CAIRO: A number of Egyptian media outlets have sworn solidarity with the government and said they will ban dissenting opinions from appearing in their publications and television programs following coordinated militant attacks in North Sinai that killed 31 soldiers Friday.
Al-Nahar television said in a statement Saturday that it would make “substantial” amendments regarding its strategy and policy, and “ban anyone who will ever doubt or question the military or say anything that could be considered against the State or its army.”
They added anything that would affect the morale of the armed forces won’t be allowed, as “we should be mourning instead of mocking or making fun. We should share feelings with Egyptians and their shock in seeing the soldiers’ blood.”
“We realize that freedom of expression is not an excuse for making fun of the morale of the armed forces or the Egyptian people,” Al-Nahar said. “We can’t accept or allow any ‘opinion’ that would weaken our soldiers or promote rumors against our future.”
After the channel published the statement, its host Mahmoud Saad was banned from broadcasting his daily show, and unnamed sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm Sunday Saad arrived before the show to get himself prepared as usual, but was surprised that the channel refused to let him appear in front of cameras, and did not explain why.
The sources denied rumors that Saad’s name was banned from traveling or that the government seized his property. However, neither Saad nor the channel said anything commenting on his non-appearance.
The channel added in its statement that despite “seeking democracy and freedom,” it won’t allow them to be built “over the national security body.”
Media only supporting State ‘patriotic’
Media Industry Chamber head Mohamed Al-Amin said in a phone call to Al-Hayah Al-Youm television show Saturday that the State is in a “real war” and allowing any dissenting voices could “betray” the homeland.
“I have no problem with criticizing or calling our media the ‘State’s media,’ as it’s only made for the government’s sake. That’s what we call ‘patriotic media,’ one that protects the country confronting terrorism,” Amin said.
For his part, Zamalek Football Club head Mortada Mansour called Friday to ban host Moatz Al-Demrdash from continuing his show “Masr Al-Gadeda” (New Egypt) on Al-Hayah TV, claiming that when Demrdash hosted the wife of anti-Hosni Mubarak activist and Kefaya cofounder Ahmed Doma, it hurt the country.
He added during a phone call to the “Ala Masaolity”(It’s My Responsibility) television show that hosts like Mamoud Saad and Lilian Daoud should also be banned because they are “ruining the country.”
TV hosts critical of gov’t taken off air
Last September, Yosri Fouda, the presenter of “Akher Kalam” (The Final Words) TV show announced on Facebook he was ending his show, and said its end was a long-awaited chance for him to “take a breath.”
Also, Bassem Youssef, who ended his famed Al Bernameg show this past June, was critical of former President Mohamed Morsi, but was also seen as supporting revolutionary currents, and former ONTV host Reem Maged has not returned to air since June 30, 2013.
She said in an interview with Al-Shorouq in November 2013, however, that her being off air did not happen due to any demands of the channel itself, but that her contract had coincidentally ended the same day.
She added though that it had become obvious the channel’s direction had changed: “They focused on confronting terrorism to reach the State’s stability, and I think that freedoms are more important.”
Rights activists concerned
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information research chief Lamiaa Mahmoud told The Cairo Post Sunday the media’s role is basically “guidance,” as it is supposed to be “neutral” and to give all opinions a chance to appear and talk.
She added that at present “no one can actually say who is standing with the country, and who is not,” and though channels are free to change policies, the media is not supposed to be in favor of “one voice.”
Mahmoud described banning certain hosts or guests as “directing” public opinion.
“The incident that happened Friday was a very unfortunate one that hurt all Egyptians, but that doesn’t mean everyone should stop criticizing the army or the authorities if they do something wrong,” Mahmoud said. “It’s true that we are in a state of war, but we are also reforming our country, and media should always say the truth.”