Media bias has been rife in international coverage of Egypt's events, but what about the stories they aren't even picking up on? Here are 12 things the media isn't telling you about Egypt - and yes, Basil Fateen is talking to you America...
12 things the media isn't telling you about what's happening in Egypt
1.Welcome dear tourists, welcome! We're so happy you came to our country! Let me introduce you to the new governor of Luxor (our premier tourist destination). He is an official member of the extremist group that massacred tourists, just like you, some time ago. Here in Luxor, at this very spot, incidentally. But we don't like to live in the past, it's all about the here and now, baby. Life goes on...until this guy takes it from you because you're a godless heathen. Please, don't forget to stop by the gift shop if you're still alive.
Morsi, in his first few months in office, frees 20 or so convicted terrorists from prisons, including those convicted in the assassination of President Sadat. A few months later he appoints a member of Al Jama al Islameyah (the group who took credit for the 1997 massacre of 67 foreign tourists in Luxor) to be the governor of Luxor. Even the Al Jama al Islameyah protested the move, but none more so than anyone who works in the tourism industry in Luxor who held large protests because, you know, people need to make money to eat and stuff.
In American: Obama releases 20 or so convicted terrorists from jail a month within his first term, then soon thereafter appoints Timothy McVeigh as the governor of Oklahoma.
2. Morsi attempted the 'God mode' cheat of politics. He grants himself sweeping powers over the judiciary and the borders of the country and the ability to walk through walls. But hold on there, sir. Stop trying to be funny for a moment and let's look at that statement again without the sarcasm.
"The constitutional declarations and decisions and laws issued by the president are definitive and are not subject to appeal." AND it authorised the President to take any decision to "protect the revolution."
Instant, massive street protests slapped the flabby presidential wrist and forced him to reverse the powers he granted himself, which is the Egyptian way of saying "We'll protect our own revolution ourselves, thank you very much."
3. The Shiite murders and the muffled reaction. Public conferences featuring president Morsi where speakers refer to members of the Muslim Shiite sect as 'unclean' and must be wiped from the earth are met with no objection from the new Egyptian president, and TIME Magazines' “most important man in the Middle East” says nothing in the face of direct hate speech. So weeks later, local mobs collect a few Shiite households in Cairo, slaughter them and parade their bodies through the streets. In Morsi's two hour long speech a week later, the first time speaking to the nation after these events, there was not one mention of what happened. But he did make a few jokes questioning the tourism minister if he's sold the pyramids for extra change yet. Good one.
These dire events signaled to everyone in Egypt that we were entering a phase where these sorts of things are accepted. Now Shiite murders. Then Christian murders. Then anyone labeled an 'Atheist' gets slaughtered. Then intellectuals. And so on.
In American: A series of Armenian families get slaughtered in the Bronx and dragged through the streets by a mob, chanting hate speech against Armenians, so a week later Obama calls a press conference and talks for an hour but fails to make one mention of the killings. He does, however, manage to make a humorous reference about something that happened on X Factor.
4. The Brotherhood's war on the arts and the badass response. As an extension of their attempt to embed themselves into the country, Morsi appointed Brotherhood members and Islamists to key positions, including appointing a new head of the culture ministry. This guy immediately started sacking people left and right, talking about how the 'leftists controlled culture for far too long' and it was time to give others a chance. Well, the artists, performers and intellectuals didn't take too kindly to this ambush, and the Opera House went on strike, as protests were organised at the culture ministry.
So daily poetry readings, opera and ballet performances took place for free in the street. This is how we fight oppression in Egypt.
5. Morsi was about to silence the opposition. International freedom of speech watchdogs have raised several alarm bells throughout Morsi's one year presidential stint. But the most alarming came during the weeks before he was ousted.
According to CPJ:
" In the week before the June 30 protests, oblivious to the extent and depth of public discontent and having already lost the military’s support, the Morsi government issued what turned out to be a series of empty threats and toothless decrees against the news media. The government said it would shut down critical satellite channels and reopen criminal investigations of journalists seen as insulting the president. It issued arrest warrants and imposed travel bans on media personnel."
6. Ce n'est pas un 'coup'. Starting this March, a grassroots movement called Tamarod began collecting signatures from Egyptian citizens calling for immediate presidential elections, then additional millions joined them in all major streets and squares around the country in what many people called one of the biggest protests in human history, if not the biggest. The military gave Morsi 48 hours to respond to the people. He responded with his middle finger, being quoted in his speech as saying "it's me or bloodshed."
So in the face of continued massive protests, larger than those that ousted Hosny Mubarak, the military once again stepped in to prevent further chaos and isolated the president, implementing an interim government with a stand-in president, NOT a military junta, which is a government led by military leaders.
So why do Egyptians get angry when it's called a coup? Because there are several different kinds of coups, and the word is commonly associated with bloody coups that involve the military first taking over in a violent power grab and THEN people reluctantly accepting the situation. That's not an accurate description of what happened. So if you fail to call it a 'popular coup' or 'democratic coup' and simply refer to it as a 'coup', that's like only referring to what happened on 9/11 as a 'plane crash.'
It's not only annoying, it negates the fact that millions of Egyptians who spent time collecting signatures then risked their safety by going into the streets despite threats made promising to 'crush the heretics' who protest on June 30th, to withdraw confidence from the president and demand early presidential elections.
Plus, I'll let you in on something you would not relate to as members of first or second world countries. No third world country likes to be the focus of intense media attention from the west, because history shows that what soon follows is an invasion, or 'liberation', as you like to call it. Only very few, very misguided members of any population would welcome a foreign invasion in any event short of a zombie apocalypse, in which case, fine, come help out. On second thought, I think we might want to take our chances with the zombies.
7. The cavalry. It's non-debatable that there are many common, peaceful, good citizens of Egypt who are angered by the removal of a president they elected. I know several personally. I believe in their right to protest something like what happened. It's not my own personal opinion, but it's a valid opinion and it must be respected. However, the international media has been keeping the spotlight only on these people. On the other hand, here is the cavalry who also want Morsi reinstated:
On July 4th, a day after the removal of Morsi, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released this official statement:
"The youth of Egypt should learn that the price for applying principles on the ground is a mountain of body parts and seas of blood, because evil must be killed and not shown mercy, and righteousness must be achieved by cutting the head of those who corrupt and not reason with them."
So the Taliban and Al Qaeda inspired local groovy, fun-loving people to come out of the woodwork. Like who, you ask? Like them...
And this Al-Qaeda flag carrying chap, who threw teens off a roof in Alexandria during a peaceful protest.
What a charming individual; a model of a civilised, peaceful protestor.
The usual well-prepared response of MB spokesmen like Gehad el Haddad is that these people are not Muslim Brotherhood and that they do not condone violence. Even if that is the case and your group only protest peacefully, then standing side-by-side in the same demonstrations with these people makes you an accomplice, if not a major motivator. But because they know the 'peaceful MB protester' numbers are few, they've decided to follow the maxim of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” So don't be surprised if you get lumped in with your friends now.
9. The Raba’a sit-in. Picture this: You wake up. It's a beautiful morning. You have a lovely breakfast. You step out of your house in the morning and instead of seeing him:
You see them:
And then that's literally all you see for over a month. The pro-Morsi supporters setup an illegal mini-city in your neighbourhood and you have to deal with it. Amnesty International suspects torture occurring within the camp. The police cannot move in because they have women and children (see next point) and promise a bloodbath if they do, with the whole world watching, just waiting for a chance to point a finger and condemn a massacre of peaceful protestors.
In American speak: Following the Watergate Scandal, Richard Nixon decides NOT to resign despite massive public pressure, is indicted and then removed forcibly from office. Supporters of his, who believe he did no wrong and that this is a conspiracy against him by the congress, decide to settle in a residential neighbourhood of California for over a month, without a permit, forcing residents of the area to be forcibly searched coming in and out of the area, urinating and defecating in the gardens of the buildings, breaking into empty apartments, carry Kalashnikovs, with international human rights groups raising alarm bells about torture occurring in the camp.
How long do you think before this sit-in would have been dismantled forcibly? A day? Two? Or maybe...instantly?
10. Like kids, only packaged for death.
This is a picture of children at the Raba’a protest wearing 'death shrouds', which is what Muslims must be covered in before they are buried. Their parents have decided that they will sacrifice their lives at the peaceful protest. Then, more reports surfaced that children in several orphanages were taken to the protests by the owners of the orphanages (Brotherhood members) and also dressed in the death shrouds.
Orphans. Taken to die. At peaceful protests.
No human rights, child abuse or child protection groups caused an uproar, then, after a while UNICEF released the statement:
"UNICEF is deeply concerned by reports that children have been killed or injured during the violent confrontations in Egypt over recent days. Disturbing images of children taken during street protests indicate that, on some occasions, children have been deliberately used and put at risk of witnessing or becoming actual victims of violence. Such actions can have a long-lasting and devastating physical and psychological impact on children. We call on all Egyptians and political groups not to exploit children for political ends, and to protect them from any potential harm.”
Even after the delayed response, I was naively expecting this to become headline news on CNN or BBC to shine a spotlight on this grotesque abuse of children, especially with the acknowledgement of UNICEF. But they had better things to tell the world about that day, much more important issues to put a global spotlight on.
For example, at the time of writing there is an article on CNN.com frontpage titled 'The Secret Lives of Hotel Pillows.' Now that is a story that simply must be told.
11. 52 police officers died breaking up a peaceful protest. Let me repeat that...52 police officers DIED breaking up a PEACEFUL protest. How does that happen? Collective simultaneous spontaneous combustion? They all ate from the same tainted falafel stand right before the raid? Or were they shot with weapons - pardon me, I mean peaceful weapons. They shoot pure love.
11. Over 52 churches set on fire in retaliation doesn't divide Egypt as planned. So let's assume this was the traditional military coup that the media wants to portray it as and the pro-Morsi protestors are peaceful yearners of the democracy that was robbed of them. Okay. And let's say that all the protestors in the videos with the automatic rifles and people throwing children off roofs are not on the side of peaceful protestors who just want Morsi back. Fine. But can somebody please explain to me how 52 churches can be set on fire ON THE DAY that the police move in to disperse the Raba’a sit in...and it's not headline news?
But wait! Then there's the official statement by the Egyptian Coptic Church that despite the tragedy of what's happening to their churches they completely OBJECT to any foreign intervention and declare that Egypt will solve its own problems.
Nothing about that?
And did you hear about the Muslim families that voluntarily went to stay with Coptic families and at churches in order to protect them from further violence by extremists? No?
National unity in the face of direct attempts to stir sectarian violence and civil war...this is worth less than announcements about Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs? Really, planet earth?
12. What's that? An Al-Qaeda flag? Okay. That's still pretty inconclusive.
Here's a good one. Stop me if you've heard it. What do you call a bunch of people with automatic weapons, who push army cars full of soldiers off bridges to their instant death, who set fire to government buildings, execute unarmed police officers, waving Al-Qaeda flags?
For many of these and much more well-documented examples look here:
So here's the question that I can't seem to find an answer for: If the United States, the staunch supporter of human rights, the wager of a global war on terror and Al-Qaeda, the believer in truth and justice, the Batman of the free world, sees these things, yet only officially addresses the police brutality in dealing with the 'peaceful protestors'...then...What's up?
There is so much more to say about the situation in Egypt right now than can be said in one article. And being in the middle of these events, it's difficult to try to lighten the mood given the bleak situation. But being in this position right now has shown me, without a shadow of a doubt, how the media can manipulate sentiment by ceasing to mention a few things and putting a spin on events, repeating phrases like 'coup', 'military junta', 'peaceful protestors' and 'massacre'. That's not to say that brutality and excessive force was not present. I'm not saying that. The necessary use of force is a different debate altogether, one that should occur globally. We could start with what happened in Waco.
These are 12 sides to the story that I have not been seeing portrayed in international mass media. I don't want you to rely on them as the only narrative to what happened, but they should complete the real picture for you to make up your mind in the end. After that, let's put our heads together and try to figure out why these things are not being announced in the first place. Then, inevitably, we will begin to look at the unfolding situation in Syria and the Middle East in an entirely new light.
The unfortunate reality is that a cancer has been implanted into Egypt, and now we're stabbing at ourselves trying to get it out. How that cancer came to be is debatable. Hopefully we, as a nation, come to our senses enough to perform the delicate procedure of removing this violent element from our country before it's too late. If we do, and we heal, then this country and its revolution will come back stronger than ever.