The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Egypt in TV: terrorism in Sinai, the need to "liquidate" Brothers, Sisi's 100% successful presidency

“Tell me, respectable president Sisi, why you didn’t secure the checkpoints when you knew they were targeted?” the bitter father of one of the 17 (according to the military) or 70 (according to medical sources) soldiers, who were killed in last week’s coordinated North Sinai attacks, tried to ask the camera as the CBC reporter next to him continued to talk over him. 

CBC was not the only channel to choose the wrong guest in last week’s mess. Dream TV’s Wael el-Ebrashy looked regretful in his stony silence as he heard former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi say that the state’s oppression (of activists and the MB) breeds terrorism. 


Politely critical voices like Sabahi’s, however, were lost in a sea of calls for revenge and conspiracies theories, with the double chin of former deputy head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Tahani el-Gabali and the wagging finger of Sada el-Balad host Ahmed Moussa taking the lead. 

The former demanded that all human rights activists be silent forever and that the Egyptian government stop considering the condemnation of the international community when cracking down on its opponents (implying they ever did), while the latter all but ordered judge Nagy Shehata to find a way to legally kill deposed president Mohamed Morsi and senior members of the Brotherhood in their cells. 

“It is very simple,” Shehata replied with confidence, being the reliable source that he is on the subject of killing Brothers. (Shehata has handed down over 500 death sentences to MBs.) Transfer their cases to the State Security Criminal Court, he said,  so that there can be no appeals. 

Impressively efficient, the fuming Moussa then showed a picture of a man he said was a former military officer, whom he said was the behind the assassination without shedding light on how he happened across this information so quickly. If it is true, shouldn’t the government make some kind of announcement and if it isn’t, shouldn’t the patriotic Moussa know better than to spread false information? 

Also giving legal advice on TV lask week was el-Gabali, who told el-Ebrashy that anyone who is happy or celebrates the death of Barakat is a partner of the terrorists and should be arrested. “Don’t you want the rule of law? This is the rule of law,” she said. 


The new conspiracy theory sold on TV now is that Morsi personally planned and order Barakat’s assassination. It is always explained with a video of him appearing to fix his collar or scratch his neck in the background as evidence. The neck-touching was him signaling it was time to slaughter of Barakat to eager assassins. 

It is unclear how our media stars think Morsi managed to do this even though he is held in solitary confinement and is not allowed visits. No one has called for heads to roll in the Ministry of Interior, whose officers must not be very attentive if Morsi managed to sneak this past them. 

The other warmed-over conspiracy theory is that the North Sinai Attacks, and the situation in North Sinai in general, which General Nasser Salem recently re-explained to CBC’s Magdy el-Galad, is the work of the US, Turkey, Qatar and ultimately Israel. They fund and support the terrorists for the purpose of establishing an Islamic Emirate to move all the Palestinians to.

Gen. Salem claimed, as do many on television and in newspapers, that the US suggested Egypt cede North Sinai to the Palestinians -- a proposal Morsi accepted and el-Sisi undid. The attacks are essentially the US trying to punish/pressure Egypt into accepting the deal.

This explains why foreign media --  namely AFP, AP, and Reuters --  purposefully exaggerated the numbers of killed military personnel in their reports of the North Sinai attacks, CBC’s  Khairy Ramadan explained. 

Al-Nahar’s mellow Mahmoud Saad didn’t harshly condemn international media like his colleagues did, but instead tried to convince them, and his viewers, that the very act of listening to any non-military source on a military-related issue should simply never happen. 


Before last week’s wave of terrorism, and the obligatory media hysteria, Egypt’s talk show hosts seemed relaxed for the first time in a long time. Talk show hosts had many reasons to “rejoice,” as ONtv’s Youssef el-Husseiny put it, over this past month, such as: 

“I am happy and comfortable,” Amr Adeeb announced shortly after the news of the arrest of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Al-Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour in the Berlin Tegel airport, at the request of Egyptian authorities. 

Although Mansour was later released, it didn’t dampen Adeeb’s spirits. Like his wife Lamis el-Hadidi, he reminded viewers that the true purpose of Mansour’s arrest was to strike fear in the hearts of high profile members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The only who was in foul mood over the Mansour affair was el-Ebrashy, who simply couldn’t get over the international condemnation of Mansour’s arrest. “This is not a freedom of press issue,” al-Ebrashy insisted, after playing a video of the crime Mansour allegedly committed and got 15 years in prison for in absentia last year, which is: torturing a lawyer named Osama Kamal, having mistaken him for a state security officer in Tahrir square during the early days of the 2011 uprising.

The video doesn’t actually show Mansour at the scene or any reason to explain why al-Ebrashy and others believe the Al Jazeera journalist was involved. The video mostly shows the victim, Kamal, shirtless and surrounded by a group of men, with his name and the line “State Security Officer” written on his chest. At some point, Kamal is seen screaming as young man apparently pulls his arm to do something presumably painful to his wrist. The closest thing to a beating came from a middle-aged man, who put his fist on Kamal’s chest, leans in and almost slaps him before changing his mind.  

Meanwhile, Moussa emphatically assured the public that the Germans only let Mansour go after he “snitched” on ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra, the MB (i.e. every group Mansour must be a knowledgeable member of by virtue of association with Al Jazeera) and “maybe even Qatar.”


Despite arguably being el-Sisi’s biggest supporter, Moussa received a two year sentence and LE20,000 fine for libel and slander against Democratic Front Party head, Osama el-Ghazaly Harb. This, his colleague Adeeb argued in a surprisingly frank moment, should please us, because it means “that we live in a country partly ruled by law.” 

Ten days later the verdict was annulled. A few hours later, the triumphant host was back in his studio cutting a cake in celebration.

Determined to look on the bright side, Adeeb had also asked his viewers to take the summoning of Khaled Salah, the editor-in-chief of the pro-regime paper, Youm7 paper for publishing a report about an alleged terrorists attack targeting one of the presidential cars, as a sign of el-Sisi’s respect for the rule of law.  Salah, too, was released.

It's hard to tell what's worse: the fact that the report Salah was questioned about was not even critical of the regime; hat Salah admits to replacing it with the official narrative immediately although he was sure of its accuracy; or that he casually admits to covering up the Ministry of Interior's faults and expresses disappointment in how they have chosen to deal with him despite his cooperation.


President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has been in office for a year, which he spent being a “100 percent successful” in fulfilling his promises of economic development, according to Sada El Balad’s Mostafa Bakry, “liquidating” (actual verb the presidency used) terrorists, and solving 154 murder cases to name a few accomplishments.

Ninety percent of Egyptians approve of el-Sisi’s performance, CBC’s el-Hadidi said, referencing the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research’s (Baseera) before running a vox pops segment, which showed a public that is neutral to or supportive of the president. No one has any criticism, just some requests like “bring back tourism,” and “make street children a factory to work in.”  


And then there were the death sentences against  Morsi for the mass prison break in 2011, which were rather taken in stride -- except understandably by Ahmed Moussa, who had been eagerly awaiting them to the point where he offered to buy and personally deliver an imported red death-row suit for Morsi with childlike enthusiasm.

To justify the first round of sentences, talk show hosts linked them to the May 16 shooting of three judges and their driver in the North Sinai city of Al-Arish (which they had unanimously attributed to MB) and aired graphic images of the victims. “We decided to show the make sure everyone is aware and sure that Egypt is facing terrorism,” TEN TV’s Ramy Radwan explained as the camera cut to a medium shot of a dead judge missing an eyeball.

Adeeb went further than the rest and actually asked viewers to appreciate how merciful the death sentences against Morsi and senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood actually are. Killing them is kinder than making them rot in prison for the rest of their probably-short lives given their old age, Adeeb explained.

Eissa, on the other hand, concerned himself with the west, whom he criticized for not seeing how not politically motivated these verdicts are. 

The very fact, he said, that Egyptian courts are handing out mass death sentence amid the hail of international condemnation proves that the judiciary is independent. If the regime controlled the courts, Eissa argued, they would be smarter about it and “postpone, drag its feet, put off or delay the rulings knowing how they would be used against (it) as the state.” (Eissa often talks in synonyms presumably to show off his command of the Arabic language.)

In other words, Eissa is saying: if this were a dictatorship, wouldn’t we be smart enough not to act like it? To which I say: Doubtful, unlikely, improbable, debatable.


PostsNour Youssefegypt, TV