Egypt authorities behind the plan to strip journalism of balance: report

Egyptian authorities’ crack-down on the Muslim Brotherhood is fueled by the desire to strip journalism of balance, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The report, released on Thursday on the condition of journalism in the Middle-Eastern country, suggested authorities are settling scores with balanced, unbiased media through depriving them of important sources.

Ahmed, a managing editor of an Egyptian daily newspaper who preferred not to disclose his last name or the name of his paper citing security concerns, said his journalists are no longer capable of balancing their stories due to the continuous arrests of those even remotely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Yesterday, one of my journalists was working on a story about the possibility of dissolving the Brotherhood,” Ahmed said. “He was stalled for hours in a quest to find anyone to speak on their behalf; every Brotherhood contact we had was either in jail or his phone turned off to avoid getting arrested.”

Ahmed said all Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen were arrested throughout the past couple of months.

CPJ director said the committee’s on-the-ground work was able to prove that not only did the state put its opposition in jail, but it also banned its representatives from speaking to the public.

Nine out of ten interviewed journalists said they’ve wasted at least an entire working day trying to reach official sources to no avail.

“They either don’t pick up their office phone or pick up yet keep switching you to other departments who in turn fail to pick up their phone,” said one of the journalists, who preferred to remain anonymous. “There was this one incident when I called the Ministry of Interior’s press office and, even though they picked up, didn’t refer me to another office and actually got to answer all my questions, they ended the phone call saying that all the information they gave me was off-the-record, and that if I wanted on-the-record information, I should stick to publishing their press releases.”

Mohsen Attallah, media analyst and columnist at private daily Al-Shorouk said the authorities are following an anti-balance strategy.

“Everything, from [former President Mohamed] Morsi’s ouster to pro-army demonstrations and the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins had nothing to do with politics or power; it was all part of a war against journalism.”

Attallah added that instead of using the media as a propaganda machine, the authorities preferred to steal away the media’s tools altogether and rob it of its credibility.

“We’re witnessing a proxy war on balance,” Attallah said. “The only way journalism can win is by steering clear of any coverage of relevant substance. Should a journalist choose to report on the best cupcake store in town, for instance, they’ll be granted a lot of balance to go with the story!”

A 2012 report by CPJ put the percentage of Egyptian journalists who strive to balance out their stories at 5 percent.

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