Filmmaker: Sherif Saeed
On January 25, 2011, Egyptians took to the streets, beginning a march towards a revolution that would overthrow the regime of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.
But the revolution was not televised, at least not on Egyptian state television.
During the 18-day uprising, state TV portrayed the hundreds of thousands of protesters as a minority of troublemakers.
For many Egyptians, the building where the state media was headquartered had become a towering symbol of the regime they sought to overthrow.
For decades, the government-run media had provided a rosy picture of the president and his party.
Television is the main source of news in Egypt – a country with an illiteracy rate of 40 per cent. Yet many Egyptians felt much of what appeared on their TV screens was no more than fabrication and falsehood.
The revolution in Tunisia had unsettled the Egyptian regime, but the state media chose to downplay and even ignore it – mentioning the events there only after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, had fled the country.
TV presenter Mahmoud Saad says there was not a single news item on state TV about what was happening in Tunisia: “They claimed Egypt was different from Tunisia and Mubarak was not like Ben Ali. After I finished reading the news with my colleague Mona El-Sharkawy, I mentioned the events in Tunisia. And I recited the famous line of poetry: ‘If the people want life, destiny will follow’.”
With Mubarak’s grip on power increasingly challenged, all eyes turned to the TV screen when the president decided to speak to the nation. But as the people shouted for Mubarak to leave, state TV went on to broadcast flattering music videos of the president.
The common belief that much of Egypt’s media establishment was too close to the regime exacerbated the mood on the street.
With Mubarak’s resignation, state media suddenly found itself in situation of turmoil and uncertainty.
The regime may have fallen but the media apparatus which supported it remains. Whereas media commands used to come from the ministry of information, they now come almost exclusively from the military. And many feel that Egypt’s media has yet to undergo its own revolution.