What message are Egypt’s new rulers sending by shutting down press institutions after Morsi’s ouster?
It is a new political dawn in Egypt and a new reality for the country’s media after the country’s military went on a media clampdown.
It shut down four religious TV stations, banned the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper and raided the office of Al Jazeera’s Egypt affiliate, Mubasher Misr, sparking outrage and mounting condemnation of the closures from rights groups around the world.
This is a big setback for press freedom in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood still represents a major political force in Egypt, and silencing their media is basically undemocratic and it goes against press freedom .... This looks very much like the scenario of a coup when the military takes over the ministry of information and when they close down television stations and newspapers.
The authorities claimed Mubasher was operating without a proper broadcasting license although the channel has been established in Egypt for several years.
Muslim Brotherhood channel, Misr 25, and others including Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, were taken off the air on Wednesday night, following a military coup that removed the democratically elected president.
No reason was given for shutting down Aljazeera Arabic but the station, along with other channels, did air a defiant speech by Mohamed Morsi as he was being ousted as president.
Staff were taken to a nearby police station and questioned for several hours, transmission equipment was confiscated and both channels remain unable to broadcast live from Egypt.
The global news agency Associated Press Television News (APTN) was told by Egyptian authorities to deny Al Jazeera channels access to their live Egyptian coverage from Tahrir Square and elsewhere. And a local service provider Cairo News Company was told not to provide Al Jazeera with broadcasting equipment like satellite trucks.
Al Jazeera Media Network’s acting director general, Mostafa Souag condemned the actions:
“There are big events taking place in Egypt and the world tunes in to Al Jazeera at times like these. The viewing public will not accept being cut off from news and information. Regardless of political views the Egyptian people expect media freedoms to be respected and upheld.”
The move is prompting questions about just how free the media can now be in Egypt under the new transitional government that is being formed.
What is behind the crackdown? And what message are Egypt’s new rulers sending to the outside world?
Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses the future of media in Egypt with guests: Bashir Abdel Fatah, the editor in chief of the magazine, Al Ahram Democracy Review. He is also a professor at Cairo University; Adel Darwish, the political editor of the Middle East Magazine; and Jan Keulen, the general director at the Doha Centre for Media Freedom.
“The relationship beween the authorities in general and the media has some problems for so long, I think the authorities do not have patience for the freedom of press in our society.”
Bashir Abdel Fatah, the political editor in chief at Al Ahram Democracy Review