Professionalism in Egyptian Media – When and How?

Date: 12 March 2014

Country: Egypt


Many media outlets and journalists in Egypt lack professionalism, as it was repeated at the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) roundtable organised in collaboration with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. It was not surprise that the discussion on the degree of commitment to the professional and ethical standards in Egyptian media, especially after 30th of June 2013, attracted so many participants.

“The main target of this debate is the audience and not us” stated Ayman Al Sayad, the well-known journalist and event`s moderator as he initiated the three-hour long discussion before 200 guests in Safir Hotel in Cairo.

Abeer Al-Saadi, the journalist and deputy of the journalists union`s council insisted on “the importance of implementing a media roadmap for self-moderation of the profession of journalism”. She pointed out that “if media actors don`t have the will to implement a media code of ethics, we will never reach the degree of professionalism that we seek”.

Khaled Al-Belshi, the former editor in chief of “Al-Wadi” newspaper, commented on that aspect while confirming the importance of integrating the audience in the process of implementation of the media code of ethics. He added that “we are in front of a regime that punishes journalists and media persons that delivers a unified media speech, and in here comes the role of the NGO`s that protect the right of the public in receiving facts and put an end to those who don`t respect them”.

Yasser Abdelaziz, a media expert, agreed with Al-Belshi in that issue, while stating that “The public is considered guilty as well because they support those who deviate from professionalism.” Concerning the same context, the articles that are related to the regulation of media in the Egyptian constitution were brought to the discussion, where Safwat Al-Alem, a media professor at Cairo university pointed out that “the articles related to media and journalism in the constitution are considered problematic to the political system in the upcoming phase because they talk about the free and independent media, which is not present in Egypt currently, and nobody in the scene now can handle an independent and free media.”

30June_conference_Egypt2In a discussion around the degree with which the academic studies in mass communication faculties agree with the current media scene, Al-Alem clarified that “media graduates must incorporate what they have learnt regarding media professionalism and objectivity in their media practice”. “We need those kinds of seminars and debates to correct the path of media professionalism, because there are many practices that lack professionalism” Al-Alem added.

That was confirmed by Ezzat Ibrahim, the editor in chief of Al-Ahram newspaper by saying “there is a huge decline in the degree of professionalism in the media because there is no sufficient training and the absence of a real program in that context”.

Ownership and Editorial Policy?

The discussion included media ownership in Egypt as well, and the degree to which the outlet`s ownership controls the content, and especially in the state media. In that context, Emad El-Deen Hussien, the editor in chief of “Al Sherouk” newspaper commented that there is a strong relationship between ownership and editorial policy, but the constant debate and question is around “what is the degree of that influence?”

The discussion included the accusation against the media in promoting hate and incitement speech, and in that context Lilian Dawood, the TV presenter of “The Full Picture” program on ONTV channel denied that accusation and pointed out that “media is not an incitement tool, and that we are not agitators, the role of media is not to offer solutions, however we see and analyse the scene, we are not directed to the audience and we are not social reformers”. “There is hate speech from everybody; the media currently is imitating exactly what happened on “Rabia” Platform when the public demand the execution of the Muslim Brotherhood, therefore we must fight the media polarization, because our goal is Egypt” Ayman Al-Sayad commented regarding the degree to which there is a hate crime phenomenon in Egypt.

In a discussion around the possibility of providing minimum professional standards that must be included in any media work, while taking into account the current situation in Egypt, Hafez Al-Marazi, the presenter, and head of “Adham centre” in the American university in Cairo confirmed that “the concept of the tribal media is the one dominating the media in Egypt” and added “Rightness shall prevail, I am optimistic on a long-term basis, and not over the short-term, however, when the entire system is faulty, how do you expect that the media will be fine?”.

During the round table, many other issues related to media professionalism were discussed; some of them discussed the repressive practices against journalists, the practice of closing TV channels, the effectiveness of some talk shows and their presenters, and media manipulation through falsifying scenes and cropping facts from them, and presenting half-truths.

In addition, the discussion around not applying diversity in the expected way in the Egyptian media, where Hussam-Al Sukari, former Head of BBC Arabic, and the presenter of “On Egypt’s Name” TV show on the Egyptian National TV channel, discussed various definitions of diversity while pointing out that “there are persons that we don`t sense their presence because the media don`t present them to the public, we need to see persons from different governorates, and Egyptian strata to reflect the diverse geographical and social image of Egypt”.

The events of the round table were concluded with an announcement from Milica Pesic, the Executive Director of the Media Diversity Institute, and Yasser Abdelaziz, a media expert, as they announced the winners of a journalism award that was organized by the Media Diversity Institute for the journalists that it had trained. It is notable that it was done in the context of the total faith of the Institute in the abilities of young journalists and the importance of supporting them and encouraging them in their aspiration to be professional.

The round table was covered by many audio-visual, print, and electronic media outlets, and including Dream 2, MBC, CBC, ONTV, MEHWAR, Egyptian Television, Akhbar Al-Youm and Sherouk Newspapers, Yakin news network, and others.

The following is a full coverage of the round table from ONTV channel.