The events erupting in Tahrir Square on the 19th of November greatly affected the election process and its media coverage. The Media seized the talk about the election process and its nominees, also the news papers were filled with photos of clashes between the protestors and security forces. These events gave a space for other political parties to gain a larger base of supporters and it also inflicted other parties.
The Media’s coverage of the events reflected its political orientation towards the competing parties. Despite the allegations made about stopping the advertising campaigns, the Media was keen on hosting the political parties and their representatives to explain where they stand from all of the parties actively affecting the election process, represented in the protestors in both Tahrir Square and Abbaseya, the Military Council, the Ministry of Interior and the Government. Depending on their position, the voting for the parties will be affected negatively or positively. Repetitive faces have been noticed by those observing the satellite channels for commentary upon the current events, and exchanging accusations among political parties and that was under the excuse of having different opinions about the events, but mostly it would Affect elections. Also the Media used to choose its guests according to their own preference, and deliberately eliminates whoever contradicts them without even ensuring the lowest standards of professionalism represented in their right to refute what others said or stating their own opinion about the subject matter. Even more, some satellite channels well known for their liberal tendencies and its constant attack upon the Islamic parties deliberately and repeatedly broadcasted the commitment advertisement of “Al Kotla al Masreya” party, in which they announce that they are stopping their political campaign in respect to the martyrs of Tahrir and acknowledging that they will not step into the parliament on their account. Straight after that it broadcasts the “Freedom and Justice” party’s advertisement campaign.
- The non-stopping advertising
The 1st stage of elections witnessed several media deviation on its different levels, the most prominent of them all is violating the legally scheduled electoral silence period, stated as 48 hours before the voting. Some news papers published advertisements for the parties 24 hours before the voting (Al Ahram and Tahrir news papers on the 28th of November published a whole page for “al Kotla”. Al Ahram published an advertisement for “El Salam El Demokraty” on the 27th of November as well). There were also dialogues held with different nominees and parties’ presidents, and also channels hosting a number of them to talk about the election process and their expectations. But the matter in question is how the electoral silence was legally binding for the different media channels owned by parties if they increased their campaigning 48 hours before the elections? That is proved by El Wafd and Freedom and Justice news papers, also Al Masry Channel, etc…
What has to be pointed out is that the only channels that bound to the electoral silence period were the religious ones, for instance, Al Rahma and Al Nas Channels stopped broadcasting the song of Al Nour Party and also the hosts stopped talking about a specific party. None the less, it was indirectly violated by the hosts repeatedly urging the audience to participate in the voting process so as not to leave a space for the socialists, the Liberals and the corrupted, and to vote only for those who follow God’s legislations.
- Polls and its effects on public opinion
The most prominent deviation was in the polls and the “who to elect” reports; which is considered ethical and legal deviation. No media channel is allowed to ask people about who will they vote for, or to stand at the polling stations to ask people about whom they voted for. They form speculations that will affect the public opinion especially if that was only after the 1st day of elections. What engraves the problem is that the elections are being held on 3 stages which affect the voter’s tendencies in the governorates in the later stages, pointing out that the reports they do is merely speculations with no solid base as they are not conclusive and the time in which the results were revealed is illegal. Some announced the results on the first day of elections in an attempt to affect the voters, like what El Wafd and Freedom and Justice news papers did on the 28th of November. Also AlHayat channel broadcasted for 3 consecutive days the result of a study done by an organisation named “tns” on 1500 voters that proved that El Wafd Party will get the majority of the votes as well as a study that proves that 40% of the people will vote for El Wafd as well. As for channel 2, it broadcasted a result of a survey stating that Musilm Brotherhood will get 40% of the votes and the Salafists will get 30% of it. On Dream channel, a host announced a college study made that ensures that Freedom and Justice Party is the winning ne with 49% of the votes, and another that ensures Musilm Brotherhood are the winners. No doubt, these surveys were the channels’ tools in advertising for the parties they follow or shaking the opposing ones.
- Awareness and education campaigns
The continuity of the awareness and education campaigns might be the most positive scene in the media coverage, especially during the final hours before the voting started. Most of the channels started explaining to people the process of voting and when the vote becomes null also how to check the seals. Whereas the governmental channels (Governmental satellite channel, Channel 2 and Nile News) were the ones urging people the most to not sell their votes and participate in the elections. What was noted as well is that the only party that had advertisements on these channels is “Al Salam Al Egtema’y Party”.
- Focusing on Violations
The media coverage was mainly revolving around revealing violations, which seems ordinary as this is the media’s role. But what was off is that the media itself made some of those violations by singling out specific Islamic parties. According to the governmental owned newspaper On the 28th of November, a headline was published by Roze AlYoussif stating “26 governrates knows nothing but Musilm brotherhood and the Salafists”. Eventhough it might have a positive connotation to it, but the article itself launched an attack on these parties and how they used deviated means to get where they are. Also on the 29th of November, Al Ahram news paper published a long report about the voters in El Sherouk and Badr Cities under the headline “A voter: if Al Nour Party nominated a stone, i will vote for it”. Despite the remarkable headline and some positive sentences like: “lots of people declared that they will vote for Al Nour Party or Freedom and Justice Party”, “those parties’ campaigns are the most common among remote areas”, “a Voter: I will satisfy my lord if vote for Al Nour Party”, the news paper concluded the report with a dialogue with a voter for a communal party, she stated her fear of religious parties’ uprising. The Newspaper commented that the inhabitants of these areas are the most poor among others, and that they don’t know the nominees and they only want someone to present their protests, without caring for their agenda.
Governmental owned satellite channels
Whereas the Nile News is considered to be the least bias, and the most indulges in different political parties, the governmental channels, and especially Al Fadaeya Al Masreya, adopted the same approach of attacking the Islamic Parties by focusing on the violations they did. They also boycotted their hosts, and stressed on other Parties’ condemnation for them.
Private papers adopted the same approach of attacking the Islamic Parties, and AlMesry AlYoum daily was the harshest of them. The Headline after the first day of election was: “Musilm Brotherhood is being charged by using forgery and religion, and Freedom and Justice Party replies, there are no evidence”. Interestingly they placed the evidence 2cm away from the headline in another one: “a free ride only if you are an Musilm Brotherhood”. All the other violations were covered in the newspaper were on the Religious Parties with no refrence to other parrties. The only Party that was openly mentioned in the whole paper was Musilm Brotherhood in sentences like: “Freedom and Justice Party attacks the Copts, and El Nour Party fabricates pictures of El Kotla El Masreya Party (Page 3)”, “Accusations for Freedom and Justice Party for forging the cards (Page 5)”, “Al kotla Al Masreya Party accuses the Musilm Brotherhood Party (page 6)”, “Musilm Brotherhood gather up their promoters by cars (Page 8)”, “Musilm Brotherhood accuses the Salafists with violating the regulations, and religious campaigns for Musilm Brotherhood and Nour Parties (Page 9)”, and “Musilm Brotherhood approaches people in English on their website (Page 12)”. Al Sherouk newspaper was the most unbiased, as it mentioned violations done by different parties; Freedom and Justice, Al Adl, Al Nour, Al Kotla Al Masreya and Al Wafd. They also praised the Military’s and the Voter’s roles.
Al Tahrir and Al Dostour newspapers were the most focused on the violations made by the Remnant and their Parties. Al Masry Al Youm newspaper did not label them as Remnants, and focused on Al Mowaten Al Masry Party. On the other hand, Al Gomhoreya newspaper was very keen on pointing out the members of the old National Democratic Party, and labelling them remnants.
On the level of Satellite Channels, Al Hayat Channel is still avoiding hosting the members and nominees of El Wafd Party, and replaces them with intensive commercial campaigning. They also place headlines on the channel during the programs no matter how irrelevant they might be to either the program or the hosts. The Channel also adopted attacking the members of Freeom And Justice Party and members. That was very obvious when the host interrupted “Ahmed Abou Baraka” while talking and did not give him the chance to reply to the allegations made against the Party. Also a phone call was cut off short on the 30th of November because of the fact that it supported the Musilm Brotherhood Party.
The CBC Channel also adopted the same method and attacked the Musilm Brotherhood and Freedom And Justice Party but was less harsh on the Salafists. It revealed where it stands in programmes like “We have to understand with Magdy Galad” aired on the 30h of November, discussed the Nour Party’s attitude towards women, Female Tourists and Copts, etc… Whereas Dream 2 Channel is considered the most unbiased and it deals with different Political Parties with having the most interest on the voters.
- evoking the religious dimension
The Media greatly evoked the religious dimension while covering the elections to the point where it can be said that any religious tensions is the responsibility of the media. Newspapers found it exciting to compare the rising of Islamic Parties in opposition to Coptic Parties, and the confrontations between them. They also stressed on the fact that the Church helped Al Kotla Party as it calls for a religious state where the Copts’ rights are reserved, and that showed even before the elections. On the 28th of November, Al Tahrir Newspaper posted headlines asserting religious clashes with no evidence provided. Some of the headlines were: “Islamic with a scent of Remnants”, “Musilm Brotherhood versus the Church”. On the first day of elections, the Dostour newspaper gave the Copts a big part in the electional coverage in four separate articles; “Bishop Mousa’s’ statements”, “dialogue with pastor Flaboter Gamil”, “news about the participation of the Copts in elections”, and, “the Pope, Shenoda, is keen on voting”.
- The Official Stance
The loyalty of each of the “Media Outlets to The SCAF, the Ministry of Interior, the Government and the High Election Committee, brought about the stance of Media towards them. The governmental owned media outlet considered the Military’s success in securing the elections in its chance in winning back its promoters. Al Ahram Newspaper glorified the Military by stressing upon its perfect, violations-free role. The headlines of the front pages were: “a complete success for the security plan”, “the disappearing of the thugs”, “the Marshal checking on the polling stations”, and, “Military planes for transporting Judges”. Most of the pictures were about the Military securing the process, and with it comments like: “The people, Military, and Police together for Egypt”, and “the elections stresses on the unity of the Nation and the Military”. As for the elections slogan, it was a queue of Egyptians headed by a military officer that has his hand stretched to open up a way for them and on his hand was the comment: “Road to democracy”. As for Roze AlYoussef newspaper, it had a dialogue on a full page with the Major General, “Refaat Alkomsan” about the success of the security plan. It also wrote another full page on the High Electoral Committee and its success in securing the first round of elections. On the other hand, More that 75% of the photographies in El Gomhoreya Newspaper was for the military, security, and also did a full page for supporting Al Ganzoury government.
On the other hand, the government owned satelite, Al Fadayea Al Masreya deliberately replays the Marshal’s speech during Tahrir events. It also broadcasts the footage of his meetings with citizens in the streets in the prime time. As well as focusing on the police’s achievements in securing the election process and the quick responses.
As for the private newspapers, they seemed hesitant to admit the success of the military, and it also stressed on the Tahrir Square events to assert its revolutionary attitude. El Tahrir newspaper chose its headlines to be: “thanks Martyrs”, and, “Martyrs’ blood lights the way towards democracy”. As for the Military Council, it posted: “the military succeeded till now, but that’s only the first day and there is still a long road ahead”. As for Al Destoor newspaper, it posted an investigation on the 12th page entitled: “avoiding more bloodshed. From intellectuals to Military: Thank you, for doing your job”.
The private channels were a lot similar to the private newspapers in holding on to the revolutionary attitude, and supporting the Tahrir Square’s demands. That was obvious in Khairy Ramadans’ attitude on CBC Channel regarding the channel’s correspondent from the Abasseya Square, the later was fired.
- Women in the Election Process
As for the women’s stance, women gained back their roles in the media coverage after being remarkably ignored during the campaigning and nomination period. That’s a reflection for a reality where women imposed themselves upon the election arena, whether as a voter or a nominee. All media praised women’s care on voting despite the hazardous political situation and the fears from thugery, pushing and crowdedness. The will of women in the voting process was a drag to lots of media sources, however, it is shameful to have Al Mehwar channel perform a survey for women candidtates. The question was “if they will give their voices to the veiled, the fully veiled (monakaba) or the unveiled”. The Presenter then apologized for these labels but justified it with the fact that this labializing is already present. After broadcasting the survey, the Presenter was keen on hosting a veiled nominee and another Socialist in the studio to tal about the role of looks for women in the election process.
- Religious Channels
Religious channels are on the same path of attacking the “others” to the point of directly labeling and accusing some candidates with atonement and corruption. They also still insist on eliminating the other and considering them as the most dangerous enemy, the subject matter that the Christian and Muslim channels exchange equally. Despite the reference to the channels’ commitment to the legal electoral silence period, they made a lot of violations during the campaigning period, to the extent that they claimed an islamic “fatwa” saying that those who vote for them will be as if they made an ongoing charity for the coming 100 years and those who do not will be frowned upon for the coming 100 years.
The religious channels, like others, made the reports of “who will you elect” but their standards were different. The Sheikhs of both Al Rahma and Al Naas channels claimed another islamica fatwa that stated that if anyone votes for the corrupted ex-politicians then they have sinned, and that voters have to elect those who follow God’s rule and has white baptized hands.
The Christian channel, Karmah focused on violations happening by Freedom and Justice Party, and the Salafists and some of the clashes happening between them and the Copts. Whereas Al Naas channel focused on distributing kid’s toys by the Masreyeen Alahrar Party and also the violations made by Al Horreya Party.
As for Al Naas Channel, it defended the usage of religious logos, when one of its Sheikhs stated that its better for people to follow a religious person than to follow a secularist who does not know where he is leading us.
Coptic religious figures were used by the channels to urge people to vote saying: “it is both, God’s and the church’s right for us to vote”. Also the Sheikhs of El Naas channel called upon the Muslims to vote so that they do not leave the space for the Socialists, Liberals and the corrupted”.
This post is also available in: Arabic