Media must support the State: Radio and TV Union chief
ERTU - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: A strong sense of patriotism, objectivity and a calm tone are the characteristics the media must take into consideration in the current and upcoming phase of Egypt’s history, Essam el-Amir, the head of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), said in an interview with ONTV Thursday.

“[The media] must be aligned and support state institutions,” Amir stated. “But I have never imposed anything or interfered with any of my people’s news agendas or angles of debate.”

“Yet, some private channels adopt aggressive tones in criticism, which does not solve any problems, but does attract advertisers or audiences who like heated debates,” Amir added.

“The media strategy must be clearly defined, because the enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood, coexists with the people. They are our neighbors, our colleague students, the people sitting next to us on the bus, which makes this battle the hardest,” he continued.

“Along with former Minister of Information Dorreya Sharaf el-Din, we set aside those who support the MB. For example, executive directors were transferred to administrative jobs. Others were working for Al Jazeera when its channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr was still broadcasting from Egypt,” Amir said. “ERTU sent them several warnings but had to suspend them in the end as they would not even show up to work.”

In December 2012, Amir took a stance against the MB regime by resigning from his post following a night of bloody clashes between opposition protesters and MB supporters in front of Ithadeya presidential palace. The protesters were demanding former president Mohamed Morsi step down.

Even before Amir’s comments, a policy of “alignment” with government policies was advocated by Egypt’s major newspaper editors-in-chief at a meeting on Oct. 26. They said after the meeting they hoped to set a “common framework” that supports the State. This stance has been criticized by journalists and freedom of speech defenders as an attempt to “silence opposition voices.”

Generally speaking, Egypt’s leading private satellite channels—ONTV, CBC, Mehwer, Al-Nahar, Al-Hayat, Sada el-Balad and Dream TV—are supporters of the regime and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, but they do occasionally criticize the government’s performance in critical fields like education, health and traffic safety.

CBC host Lamees al-Hadidi, ONTV’s Gaber al-Karmouty and Dream TV’s Wael al-Ibrashi use harsh tones when addressing government officials. The latter’s program was cut-off air while presenting an episode on Oct. 19 in which he verbally attacked the minister of education following repeated school accidents in which students were killed.

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