EJN Cairo Special: Egyptian Editors Organise to Confront Media Crisis

The elegant Greek Club in the heart of downtown Cairo has hosted many joyful society events over the years, but the 30 or so editors and leading journalists who gathered there on Monday for the inaugural meeting of the Egyptian Editors Association were not in a cheerful mood.

They met to kick off a debate about the collapse of ethical and independent journalism in the wake of the popular revolt against Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected President, who was ousted on June 30th last year.

Six months on and with a new constitution safely confirmed by popular vote – including three precious articles protecting free speech and press freedom – the journalists were meeting to analyse what happened to the revolution’s promise of press freedom and pluralism.

After the removal of President Hosni Mubarak and his repressive regime in 2011 there was unprecedented optimism about the scope for resurgent journalism, media diversity and a new era of free speech. Three years later the dream is on hold.

The election of Morsi, despite its electoral symbolism, did not mark a moment for pushing ahead with the democratic transformation of Egypt. Indeed, for many in the country, including inside media, it revealed new threats.

Having overthrown Mubarak’s police state, many people became fearful that their hard-won democracy would give way to creeping religious fascism represented by Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

As a result, many journalists, including some of the iconic media leaders of the revolution – such as broadcaster ONTV and the daily Al-Masry Al Youm – became foot-soldiers in a continuing battle to save the soul of their revolution.

This was no orchestrated conspiracy, but rather a coming together of like minds. Journalists and editors from both state and independent media were equally alarmed and unnerved by the threats to the revolution posed by the Morsi regime.

In the turbulent weeks after he was removed independent media on all sides drifted into a new role – as key players in a broad political front with the state, the military, the judiciary, and the police. Notions of independent journalism were suspended and replaced by partisan reporting laced with patriotism.

This change of direction inside journalism and the perceived loss of objectivity has bewildered media observers outside the country.

And the media crisis is particularly felt by foreign journalists who now find Cairo a threatening and hostile place. Some readers will know about 20 journalists, most from Aljazeera, have been arrested and face a range of charges. Some are in jail awaiting trial and there is a global campaign clamouring for their release.

In this confused and threatening landscape the journalists at the Greek Club, a rich mix of professionals from across all platforms – radio, television, web and print – as well as from both public and private sectors, spent the day, as one speaker put it, “raising the alarm” for press freedom and journalism.

They discussed how media had been hijacked in support of the “popular dictatorship,” which, in truth, journalists themselves have played a role in creating. They noted how the young reporters and editors, given their heads in the wake of the removal of Mubarak, have been reined in; how advertising agencies and intrusive owners are calling the editorial shots.

They considered how national voice in defence of the revolution has overwhelmed professional voice and some notional objectivity inside journalism.

Isn’t this what happened to mainstream American journalism after the September 11 attacks, it was said, when media had suspended temporarily notions of balance and objectivity after the terrorist strikes on New York and Washington in 2001? Perhaps, but no-one is celebrating that the rhetoric of George W. Bush’s war on terror – “you are either with us or you are against us” – has taken hold in Cairo.

For most journalists the “national interest” is a wretched excuse for propaganda, deceptive handling of the truth and editorial malice, but it is often the reason that has been used in Egypt recently to explain media behaviour.

Many of the journalists did not have much sympathy for Aljazeera, whose Egyptian station Mubasher has come in for particularly criticism for biased journalism in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatari policy in the region.

Nevertheless, by the end of the day the mood in the Greek club began to lighten as the meeting discussed how to change direction and get back to basics -- ethics, pluralism and professional journalism. They will support the newly-created Egyptian Association of Editors and organise more debates and discussions.

They will also support efforts to create a genuinely independent self-regulator for Egyptian media and organise fresh actions to improve levels of transparency and good governance inside media.

Other struggles lie ahead, of course, not least the battle over a new media law which is likely to emerge later this year after presidential and parliamentary elections. And there remains the challenge of reforming the vast network of government-owned media including newspapers like Al-Ahram and Egyptian Radio and Television Union, which operates more than 20 television and radio stations.

But these can wait for now. It is enough that journalists and editors have broken their silence over the media crisis. It is a small beginning and nothing is certain, but Egyptian journalists are getting back on track.


For more information on the Egyptian Editors Association contact Tarek Atia who is the Director of the Media Development group EMDP.

Follow the Ethical Journalism Network by signing up to our weekly newsletter.

Photo credit: Flickr CC Ashraf Omar

comments powered by Disqus
ABU, AP, ARTICLE 19, Accountable Journalism, Afghan Journalists Federation, Afghanistan, Afghanistan Journalists Centre, Africa, Africa e Mediterraneo and Lai-momo Summer School, Agence France-Presse (AFP), Ahmad Quraishi, Ahmet Altan, Aidan White, Aiding Law enforcement, Alan Yuhas, Albania, Aljazeera, Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights, Anti-Semitism, Arabic, Ashok Gupta, Ashraf Ghani, Asia, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, Associated Reporters Abroad, Association of Commercial Television, Australia, Aylan Kurdi, BBC, BBC Radio London, BBC World Service, Balkans, Barcelona, Barcelona Center for Contemporary Culture (CCCB), Being first, Belgium, Billy Russell, Bob Geldof, Bosnia, Boston Marathon bomber, Bottom-line decisions, Brazil, Brexit, Broadcast, Brussels, Brussels Terror Attacks 2016, Bulgaria, Burma, Buzzfeed, CIMA, Can Dündar, Carles Torner, Central Asia, Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CPMF), Ceren Sözeri, Channel 4, Charlie Beckett, Charlie Hebdo, Charter of Rome, Child Rights International Network (CRIN), China, Chris Elliott, Christopher Kremmer, City University London, Climate News Network, Comedy, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Conference, Conflict, Conservative Party, Consorci Universitat Internacional Menéndez Pelayo de Barcelona (UIMP Barcelona – Centre Ernest Lluch), Controversial photos, Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia (CMEM), Covering politics, Crimea, Croatia, Cumhuriyet - Turkey, Darfur, Dart Center, David Cameron, David Jordan, Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Denmark, Director's Letter, Donald Trump, Dorothy Byrne, Dr. Zahera Harb, Dunja Mijatovic, EJN Annual Report, EJN Board, EJN International Collaborators, EJN Secretariat, EJN activities, EJN member, EJN participation, EJN report, Earthquakes, Editorial Guidelines, Egypt, Elliot Cass, English, English PEN, Erdem Gül, Eric Baradat, Eric Wishart, Erol Önderoğlu, Ethical Journalism, Ethical Journalism for Free Expression, Ethical Journalism in Action, Ethiopia, Europe, European Commission, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), European Magazine Media Association, European Media and Information Literacy Forum, European Press Prize, European Union, European University Institute (EUI), Evening Standard, Facebook, Fatumo Farah, Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), Film, Finland, First Amendment Award, Founding EJN member, Fox News, France, Franco-Prussian War, Frans Timmermans, GFMD, Gambia, Gary Younge, Gaza, Geir Terje Ruud, George W. Bush, German PEN, Getting the story, Gezi Park, Giles Duley, Global Editors Network (GEN), Google, Haim Shibi, Handling sources, Huffington Post, Human Rights, Humanitarianism, Hungary, Hürriyet - Turkey, IFEX, IPI World Congress, ISIS, Iceland, Independent Association of Egyptian Editors, Independent Press Standards Organisation, Index on Censorship, India, Indonesia, Indonesia;, Indonesian Press Council, Indonesian Press Council (IPC), Institute of the Mediterranean, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Journalism Festival, International Media Ethics Day, International Press Institute (IPI), International Women's Day, Invading privacy, Iran, Israel, Israeli Federation of Journalists, Italy, Jakarta, James Copnall, James Rodgers, Jan Egeland, Jean-Paul Mathoz, Jerusalem Association of Journalists, Jerusalem Post, John Oliver, Jon Snow, Jordan, Jordan Media Institute, Journalist, Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Justice and Development Party - Turkey, Jyllands Posten, Katie Hopkins, Katie Morris, Keith Somerville, Ken Clarke, Kieran Cooke, Kigali, Kosovo, Lampedusa, Latin America, Latvia, Le Monde, Le Siècle, Lebanon, Leveson, Liat Collins, Lindsey Hilsum, London Press Club, London School of Economics (LSE), Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), L’Osservatore Romano, Macedonia, Macedonian School of Journalism and Public Relations (SJPR), Malta, Manning, Mare Nostrum, Mark Doyle, Marta Foresti, Martin Plaut, Matt Frei, Matthew Price, Media & Learning, Media Diversity Institute, Media Literacy, Media and Information Literacy, Media and migration, Mediterranean, Megan Howe, Mehmet Baransu, Melanie Gouby, Mexico, Miami Herald, Middle East, Military issues, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, Mohammed Jamjoom, Montenegro, Moving Stories, Myanmar, NGO, NLA University College (Gimlekollen) Kristiansand, NPR, Naming newsmakers, Nasser Abubaker, National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) Thailand, Natural Disasters, Neil Thurman, Nepal, New York, New York Times, Niangara massacre, Nigeria, No Borders Project, North America, Norway, Norwegian, Norwegian Institute for Journalism, Norwegian Refugee Council, ONA, ONO, Ofcom, Oficina Antifrau de Catalunya, Ombudsmen, Oona Solberg, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Organisation of News Ombudsmen, Overseas Development Institute, PEN America, PEN International, Pakistan, Pakistan Coalition for Ethical Journalism, Palestine, Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Panama, Panama Papers, Paris, Partners Working In Collaboration With the EJN, Peter Greste, Peter Sullivan, Phepchai Yong, Philippines, Pierluigi Musarò, Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), Polis, Pope Francis, Poynter, Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Press Complaints Commission, Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Press Council of Kosovo (PCK), Press Council of Serbia, Press Council of Thailand, Press Safety, Privy Council, Racheal Nakitare, Radio, Randi S. Øgrey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Reddit, Regulation, Reporters without Borders, Ricardo Gutierrez, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Rory Peck Trust, Rossalyn Warren, Royal Charters, Russia, Rwanda, SPJ, Samantha Bee, Sarajevo, Satire, Save the Children, Secret Filming, Self-cencorship, Sensationalism, Sensitive news topics, Serbia, Shaike Komornik, Shami Chakrabarti, Singapore, Sky News, Snowden, Social Action Centre - Ukraine, Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Code, Soft Censorship, South Africa, South America, South East Europe Media Organisation, South East European Network for Professionalization of the Media, South Eastern Europe, South Sudan, Spain, Sr. Rogelio Grajal, Statewatch, Stephen JA Ward, Steven Livingston, Sudan, Sulome Anderson, Supinya Klangnarong, Sweden, Swedish PEN, Syria, TV, Taraf newspaper - Turkey, Thai Association of Journalists, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, Thailand, The Conversation, The Eagle Tribune, The Guardian, The Independent, The Society of Professional Journalists, The Sun, The Telegraph, The Vatican, Thomas Spence, Tom Law, Transparency International, Tuncay Opçin, Tunisia, Turkey, Twitter, Typhoons, UK, UN, UN Alliance of Civilisations, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNESCO, UNESCO IPDC, UNICEF, US, USA, USA Today, Uganda, Ukraine, Ukrainian, United Kingdom, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United States, University of Bologna, Untold Stories, Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB), WAN-IFRA, Wanchai Danaitamonut, Whistleblowing, Wikileaks, William Wintercross, Workplace issues, World Press Freedom Day, World Radio Day, Yasemin Çongar, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Zalmaï, accountability, accuracy, advertising, anonymous comments, automation, bias, blasphemy, blog, breaking news, business model, canada, cartoons, censorship, climate change, code of ethics, comments, complaints, corrections, corruption, credibility, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, data protection, data-driven journalism, democracy, digital, draft law, e European Magazine Media Association, election, ethical journalism weekly roundup, ethics, events, fact checking, fairness, freedom of expression, gender, global ethics, globalism, good news, governance, handbook, hate speech, identity, impunity, infographic, internet, investigative reporting, journalism, journalism training, journalist safety, journalistic methods, journalists in exile, law, legal, libel, media, media audit, media development, media ethics, media ethics and children, media law, migrants, migration, mobile, moderation, newspapers, objectivity, ombudsman, open journalism, ownership, paid content, photo journalism, pluralism, press council, press freedom, press release, propaganda, public editor, public interest, public opinion, public trust, readers’ editor, refugee crisis, refugees, reliability, religion, representation, right to be forgotten, right to information, robot journalism, rumours, self regulation, self-regulation, shield law, social media, standards, statements, style guide, surveys, technology, terrorism, transparency, trolls, turning the page of hate, verification, video, vulgarities, war, women, İpek Yezdani