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Video shows Egypt generals plotting media gag

New footage released by activists shows army top brass discussing ways to tighten control over country's media.

Last Modified: 03 Oct 2013 09:32
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A new video has emerged which appears to show Egypt's military generals deciding how to deal with the country's media.

The footage, released by activists on Wednesday, shows army chief General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi addressing senior officers of the army in the months before Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power.

Once a minister of defence in Morsi’s government, Sisi played a leading role in the July 2013 military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president.

The new recording starts with an officer urging Sisi to find a way to frighten journalists from criticising the army.

“It takes a long time before you’re able to affect and control the media. We are working on this and we are achieving more positive results but we are yet to achieve what we want.”

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt's army chief

"We must re-establish red lines for the media. We need to find a new way of neutralising them, the media in Egypt is controlled by 20 or 25 people," the officer is heard saying in the footage.

“We should engage with these people directly and individually either terrorise them or win them over,“ he adds.

Sisi then interrupts the officer and says: “I know how to win them over, but tell me how do you suggest I terrorise them?”

“I want to tell you that we’ve been concerned with controlling the media from the very first day the army took over power in 2011, and we suffered a lot; because in order to achieve what you’re talking about you need to have influence, it's not as simple as just setting up a committee or task force,” Sisi is heard saying in the video.

“It takes a long time before you’re able to affect and control the media. We are working on this and we are achieving more positive results but we are yet to achieve what we want.”

Since the military takeover on July 3, dozens of journalists have been arrested and several television stations shut down in Egypt.

Al Jazeera became one of several media outlets that have come under increasing pressure. Its offices have been raided a number of times and its journalists arrested.

Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr was shut down and two Al Jazeera journalists remain in detention.

'Future of democracy at risk'

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Jamal Dajani, the vice-president for Middle East and North Africa at Internews - an NGO which aims to empower domestic media worldwide - said the video showed the military trying to turn the clock back to dictatorships of the past.

In January 2011, Egyptians took to the streets for 18 days of protests that toppled the government of deposed President Hosni Mubarak after three decades of rule.

"After the toppling of Mubarak, army generals were caught by surprise," Dajani said. "They did not have a strategy. [For decades,] they controlled the media and had immunity and journalists couldn’t question them.

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"But after the revolution, they lost control. So they are putting together a strategy where they could either win journalists over or threaten them to enforce the red lines they had before," Dajani, speaking from Washington D C, said.

Reporters Without Borders last week condemned the Egyptian authorities for targeting journalists, especially those affiliated with or sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We are very disturbed by a renewed increase in violations of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information, and by a wave of official statements displaying clear hostility towards media that fail to sing the army’s praises,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

The France-based organisation said that more than 10 Egyptian journalists were currently detained and their detention was being renewed every 15 days without being brought to trial.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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