Media in Egypt is increasingly under fire as the country gears toward a decisive run-off that is expected to catapult one of the two winners in the first round --Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood or Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minster -- to the helm.
Most of the heat has to do with charges against media for failing to live up to its role in raising awareness about public life in the country, where illiteracy is widespread and where voters didn’t have access to information to make informed decisions about their picks.
Intisar Gareeb, coordinator of Media Revolutionaries Group, is a radio presenter known for her involvement in the revolution since its outbreak on January 25, 2011. She blames media for sidelining one of its main tasks that has to do with disseminating information and raising public awareness about elections process in general and candidates in particular.
Intisar says that there are scores of dailies, TV stations and radios in Egypt and yet people still have restricted access to information.
She claims that this situation greatly impacted voters’ choice who went to the polls without the right information that would allow them to cast their ballots for the right candidates.
Intisar holds media owners responsible for the poor coverage of the first round of election, saying that they are not aware of the capital importance of this historical turning point that would shape post-revolutionary Egypt.
She goes even further in her scathingly critical view of media, contending that some news outlets not only failed to report on the issues that matter but also censored information in what appears to be a deliberate act of misinformation.
Intisar underlines media’s silence on vote rigging, cases of which reported by eyewitnesses who corroborated their testimonies with pictures. This did not, though, deter the supreme presidential elections committee from overruling appeals presented against the results.
She says media fell short of covering bribery and vote-purchasing and did not try to expose them, proving that it has to undergo a revolution to reform its ways and means.
She recognizes that media has seen some positive changes since the fall of Mubarak, but these changes are limited to individual news companies and do not represent a trend in the country. She cites the long strides of reform made by Nile News Channel and her own work at local News and Sport Radio.
Intisar claims that media still does the bidding of the ruling power in Egypt, arguing that private media make no exception to the rule since it is mostly owned by businessmen who are remnants of the former regime.
Safwat Alam, chair of the committee for the evaluation of media performance during the elections, says media did its best but suffered from number of flaws related to biased reporting and lack of professionalism.
Alam also mentioned lack of training programmes to build media capacities and ads companies’ control of most of media content.