Foreign Policy Blogs

Egypt continues media crackdown, but with a new twist


Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar. (Wittylama)

In Egypt today there remains only one Arabic language broadcaster that has not succumbed to the pressures of the military government and condemned the newly outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Though Qatari based, Al Jazeera is one of the most influential news networks in the Middle East and was particularly praised for its coverage of the 2011 Egyptian.

Yet even Al Jazeera’s special position is tenuous. On December 29th, 2013, three Al Jazeera foreign journalists were detained in Egypt and have since been held in custody. They now stand accused of conspiring with “terrorists.” The journalists are accused of aiding 16 other accused Egyptian “criminals” with equipment and information and broadcasting false information to portray Egypt in a state of civil war.

The journalists’ arrest has fomented outrage among fellow foreign correspondents. Many are afraid to interview Muslim Brotherhood members for fear of government reprisal. The government has, however, struck back with an apparently broad media campaign to improve its image. On January 30th, it issued a statement proclaiming that contact with accused criminals was not strictly speaking illegal, but it would be considered illegal if by contacting these accused criminals journalists were either assisting or inciting action that violates the law and national security.

The most confounding element of this media campaign appears to be, however, a video broadcast on Sunday on a private channel that supports the military government. The video sets footage of a police interrogation of Egyptian Canadian journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Australian journalist Peter Greste, two of the accused Al Jazeera journalists, in their hotel room against the ominous soundtrack of “Thor: The Dark World.” As the camera periodically pans around the room it focuses on apparently sinister objects like cell phones and and coiled laptop chargers. The result is at once comically absurd and genuinely frightening, if not for its intended reason.

See the video for yourself here.



Eugene Steinberg

Eugene graduated Tufts University with degrees in International Relations and Quantitative Economics. He works with the editorial team at the Foreign Policy Association on Great Decisions 2014. He is deeply interested in Eastern European affairs, as well as the intersection of politics, technology, and culture. You can follow him on twitter @EugSteinberg