The Reporting of the Anti-Mubarak Protests

Graham Bell, 4 February 2011

Categories: Egypt | Politics | Israel | Middle East | Democracy |

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The events in Egypt and Tunisia have put UK news organisations in a bit of a tight situation. Until now, it has been easy to hide the western ally leaders around Africa and the Middle East from mainstream western news. Western governments have, as the BBC lightly put it “turned a blind eye to President Ben Ali's harsh suppression of dissent... and ignored the fact that... ordinary Tunisians suffered”. The question of why western governments ignored the suffering and supported this dictator was never asked in the mainstream news. When the people of Tunisia rose up to overthrow Ben Ali and people were dying on the streets, the reasons for the outrage could no longer be hidden, and Ben Ali as an individual was openly disgraced by the media. What now became important to hide was the allegiance of Ben Ali to western governments. The recent events in Tunis and Cairo have left little opportunity for the media to ignore the corrupt regimes, so the new challenge is to downplay western support for them.

On 17th January the BBC ran an article entitled “No sign Egypt will take the Tunisian road”, which reported the Muslim Brotherhood as a “banned Islamist movement” that left Egyptians feeling “disillusioned with the opposition”. The BBC did not take into consideration whether the Egyptians themselves would like the Muslim Brotherhood to rule, and they ensured to neglect stating that the Muslim Brotherhood was banned specifically by Mubarak because the political position of the USA/UK/Israel in the Middle East depends on them being banned. The BBC in its reporting rarely refers to the Muslim Brotherhood without using the word ‘banned’. They do not question why they are banned, or even whether it is ok to ban a political party for which the people have a degree of support from the electorate. The scare tactic at a time when so much public opposition is being voiced towards an existing regime is to invent a fear in the western world of the ‘extreme’ alternative, rather than expose the current existing extreme negligence of human rights and other atrocities. An interview with Kamal El-Helbawy of the Muslim Brotherhood on the Today Programme on 3rd February 2011 (audio is at the bottom of this text) demonstrates the severely biased western viewpoint of an opposition party in a country in which the UK has no business deciding on a government or policy.

Reporting on Israel’s feeling about losing Mubarak, the BBC takes their usual pro-Israel stance when they say that “the Blockade is aimed at weakening the Islamic movement Hamas which controls Gaza”. The flaw with this news is that it is untrue. The Gaza blockade was most recently built in 2001, while Hamas took control of the area in 2006. For the BBC to report the more harsh reality of the blockade would acknowledge UK support for a state which practices a regime arguably worse than apartheid on a severely suppressed population. President Mubarak is an ally who has openly supported the blockade and even built his own high-security barrier in 2004 as a ‘security measure’ against ‘terror’. When Mubarak built his wall in 2004, there was no media condemnation of has atrocities, but now because of the public outrage he is as an individual being held accountable for the works of an entire regime funded by US ‘military aid’ of $1.3bn annually and supported politically by the UK. While it is justified to blame only the leader, the reality of the reason that Mubarak alone (and not the entire regime) is held accountable by the media is that the USA can continue to form a ‘transitional’ government headed by the current vice president Omar Suleiman, a close ally of the USA and Israel.

The media has for some reason decided that we in the west should be allowed to have a say in Egyptian politics. Of course for decades western governments have put a number of leaders into power in the Middle East, but it has been relatively well hidden until now. Leaders like Mubarak are quoted as 'allies' to the western world, however it is less public that they are often the recipients of a great deal of help from the west. Recent reporting about the US plan to remove Mubarak gives the impression that it is entirely normal for the Obama administration, and not the people of Egypt, to decide who should now lead the country. Western governments have turned their back on Mubarak as an individual, but not on the regime which has ensured that the majority of Egyptians live in a society ridden with poverty and little regard for human rights.

The hope of the Egyptian people is that they will be able to vote for and elect their leader through a true democracy, without western intervention. With so many reports of the USA wanting to ‘implement democracy’ (without even questioning why the USA should decide who leads Egypt), the western hope is that a substitute very similar to Mubarak will be put in place. The UK media’s propaganda about the Muslim Brotherhood and their reports that the USA is planning for the ‘smooth transition of power’ help to keep the western populations in ignorance about the lives of Egyptians and obsessed with a fear of 'extremism'. The grim reality is that this way, western powers will attempt to maintain their stranglehold over the Middle East and ensure that the people of Egypt do not get the freedom for which they are fighting so hard.

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 Interview with Kamal El-Helbawy from 3rd February 2011, demonstrating the assumptions and bias common in western media when discussing the Muslim Brotherhood:

Categories in which this article appears: Egypt | Politics | Israel | Middle East | Democracy |

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