Freedom With Handcuffs

After listening to Prof. Thomas Bass‘s speech about media and censorship, I wrote this story about my own experience with censorship and the media in Egypt.

My Experience with Censorship and Media in Egypt

Egyptian Newspapers
Source: english.ahram.org

I always knew that the government was controlling the media in Egypt, because no news or talk shows had ever opposed or attacked the president, the ministers or any other official. Activists who were calling for freedom had ended up in jail. Opposition talk shows had been stopped from airing. And private newspapers were shut down. But I had never cared or was interested in expressing my opinion or condemning these practices.

 

Then came the revolution, I was in my last year in high school. I was really excited and hoped that the brave actions of the Egyptian youth would succeed in gaining freedom and democracy for the country. However, at this life-changing moment which would determine Egypt’s future, Egyptian media showed their true ugly face.

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They demonized the young protesters, praised the president and his government, who paid their salary, and frightened the citizens with fake and exaggerated stories about the disastrous consequences and the complete destruction of the country if the revolution succeeded and the president had to leave. This was the main strategy the media followed. They even blocked out news about the Tunisian revolution, so Egyptian would not get any ideas of starting their own revolution. They were so ignorant that they did not pay attention to the increasing use and impact of social media and especially Facebook. Egyptians were already following their Tunisian brothers and sisters in their fight for a free and just future.

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So Tunisia succeeded, and Egyptians came to realize that an Arab president could leave without the country falling into inescapable chaos. The youth started sharing invitations on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube calling for the people to gather and march in the streets, not to topple the president, but to demand their basic rights to a decent life, food, and justice. They chose Jan. 25, 2011 to be the day to protest. The significance of the day was that it is the Police day when the president gives a speech and celebrates the great achievements of the policemen. Nevertheless, for the people it was a reminder that policemen are supposed to protect the government and to keep citizens under control. A reminder of the brutality and the unfair treatment citizens get from policemen.

A week before Jan. 25, 2011, media started their reports about how happy people were and that they were preparing for the celebration and the speech. In the first days of the revolution, all media was doing was denying the occurrence of the protests. They were denying the youth’s efforts to urge people to demand change. Nevertheless, when people in their homes realized the contradiction between the news on television and newspapers and the live news on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, media started promoting rumors accusing protesters of being trained and paid for by foreign agencies to destroy the country.

Although police shot the peaceful protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets and real guns, media did not count the deaths or report them. All they said was that the great Egyptian police had succeeded in killing some terrorists who were disturbing the public. With the never-ending lies and the confusing contradiction of the news, some people, who were observing the situation from their homes, decided to go and see for themselves what was actually happening. Most people stopped watching national media channels and started following the news on social networks, Al- Jazeera, or foreign media channels including CNN and BBC. For 18 days, media continued to lie, trying to decrease the public support to the revolution.

 
Then on Feb.11, 2011, the vice president at the time announced the resignation of Mubarak and that he was letting the army rule the country. People cheered up and celebrated all night long, for they had finally toppled a dictator who had ruled for more than 30 years. However, media was celebrating too. They changed their aggressive attacks on the protesters and praised their great determination and their brave fight for democracy and a free future. From that moment on, I never trusted national media.

“Be The Change You Want To See In The World.” – Gandhi

 
When I started college in September 2011, I chose to be a journalist. However, I wanted to study the real ethics, values, and practices of journalism, so I and my classmates in the department can be the new credible beginning of journalism after the revolution. Although, the revolution is not as successful as I thought it would be, and it did not bring the change that I hoped for, I decided never to work for a national media channel. I will try to work hard to report the truth and tell what is actually happening there.

 

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