The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) held a press conference today to unveil its second media monitoring report evaluating the performance of the state-owned and private media during the parliamentary elections between 27 October and 3 December 2005.
The report addresses the performance of six state-owned television stations (Channels 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and the Parliament Channel), two private channels (Dream 2 and Al-Mehwar) and 18 state-owned and private newspapers. The report’s conclusions can be summarized in the following points:
First: Despite the state-owned television stations’ varied coverage – in terms of quantity – of the primary political currents that participated in the parliamentary elections, there was clear bias in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in terms of quantity, orientation, and quality of coverage, most of which was positive. The nature of the political struggle witnessed by these elections was reflected in television coverage in that the two largest competing powers, the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood, received the greatest amount of television coverage although most of that concerning the latter was negative. It was likewise observed that the private stations – and more so Al-Mehwar Channel – tended to provide more expansive coverage to the NDP in comparison to the other political currents.
Second: Newspapers allocated significant space for the coverage of election campaigns. The state funded newspapers lost their first place position in terms of space allocated for parliamentary election coverage; the private newspaper Al-Masri Al-Yawm followed by the independent Nahdat Misr came at the head of papers in terms of space allocated to election coverage. As for the state-owned press, Al-Gomhoriya came first in this category, followed by the daily Rose Al-Youssef and Al-Ahram.
Third: The state-owned press continued to take a blatantly biased stance in favor of the ruling party’s candidates. The most extreme in this behavior was Al-Akhbar newspaper with 83% of its total coverage of various political parties and powers going to the NDP, followed by Al-Masa’ at 75%, Akhbar Al-Yawm at 67% and Al-Ahram at 62%. Among the independent press, coverage of the NDP reached its highest levels in Sawt Al-Umma newspaper at 84%, Al-Fagr newspaper at 82%, and Al-Dustuur at 75%, although it must be noted that the majority of such coverage in these newspapers was critical of the NDP.
Fourth: The most prominent evidence of the bias of the state-owned newspapers was the repeated allocation of the first half of their front pages to coverage of NDP conferences and candidates or the publication of positive accomplishments and decisions taken by the government or the president during the election campaigning period. The state-owned newspapers also allocated additional prominent spaces for media and news coverage of NDP candidates within their inner pages. Typically these were placed in the first half of a page and were usually accompanied by large photographs that were sometimes in color.
Fifth: In terms of qualitative approach, Rose Al-Youssef newspaper and magazine, both funded by public monies, were the most aggressive towards the Muslim Brotherhood to the benefit of the ruling party.
Sixth: Despite the interest of all the media in highlighting the widespread violations that marred the electoral process, the manner of addressing this issue differed noticeably between the state-owned and private media and in particular the independent newspapers. In most of its coverage the national press purposely affected ignorance of the responsibility of the government and security agencies for the violations – as did the statements of the committee supervising the elections and the National Council for Human Rights. In contrast, the coverage of the most prominent independent papers was characterized by objectivity, professionalism and neutrality. On a daily basis they faithfully transmitted the reports of field monitoring organizations and the testimonies of judges and others on the integrity of the electoral process.
Seventh: There were increasing cases of attacks on and harassment of Egyptian and foreign journalists and media professionals, preventing them from revealing the truth of what was happening in the electoral process to public opinion. In some cases this harassment reached the point of abusive physical assault.
Eighth: It is noteworthy that contrary to the aim of the state-owned media’s bias against particular parties to the elections, its results actually served those targets’ interests. During the presidential elections Aymen Nour was targeted and he won second place. The same phenomenon occurred with the Muslim Brotherhood in the parliamentary elections.
Finally: This report reveals that the majority of public funds allocated for disbursement to the state-owned media were employed in propaganda for the candidates of a single party (the ruling party) or to denigrate its opponents. This was merely one phenomenon of the many of corruption in the parliamentary elections. It complemented other serious phenomena observed and documented by civil society organizations monitoring in the field and which, together, confirm the lack of integrity and freedom in these elections and their results.
For further information please contact Moataz El fegiery, CIHRS programs coordinator
[email protected] Tel: 002 0123429991
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