A media fact checking service is functioning in Egypt too. Two enthusiasts revolted by the immense media propaganda in that country, more than a year ago decided to establish a media fact checking Internet platform, and Metamorphosis was here to help them, with adjusted version of the methodology used by the organization for its own “Media Fact Checking Service”.
Author: Teofil Blazhevski
If you thought that the media propaganda and noise are huge in Macedonia, you are probably right, but that is incomparable with what’s occurring, especially in recent years, in Egypt. This wonderful country with around 90 million inhabitants, which is facing immense problems in the fields of politics and economy, is a country in which the struggle for the basic human rights is ongoing. The current “general-esque” Egyptian government, which came into power after the fall of Mohamed Morsi in 2013 (the post-revolution in that country after the Arab spring is most confusing), is applying autocratic governance methods that are suppressing any serious critic towards the government.
Plus, according to relevant international organizations and institutions, all mainstream media in the country are actively involved in demonizing the critics, and all of this creates ugly media image and assessments that the media are not free. There are around ten big commercial TV stations, besides the national TV service, as well as around 10 big newspapers that sell millions of copies, which also have Internet platforms with millions of visitors. All media that were showing open or concealed support to Morsi were shut down immediately after the putsch in 2013.
This was recently confirmed by two enthusiastic colleagues from Egypt, with whom we had the chance to talk with on a certain location in Europe. We respect the anonymity they requested regarding their identity and the location our conversation was led, because they said are afraid of possible consequences if they unveil their identity. When asked about the current situation in the media sphere in their country, they say they are virtually facing nonexistent objective and professional media, when it comes to the big media.
TV SHOW WITH PHONE CALL RECORDINGS!?
The situation with the media market and generally with the media in Egypt, is very poor. The national television is executing an open propaganda, whereas the private TV stations that have more viewers, are doing the same as the national TV station in their informative and debate programs, but in a more or less masked manner, depending on the owners. Some of them openly declare their support to the government, while others still haven’t declared their affiliation, but also support the current government of the General Sisi.
Our interlocutors say the propaganda is being multiplied via the websites of those commercial TV stations, as well as via the newspapers’ websites. The Internet, as they say, is very popular in Egypt, so millions of people inform themselves via Internet. Nevertheless, in order to get the full image about the media reality in this country, pay attention to the following example told by our interlocutors:
“There is one commercial TV station, which in its prime time is broadcasting a show containing wiretapped conversations of public persons. The TV station does not reveal the source and how it came into possession of those recordings, for which it is clear they are illegally acquired and most likely given by the intelligence service, and these conversations include university professors, famous journalists, opposition politicians etc., which are declared opponents of the regime. This show airs once a week at night, and it is very popular, whereas the other media make comments about it the next morning. The conversations are mostly from the private lives of those people, including their intimacy, for which those people are later publicly judged”, our interlocutors say.
THE AKHBAR METER IS ASSESSING MEDIA
Faced with such enormous propaganda, not reconciling with the situation, our interlocutors decided to create a certain type of media fact checking service. Following the example of the identical website created by Metamorphosis, the two enthusiasts decided to create a similar platform in their country too. The platform is named Akhbar Meter and is completely dealing with the professional media standards, and not with separate journalistic products.
The methodology for verification of facts was created with the assistance of Metamorphosis and is based on the methodology of the Media Fact Checking Service, after a coincidental meeting at an international conference. That methodology contains 23 questions which have to be answered in detail by the media assessors, and it is functioning pretty well so far. The questions are categorized and are related to four assessment areas:
- Fulfilling the professional rules and ethical standards
- Manipulations and propaganda in the journalistic products
- Human rights violation
- Copyrights violation
One university professor dealing with media helped our Egyptian colleagues at the beginning. The interlocutors say their idea is rather simple:
“Faced with the fact that we cannot find or implement ethics in the media, we want to confront them with their real face and by doing so we want to see if they can become professional and if they can remove the widely spread censure”.
SO FAR WE ARE IGNORED
When asked if their work has an effect or some kind of an impact, their response is negative.
“We have been functioning for a year now. We have a website and a Facebook fan page. We don’t have any financial assistance, and several university professors and four journalists, helping us as volunteers, answer the questionnaire from the methodology, thoroughly for each topic. We are facing silence regarding our assessments about which media are most unethical or most propagandistic. Simply, the media we assess are ignoring us. However, because we started only a year ago, we hope our supporters on the internet platforms will become more influential, and then we will probably manage to change something in the media”.
Our interlocutors state that the dark media reality in Egypt is such because of the journalists, who are simply captured in their profession and are not free. They, albeit having their own trade union, almost do not exercise any trade union rights in the media, and their contracts last for a year the most. By doing so, keeping them in a social insecurity, they practically allow both the censure and the auto censure to be present among the journalists themselves. However, the things are slowly changing, and we see that from the latest protests in Egypt against the President Sisi and the raid of their police in the premises of the Journalists’ Trade Union, when two of the leaders were arrested and convicted for hiding their colleagues prosecuted by the prosecution bodies.
The two enthusiasts from Akhbar Meter, look at their future with optimism, but only if they manage to obtain at least small financial support and expert assistance for the training of their assessors. In such case, they plan to broaden the area of covering the media inside too, thoroughly in their content, in every more important article or TV news, as the Macedonian Media Fact Checking Service is doing. For now, they cover only the ten biggest media internet platforms in Egypt, ranked by Alexa.
Nevertheless, the effort of these people seems astounding, given the dangers they face during their work. What’s more, the media fact checking services and similar departments in most developed media environments simply face a closing trend, oftentimes interpreted by the lack of financial resources.
This journalistic lesson was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project - Media Fact-Checking Service Component,, mplemented by Metamorphosis. The journalistic lesson is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (http://macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).