The Listening Post

The state of Egypt’s news media

Ahead of the country’s May election, we examine the failed promise of the Arab Spring and the impact on journalism.

Plotting a map of the state of the news media in Egypt reveals a grim landscape. This past week, Egypt’s Field Marshall Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi made a live TV announcement that he was leaving his army post to run in the presidential elections. On that same day – March 26th – Al Masri, the state-run TV channel, aired a documentary about another candidate.

Privately owned pro-Sisi news outlets deemed that editorial decision to be scandalous. Meanwhile, there are the journalists who have been thrown in jail – including four from this network – on terrorism charges. They maintain that all they were doing is reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned organisation that was in power less than a year ago.

Our starting point is the media capital of the Arab world, Cairo, the failed promise of the Arab Spring and the sorry state of journalism in Egypt.

Our contributors for this report are: Mohamed Selim, a media analyst at the University of Osnabruck, Germany; Ashraf Khalil, the author of Independence Square; Marwan Kraidy, the director of the Project for Advanced Research in Global Communication at the University of Pennsylvania; Hosny Eman Head from the London branch of the Foreign Press Agency; and Abdullah Schleifer, a columnist at Al Arabiya.

Our Newsbytes this week: In Syria, six months after being abducted, two Spanish journalists have been freed; Payback time in Turkey? Erdogan vows revenge on his hidden enemies, including those in the Gulen movement and the media; and another prominent Pakistani journalist, Raza Rumi, has been targeted.

For this week’s feature, a self-referential story if there ever was one: 24-hour TV News: an endangered species? Back in the day, round the clock cable news channels were, in their own way, the beginnings of news ‘on demand’. No longer did viewers need to wait for the scheduled bulletins, they could dip in and out when they wanted. The satellite age had arrived and it transformed television news, it took live news coverage into the heart of a conflict.

Fast forward to 2014 and the format looks dated with too much airtime and not enough news to fill it with. Plus: the satellite age has given way to the digital one. With the advent of citizen journalism and social media, information hierarchies have imploded. Why then are there more 24-hour news channels than ever? From Beijing to Moscow to Paris, 24-hour global news TV is on the rise. The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro looks at where the 24-hour TV news business finds itself today.

And finally, as an epilogue to that discussion on 24-hour TV news, is our web video of the week. Back in the early 1990s CNN did not have to compete with outfits like Rap News, a satirical news broadcast from Australia. In its latest offering, the Rap crew collaborated with the Russian news channel, RT, after one of its anchors, Abby Martin, made news last month when she criticised President Putin over Crimea. It was news because the Kremlin pays for RT. But this video’s not just about propaganda, Russian style. Rap News also takes a run at the western media and their coverage of the showdown in Ukraine. This is Crimea: Media War Games.


Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

Click here for more Listening Post