Flagrant Bias in Favor of the ruling party’s Candidates. First Progress Report on monitoring the media coverage of Egypt’s Parliamentary Elections

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The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) held a press conference today to announce the findings of the first progress report by its Media monitoring team. The report evaluates the performance of independent and state-owned mass media during the first round of Parliamentarian elections (August 27 – November 5 2005). It covers 8 state-owned TV channels (Chs. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and the Parliament&#146s TV), two private channels (Dream 2 and al-Mehwar), in addition to 17 private and state-owned newspapers.

Below a review is made of the main features of the report:

First: Candidates&#146 campaigns were not covered by TV channels as much as they were covered by the press. The NDP&#146s candidates (the ruling party) enjoyed the lion&#146s share of TV coverage: 68% of total coverage by Ch1, 58% of total coverage by Ch.6, and 66% of total coverage by the Parliament&#146s TV. These figures indicate that the relative non-bias displayed by TV channels during presidential elections is absent from the coverage of the current parliamentarian elections. The NDP&#146s coverage far exceeds that of the other political forces, and reflects the imbalance of political power in favor of the NDP.

Second: State-owned newspapers were highly biased, far exceeding their bias toward the NDP&#146s candidate during presidential elections. NDP&#146s coverage reached 76% of total coverage of various political parties and forces. This bias reached its peak in al-Ahram daily (95%) and al-Akhbar newspaper (86%).

Third: The first part of the front pages of most state-owned newspapers were earnestly and repeatedly dedicated in a noticeable way to coverage of the NDP&#146s candidates&#146 conferences, review of achievements or positive decisions by the government or the president during electioneering. Even in internal pages, media and news coverage of the NDP&#146s candidates were clearly positioned, usually at the top or the center of the page. Coverage usually included large and sometimes colored photos.

Fourth: Widespread use of religion and religious slogans in electioneering was very noticeable, although it contravenes rules regulating parliamentarian elections. However, such use was not limited to NDP&#146s candidates who continued to use Quaranic verses and religious slogans in paid advertisements and electioneering in general. Muslim brothers also made extensive use of religion and religious references. This is one of the substantial points upon which criticisms and negative coverage of Muslim brothers were based, not only on the part of state-owned newspapers, in particular Rosalyoussef newspaper, but also criticism by private and partisan newspapers.

Fifth: Private newspapers, in particular el-Masri el-Youm and Nahdet Masr, continued to provide professional and balanced media coverage at both the level of information and analysis, necessary for voters to take their decisions. They continued to maintain the unbiased performance they displayed during presidential elections.

Finally, the CIHRS hopes that concerned parties take the findings of this report into consideration, review whatever CIHRS failed to monitor and correct what the report might have got wrong.

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