Egyptian TV presenters who smear journalists at the government’s behest
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published a 27-page report entitled “President Sisi’s puppets” showing how leading pro-government TV anchors and state-controlled media in Egypt are used to launch and then amplify smear campaigns against the few journalists still critical of the government.
"This report looks at the blind spot of violations against journalists in Egypt, the professional environment that is made unbearable by campaigns that subject them to hate, smears and defamation. The Egyptian state is responsible for these attacks, which are carried out with star anchors and mass media acting as accomplices."
Head of RSF’s Middle East desk.
“Foreign agent,” Muslim Brotherhood advocate” and “people with bad morals” – these are just some of the dozens of vindictive and defamatory headlines that Egyptian media have published about independent journalists. Whether “traitors to the nation” or “agents of chaos” – it seems that just about any accusation can be deployed in order to undermine a journalist’s professional or personal integrity.
Compounding the press freedom violations usually evaluated and documented by RSF, such media smear campaigns are a source of dismay for the many Egyptian reporters who are their targets. They create an unbearable climate and force them to adopt a low profile because they fear they could be jailed at any time. In this report, four journalists describe the terrible consequences that such campaigns have had on their work and on their day-to-day lives, and how journalism has been made almost impossible for them.
RSF’s report highlights the coordinated aspect of these media smear campaigns, which follow a similar pattern. The attacks are launched by star presenters, who defame the targeted journalists on popular TV channels that, on closer inspection, turn out to be controlled by Egypt’s intelligence agencies.
Ahmed Moussa is the archetype of fervent defender of the government who has been propelled to the rank of opinion leader in Egypt and who uses his dominant position in the media to serve the government. Broadcast by the Sada El-Balad TV channel, his programme ‘Ala Masouliti is followed by millions of Egyptians and whatever he says has a big impact. He has lashed out at journalists, such as Al Jazeera’s Yosri Fouda, who question the Egyptian government line. “This is a man who hates the Egyptian state and its institutions,” he said on prime time. “To the point that the people hate him.”
Within hours, Moussa’s statements are repeated in all the media and the journalists he targets are inundated from all quarters with articles using the same terminology.
Egypt is ranked 168th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index.