Sisi’s Egypt leaves no room for dissenting voices in the media

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Australian journalist Peter Greste (3rd R) of Al-Jazeera and his colleagues stand inside the defendants cage during their trial for allegedly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood at Cairo's Tora prison on March 5, 2014. AFP/Khaled Desouki

By: Mohammad Abdel Rahman

Published Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Opponents of Hosni Mubarak knew that he might be acquitted of the charges brought against him. But nobody expected things to reach this point, with the elimination of all aspects of the January 25, 2011 Revolution and the stifling of each and every journalist who supported it. News anchor Ahmed Khaireddine is the latest in a long list of victims.

Cairo – "A court decision should not be debated by those who consider it to be unfair. But to those who were done justice, there is no qualm in displaying joy and thanking the judge." This is how supporters of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reacted to the latest court ruling acquitting him of all charges. His opponents, however, were treated differently, whether on the streets or on TV screens. Those who are furious at Mubarak knew that his acquittal was a possibility. But Egyptians did not expect the reversal of all the accomplishments of the January 25 Revolution, reaching the level of having Mubarak getting addressed as "Mr. President" live on the radio.

According to the website e3lam.org, self-described as “the voice of the media in Egypt,” 13 journalists have been taken off air since June 2013. Most of them had been supporters of the January 25 Revolution. Yet, those who believed the revolution had been silenced thought no one was left to defend the demands made in Tahrir Square.

It all began with last Sunday's ONtv news anchor Ahmed Khaireddine, who defied media regulations and began his broadcast with an introduction criticizing the acquittal of Mubarak. He spoke for 30 seconds and did not return following a commercial break. Rumors on social media sites said that he was suspended from work and was under investigation.

Khaireddine resurfaced publicly a few hours after the incident and explained that he was only stopped from completing that day's newscast. But does this mean channels will maintain their pro-revolution anchors without warning them against breaking the rules?

The answer could be in the clip of Khaireddine's remarks, which reached the "most viewed" list on YouTube. Private news channels will definitely try to avoid repeating such an incident. The want to avoid the embarrassment of having an anchor stray from the pre-written text and be forced to suspend them for speaking their opinion and breaking the rules of the newscast.

On Sunday night, Aida Saoudi, who presents Studio Hits on state-owned Radio Hits, found herself in the same situation. She attacked Mubarak's supporters and warned of the state of despair the country was in; she did not return to her show on Monday.

The station exploited an administrative loophole in her contract, as she had been delegated by Egyptian Radio and her three-year old transfer papers had not been renewed. A senior source at Radio Hits maintained this was the only reason for which she did not return to her program.

Regardless of the fate of Khaireddine and Saoudi in the short run, these facts confirm that dissenting voices and Mubarak's opponents will be kept away from TV screens and microphones. This is similar to the state Egypt was in before the January 25, 2011 revolution. There was no room for opposing or alternative views. Mubarak used to be untouchable and he is even more so today.

Follow Mohammad Abdel Rahman on Twitter: @MhmdAbdelRahman

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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