Egypt military issues warning to ‘biased’ Western journalists

pressegyptThe Egyptian government isn’t very happy with the way in which foreign journalists are covering the military crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters in the country, a conflict that has left over 800 people dead and thousands injured in just a few days. The State Information Service sent a notice to foreign correspondents in the country on Saturday claiming that “that some media coverage has steered away from objectivity and neutrality,” adding that “Egypt is feeling severe bitterness towards some Western media coverage that is biased to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The memo lays out a number of points on which the Egyptian government would like to see a change in rhetoric:

Despite an escalation by the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of the ousted president, police men, in cooperation with the Armed Forces men and through popular assistance, managed to carry out all missions assigned to them and were able to control the security situation in face of the terrorist attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood to fling the country into violence.

The implicit warning is just the latest of many signs of a disconnect between the interpretation of the last month or so by many Egyptians — where more or less the Islamist factions of the country stand against the military, who are supported by moderates, Christians, and secularists — and by the international community. As President Obama feels pressure to call the military overthrow of a democratically-elected (but deeply unpopular) president in Egypt a ‘coup’ as the violence continues in Egypt, those loyal to the military have long believed that the west is too sympathetic towards the Muslim Brotherhood. And now, it looks like that sentiment is being released on many of the journalists there to cover it.

During the past few days, the Committee to Project Journalists marked the milestone of 1,000 journalists killed since 1992, after multiple journalist deaths in Egypt. And a growing number of western correspondents, along with Egyptian correspondents and organizations not seen as loyal to the interim government, have been attacked while doing their jobs in Egypt, often by what appear to be vigilante-style crowds loyal to the Egyptian military (although there have been reports of violence against journalists instigated by both sides). Today, the army had to step in and rescue two journalists (Matt Bradley of the Wall Street Journal and Alastair Beach from UK Independent) from such a crowd at a Cairo mosque, as the military and pro-Morsi supporters exchanged gunfire. On Friday, journalist Jared Malsin, reporting for Time, was caught in an anti-Morsi crowd on the 15 May Bridge in Cairo. Malsin, an experienced reporter who speaks Arabic, described his confrontation with a pro-military vigilante group while trying to leave the bridge:

A man grabbed me by the arm, then a whole group seized me. Within seconds I was lifted off the ground while a whole crowd of men ripped my camera from my hands and my medical kit from the strap on my thigh. One man slapped me across the face, knocking my glasses to the pavement.
Somehow, cooler heads prevailed. More men joined the group, pulling me out of the crowd and returning my glasses and medical kit. Cliff had managed to secure the camera but two of his own had been stolen.
Speaking to the Atlantic Wire, Malsin said that after this experience “it became vividly clear to me that dynamics of street protests in Egypt have changed. The level of violence is more lethal.” He added, “The rules that applied six months ago don’t apply anymore.”

Another example: the Guardian’s correspondent, Patrick Kingsley, was roughed up and delivered to police by a group of teenagers.

Others have been confronted:

Obviously, dangerous conditions on the ground for journalists are translating to dangerous conditions for everyone. Democracy Now’s Sharif Kouddous explained as much to ABC News on Saturday, saying “It’s a dangerous situation for any citizen or any person to be out here. It’s always more difficult if you have a camera, you’re a target.” –