement to murder, on the other."
Meanwhile, Fathi Shehabeddin, Chairman of the SC’s Committee on Information, Culture and Tourism, rejected accusations of ‘Islamizing’ the media, saying: "The new changes aim to allow competent professionals to assume their rightful positions."
Shehabeddin further revealed that his committee has received applications from all institutions for the national newspapers’ chief editor posts, and that those do not include any persons affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or its political wing the Freedom and Justice party.