BBC News

Egyptian media in PR offensive targeting the West

By Bethany Bell
BBC News

image captionGen al-Sisi has presented an image of a country facing a campaign of terror

For the past few days, Egypt's main Arabic-language state television stations have displayed a new logo in the corner of the screen.

For the first time ever, it is a message in English. It says "Egypt fighting terrorism".

It is in red, black and white, the colours of the Egyptian flag.

Another television channel, the private station, ON TV, has started provided simultaneous English translations of its news broadcasts and talk shows.

Its coverage, which is overwhelming pro-army, is clearly aimed at an international audience.

The interim government and the army appear to have launched a major public relations offensive - aimed at the West.

There is clearly deep sensitivity here at the criticism from the United States and the European Union over the bloody crackdown on those protesting the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi.

On Sunday, Egypt's army chief, Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, made his first public comments since hundreds of people were killed when the security forces cleared two protests camps where Morsi supporters had been camping out.

In his long speech, there was a message for foreign journalists.

"We will not stand idle in face of the destruction and torching of the country, the terrorising of the people and the sending of a wrong image to the Western media that there is fighting in the streets," the general said.

The authorities have started holding news conferences in both English and Arabic.

During one such event on Saturday, the presidential political adviser Mostafa Hegazy accused the Western media of ignoring attacks on police and the destruction of churches blamed on Islamists.

"We as Egyptians feel deep bitterness towards coverage of the events in Egypt," he said.

The private Al-Yawm al-Sabi news foundation has announced plans to launch an English news website because of what it calls "misleading Western media campaigns targeting Egypt to destabilise the country, affect its security, disseminate rumours and spread disunity among its people."

It says its website will offer "intensive coverage of the ongoing events truthfully with documented videos and photos".

It is not just the Western media that is being criticised.

Egypt's Information Minister Dorreya Sharaf al-Din has threatened to review the legal status of the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV, which she accused of threatening security and stability.

Unlike the Egyptian state TV channels, al-Jazeera has given a lot of airtime to Muslim Brotherhood voices.

'Embarrassing situation'

It frequently broadcasts pro-Morsi demonstrations and aired live video phone footage showing protesters inside the al-Fath mosque on Saturday as it was surrounded by the security forces. Al-Jazeera journalists say they have been harassed by the authorities.

The Egyptian journalist and commentator Ahmad Samir says the authorities "are in a critical and embarrassing situation after the killing of large numbers of people".

Angy Ghannam, from the BBC Monitoring office in Cairo, closely follows the daily reports in the papers, news bulletins and talk shows.

She says initially state and private media concentrated on explaining the military-backed interim government's positions to the Egyptian people. But now she says there has been a change of focus.

"After that the Egyptian media gave a lot of airtime to criticising the Western media coverage of the events in Egypt. However in the last few days, it is noticeable that some of them have started to blame themselves for not getting the message across to the international audiences."

She says that in the past few days the Egyptian media has started a campaign to address the West.

Mr Samir thinks that these attempts to win over Western public opinion are misguided, and points to the resignation of the interim Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei.

"ElBaradei with his big international experience, and as a Nobel prize winner, realised what happened could not be justified to the world. That was against his principles and that is why he resigned."