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How Egyptian media covered the anti-Sisi protests

Celebrity videos supporting Sisi. TV hosts airing confessions. Newspapers avoiding coverage. MEE looks at how Egypt reported the demonstrations
Inside Egypt, media coverage showed a different perspective (Screengrab)

When Egyptians took to the streets in protest on Friday, the news made headlines around the world.

But inside Egypt, media outlets which are tightly controlled by the state were largely quiet. Some even showed traffic flowing normally around Tahrir Square despite reports of ongoing protests and arrests.

From a rap going after whistleblower Mohamed Ali, to newspapers that avoided coverage altogether, here's a brief look at how Egyptian media covered the demonstrations:

Clips and confessions

Egyptian TV presenter Amr Adib broadcast pro-Sisi videos and gatherings during his talk show "Al-Hikya" (The Story) this week. He showed clips of large gatherings of people in Suez aired on 22 September, with the caption “mass demonstrations supporting the state and its institutions”. 

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“Why is Al Jazeera not showing this? Isn’t there one opinion and then the other? Why are they not showing the valiant Suez?" he asked. "There are large numbers there for a long time waving the Egyptian flag."

In another episode on 23 September, the show again broadcast videos of people going around in cars, waving the Egyptian flag in Suez. 

“There you go, Egyptians in cars showing their love for their country. In their cars and waving flags," said Adib.

"Were there other people with troubles who went out? Yes, there were, but there are also those who know what has been done in Suez. The factories built in Suez, investments made in Suez, the routes created, the health insurance that is coming to Suez."

The following day, Adib featured a handful of foreigners that had been arrested during the protests, who allegedly confessed to filming in the areas where protests occurred.

The confessions appear to be read from scripts. In one clip, a Dutchman named Pieter Bas "confesses" to filming using a drone.

In another, a Turk named Berat Bertan Aydogan acknowledges that he was photographing protests but says he didn't realise what he was doing was wrong.

“I took pictures of people and of security forces until I was arrested. I would like to add that I didn’t know about the security measures in this area and that I was prohibited from taking photos," he said.

Leaks and more leaks

Early in the week, vlogger Abdallah al-Sherif leaked a recording of Sisi’s palaces, which he says he got from an officer in the army, in a YouTube video which circulated widely on social media.

“The best thing about this is that this footage comes from one of your own. The person who took this footage is an officer from within you, who dresses like you, and is inside the palace.”

Soon after, Egyptian TV network DMC Live broadcast an alleged recording of al-Sherif talking to the director of Ayman Nour’s office, one of Egypt’s leading opposition figures.

In the conversation, the director tells al-Sherif that he will send him some footage of palaces in the northern Egyptian town of al-Alamein that he should share publicly, claiming they are Sisi's palaces.

“We need to take advantage of the success that has happened recently and work harder on social media before Friday... and get people heated so they can go out and protest on Friday," the director is heard saying on the recording.

On Wednesday, Abdallah tweeted that the recording was a fake: 

Translation: It appears that the leaked footage has been painful to some. You don’t have any issues fabricating a call but when you do it, bring someone that copies my voice or has a similar tone to mine, you cows.

Protests? What protests?

On Saturday, a day after protests broke out, Egyptians woke up to scant coverage of the demonstrations in print. Three major newspapers had no mention of the protests.

In Al Masry Al-Youm, top headlines included, "Trump imposes new economic sanctions on Iran" and "Petroleum: Egypt fulfilled the highest rate of production of gas during September." 

Al Shorouk’s main story focused on the United Nations warning that a war in the Gulf would be catastrophic.

Al Ahram’s top headlines were, "Egypt presents its vision for peace, development and terrorism before the UN" and "Al-Ahly, champions of the super beat Al Zamalek 3--2."  

The Egyptian government issued its first official response on Sunday morning, not naming the protests but telling international journalists who had covered events "during the past 24 hours" to abide by "professional rules".

Officials told the journalists not to use social media as a source of information and downplayed the size of protests "in the context of the size of Egypt as a country with more than 100 million people".

Al-Dostor’s top headline was, "The Archive Revolution" and claimed that videos of protests shared on social media were old.  

The daily Youm7 said the protests were "lies and deception aimed at sowing doubt in the government".

A rap against Ali

Numerous actors, celebrities and singers have come out in support of Sisi's government.

Popular actor and singer Mohamed Ramadan posted a rap video entitled, They Want Chaos - taking a subtle swipe at actor-turned-whistleblower Mohamed Ali. 

"How do you want to plan for an entire nation when your only project in life you failed," Ramadan raps. "Firstly, you are not a man, after you escaped far away you come and try and be a fighter with falsehood."

He later adds: "What do you know about the streets and what happens there? What do you know about the child who is the breadwinner for his family from a young age?... Surely you can't hear the voice of the people over the cabaret."

Popular sports channel ONsport Egypt also posted several photos saying, "No to Chaos", following the protests, as well as several celebrities recording themselves saying, "We are with you president. We are all with you. We are with the army and down with the traitors". 

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