Egypt’s media: As faces disappear and return, the content remains unchanged

Egypt’s media is ambiguous and incomprehensible and experts are confused. Faces close to the authority disappear, and they are excluded for a period that the follower thinks is for the purpose of reform and development. Then, the same faces that disappeared for a while suddenly return through another media platform, then others disappear or move to another place. Between disappearance and appearance, the content remains constant, and the media remains unsuccessful in attracting or convincing the viewer.

It seems that the matter is merely a struggle over spheres of influence in a media that has no effect, as journalists assert that the media faces changing is due to the power conflict between powerful forces and the security state apparatus. During the current month, Yasser Rizk, who was seen as the journalist closest to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was dismissed. Everyone waited for him to be appointed in the senate to protect him from prosecution in corruption cases, which did not happen.

Media scene

Before his sudden dismissal, journalists circulated an article banned from publication of the recently dismissed Chairman of the Board of Directors of Akhbar el-Youm, criticising the National Security Agency, and preventing it from publishing articles by news editor Khaled Meri. But journalists said that this information is what Meri promotes. In contrast, journalists circulated a picture of an unpublished page containing an article for Rizk that included a demand for political reform. Rizk criticised how the security services chose the senate lists in the manner of the dissolved National Party.

In conjunction with the dismissal of Yasser Rizk from the chairmanship of the board of directors of the national newspaper, Akhbar al-Youm, the journalist Lamees al-Hadidi reappeared on the intelligence-owned On TV Channel after disappearing for a while. Lamees al-Hadidi and many media professionals affiliated with the Hosni Mubarak regime were replaced by some young media faces who participate in al-Sisi’s youth conferences, such as the journalist Rami Radwan and Iman al-Hosari. The same thing happened with Wael el-Ibrashi, who stopped presenting his programme on Dream Channel for a while to reappear on Channel One of Egyptian TV, which raised questions about the reasons for the disappearance and appearance of these media professionals.

One content

Two years ago, it was reported that the disappearance of some first-class media professionals from the scene comes in the context of a plan to replace the traditional power centres in media institutions with a new generation of young people who will gradually be relied upon. The exclusion of senior media professionals began following al-Sisi’s questions during the youth conference held at Cairo University in 2018. Al-Sisi asked: Why do the government and state institutions’ messages not reach the people, and why don’t they believe that there are achievements? After al-Sisi’s question, some media professionals began to be removed suddenly. Still, the biggest surprise is that the media message’s content remained the same, and nothing changed despite the changing faces so that the old faces recently reappeared.

During the past year, journalist Yasser Rizk made televised statements to herald reforms in the Egyptian scene soon and raise the ceiling of freedom and creativity. Rizk did not specify the mechanism and method by which these reforms will be carried out. Was his sudden ouster among the steps of this reform? The sudden and incomprehensible change in faces with the stability of content did not include media professionals and journalists only but also extended to the owners of satellite channels and media groups that operate under security and intelligence directives. For example, ON TV Channel, which was owned by businessman Naguib Sawiris, transferred its ownership in 2013 to businessman Ahmed Abu Hashima, and then was unexpectedly acquired in 2017 by Eagle Capital.

Eagle Capital, one of the companies owned by Dalia Khorshid, wife of Central Bank of Egypt Governor Tarek Amer, has begun acquiring almost all the channels, private newspapers, and news sites on the scene. For his part, Yasser Abdul Aziz, the media expert, said that this acquisition’s danger is to deprive the media industry of the advantages of pluralism and diversity, as these media entities move according to a single editorial line. Others believed that the exclusion and return of media professionals, or the escalation of young faces, could neither attract the viewer nor convince public opinion. One voice remained the dominant one over newspapers and channels in the absence of any criticism or dissenting voice.