- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
CAIRO — As the confrontation between Egypt’s government and supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy heats up, Cairo’s new rulers have a new target for criticism — the foreign press corps.
Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) released a statement Saturday criticizing some foreign correspondents for "steer[ing] away from objectivity and neutrality," which resulted in them communicating "a distorted image" of events in Egypt to their audiences. "Egypt is feeling severe bitterness towards some Western media coverage that is biased to the Muslim Brotherhood and ignores shedding light on violent and terror acts that are perpetrated by this group," the statement read.
The SIS laid out seven ways in which international coverage of Egypt was lacking. In addition to ignoring the Brotherhood’s "thuggery and sabotage," the statement said, some media "are still falling short of describing the [anti-Morsy protests] of June 30 as an expression of a popular will." The Egyptian government, in other words, objects to international coverage describing Morsy’s ouster as a military coup.
The statement also accused foreign press of ignoring the support that the Muslim Brotherhood is allegedly drawing from foreigners and jihadists. It accused the media of "completely ignor[ing]" that the Brotherhood had sought support from al Qaeda elements, alleging that five vehicles flying the Islamist "black flag" and armed with automatic weapons had driven into Cairo’s Ramses Square during pro-Morsy protests there on Friday. "[The foreign press] also ignored making reference to the participation of non-Egyptian elements from Pakistan, Syria and Palestine in violent acts committed by the Brotherhood," the statement read.
Egyptian officials have also echoed the statement’s criticisms in their public remarks. In a press conference yesterday, Egyptian presidency spokesman Mustafa Hegazy opened with remarks in English — a sign that his message was geared to foreign media. He said that Egyptians were "bitter" that the foreign press had ignored stories of Brotherhood supporters killing soldiers, burning churches, and using women and children as human shields. The events in Egypt were not a political disagreement between two sides, he said, but a "war with terrorism … and Egypt will defend its sovereignty."
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy held a press conference on Sunday morning, before which journalists were handed a packet titled "Egypt Fighting Terrorism: 14th – 16th August." The foreign minister criticized some in the international community for calling exclusively for the Egyptian government to show restraint, while "ignoring all the violence and attacks on government buildings."
The official criticism of the foreign press corps has coincided with an increase in attacks on journalists as they cover events in Cairo. The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley, the Washington Post‘s Abigail Hauslohner, the Independent‘s Alastair Beach, the Wall Street Journal‘s Matt Bradley, and McClatchy‘s Nancy Youssef were all threatened by Egyptian security forces or civilians in the past several days. Brazilian journalist Hugo Bachega was also detained while covering the protests on Friday, as was Canadian filmmaker John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani, whose current location remains unknown.
Read the SIS statement for yourself, here: