< State of Post-Revolutionary Egyptian Media

Transcript

Friday, August 26, 2011

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone. The Qaddafi regime and its media machine may be on its way out but the revolution in Libya is still at a very early stage. So we decided to check in with the state of the media in Egypt, now in the later stage of its revolution, to see how the media fared after all the revolutionary avowals of press freedom.

Khaled Dawoud is a reporter for the leading Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. We met him first in April when we visited the offices of Al-Ahram.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

What’s your beat here?

KHALED DAWOUD:

I cover regional affairs and I also cover the local political scene.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

What’s going to happen the first time you push against the red line?

KHALED DAWOUD:

My article won’t get published.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Khaled, welcome back to On the Media.

KHALED DAWOUD:

Thank you, Brooke.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

So, back in April the newly free Egyptian media was finding its footing amid public suspicion that the same news outlets that never questioned Mubarak were now happy to condemn him. What about now?

KHALED DAWOUD:

Things remain unstable within the Egyptian media, as well as in the country in general. The Egyptian armed forces recently has started referring a few activists, bloggers and even freelance journalists to military trials after writing some critical views and opinions about the military itself.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

So what we knew was going to be the greatest area of difficulty for reporters back in April turned out to be the case, and that is reporting on the excesses and abuses of the military. Some said that it wasn’t the right time, that reporters shouldn’t attack the only stable institution left after the revolution.

What about among the people? Do they want the press to report freely on the military council now in charge?

KHALED DAWOUD:

Definitely, I think people expected more transparency since we had our revolution more than seven months ago because that was one of the major problems about the previous regime, which is an act of transparency. Our future is not as certain as we thought it would be. Nobody knows when the presidential elections will be held. A lot of people - Egyptians are not happy about the issue of referring  civilians to military trials.

And especially people became more concerned recently after we saw one young activist who was referred to a military court simply because of a tweet, in which he was very critical of the military forces. And everybody said at that time that even the former regime wouldn't refer people to military trials because of a tweet or because of some stuff she wrote on her Facebook page.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

It sounds like what you're saying is things are less free than they were back in April.

KHALED DAWOUD:

I wouldn’t go that far but definitely the military council proved to be impatient with their criticism and, you know, within all the  problems that we're having – lack of security, economic problems – we really wonder why are the military people taking the time to look into every single Facebook page or tweet by activists, instead of working on solving the problems of the country itself.  

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Are there many cases of journalists or people on Twitter or people who maintain blogs awaiting military tribunals or having been tossed into the clink?

KHALED DAWOUD:

Well, there were a few cases over the past few months, but it’s ups and downs. Like right now, over the past say ten days after the death of the Egyptian soldiers on the border with Israel, this issue basically top the agenda right now, and young Egyptians, the same one who were demanding stop for the military trials are now demonstrating in support of the army and angry because of the death of the Egyptian soldiers.

So we found that the army gave them compromises and decided not to try some other   people. But nobody knows how they will act a week from now or two weeks from now.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

So I asked you a few months ago what would happen when you tried to cross those red lines, and you said, with a high degree of confidence, that Al-Ahram wouldn’t let you  do it.

KHALED DAWOUD:

Well, Al-Ahram would still not let me do, but right now probably I also have to think about the issue of a military trial.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

So what advice would you give to journalists in Libya right now?

KHALED DAWOUD:

They’ll find that the post-dictatorship period is not as easy as, as they might have hoped or aspired to. And they have to prepare themselves for an open society in which everything will be under observation, in which everything would be open for criticism and to be tolerant of that.

 

And I also ask my fellow journalists to be responsible towards our readers and to learn how to shift allegiance from a person or a regime to the people whom they should have always had loyalty to their readers, in the first place.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Khaled, thank you so much.

KHALED DAWOUD:

No problem. You’re most welcome. It’s my pleasure.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Khaled Dawoud covers regional affairs for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.