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Outrage over state TV's misinformation and anti-Coptic incitement
State television's coverage of Maspero clashes blamed peaceful protesters for violence, aggravated an already-tense situation, say critics
Zeinab El Gundy, Monday 10 Oct 2011
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Copts protesting against attacks on churches at Maspero last spring (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian state media has come under fire for what many considered to be distorted coverage of Sunday evening's bloody clashes that took place in Cairo’s Maspero district off Tahrir square between thousands of Coptic demonstrators and Muslim supporters who were peacefully protesting recent church burnings and calling for equal rights for Egypt's 8 milllion Christians, and military and police forces armed with tanks, tear gas and live ammunition.

At least 21 protesters, mainly Copts, were killed as army tanks ran over several young people and police shot rubber, and live bullets according to multiple eye witnesses, into the crowd.

The army said that three military police soldiers were also killed.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian ministry of health confirmed that at least 329 were injured by the end of the evening.

A number of critics say that Egyptian state television not only failed to calm matters, but actually played a role in aggravating an already tense situation.  

In an unprecedented move, broadcasters on state television at one point called on the Egyptian public to head to Maspero en masse to defend Egyptian soldiers from what they described as "angry Christian protesters".

Indeed as the night unravelled, vigilante mobs attacked demonstrators fleeing police bullets and tear gas, using machettes, swords and cudgels.

Call-ins to state TV from viewers, meanwhile, supported the state’s official version of events and backed up anchor's frantic pleas.

"Armed Christians clashed with and killed military police," one call-in viewer claimed.

State television also aired footage of injured military police officers, but failed to carry images of flattened corpses of killed demonstrators which were circulating virally over internet sites.

Minister of Information Osama Heikal later attributed claims made on state television that Copts were attacking the army  to “emotional stress” on the part of the news anchors.

"Announcers reported that Christian protesters had attacked the army only because they were under emotional stress,” Heikal stated. He went on to urge Egyptian media – both government and private – to exercise caution when broadcasting news.

But this didn’t stop some political activists and journalists from calling for Heikal’s resignation.

Prominent Egyptian publisher Hisham Kassem suggested that lawyers lodge an official complaint against Heikal and state television broadcasters. Kassem pointed to newscasts aired Sunday night as evidence that state media was contributing to sectarian strife.

Former member of parliament Gamal Zahran, for his part, called for an investigation into “state television’s role in encouraging sectarian division." Zahran, too, called for Heikal’s resignation.

At a joint emergency press conference held by potential presidential candidates and several parties Monday, Mohamed Abu El-Ghar, president of the recently-licensed Social Democratic Party, also blasted the official media, which he described as “hypocritical.”

Coverage of Sunday’s clashes by state media also came in for criticism by none other than state television employees.

On his Twitter account, state television news anchor Mahmoud Youssef insisted that he had not been responsible for official coverage of events.

Dina Rasmy, a newscaster on state television’s Channel Two, declared in a statement posted on Facebook on Monday that she was “ashamed” of working for state media, which, she said, "had proven itself to be a slave for whoever rules Egypt."

Rasmy went on to say that national television was effectively encouraging “civil war” by calling on Egyptian citizens to go to Maspero to support the army against what it called "Christian aggressors."

Notably, live broadcasts by the privately-owned 25 Channel were cut after military police stormed its headquarters, located in the Maspero district and overlooking the site of the bloody battle, three different times between 7pm and 10pm.

The army said that they were searching for hiding protesters, while others postulate that they were seeking to confiscate tapes with video footage showing armoured vehicles ploughing into unarmed demonstrators.

Until now, the channel's management has not issued an official statement on the incident.

The 25 Channel was not the only news network with offices in Maspero to be stormed by military police. The offices of the US-based Al-Hurra news channel were also stormed while covering Sunday’s events.

One Al-Hurra reporter said later that the network had been forced to halt its coverage of the clashes "for security reasons."

Egyptian Copts have long complained of biased media coverage from state owned TV and printed press on issues relating to their years-old demands for equal citizenship rights in Egypt.



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canbeiro
11-10-2011 06:27pm
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The Most Important for Egyptian Democracy Now
The military assault against the Coptic demonstration at Oct 9 shows clearly that the command of the political transition to democracy in Egypt cannot be solely in the hands of the SCAF. Egyptians most important demand now must be: the command of the transition by a more diversified and balanced body, at which military may be represented, but may not have a monopoly or majority.
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5



Bill
11-10-2011 05:55pm
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Press re Arab Spring
All government press, whether in print or over the air, should be eliminated. Let private press take over and compete for people's attention. I believe that The People can distinguish between fair and unbiased coverage from propaganda organs. The peoples of successful Arab Springs should stage sit-ins and demonstrations until government presses are eliminated.
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John
11-10-2011 11:03am
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state media
is there really a need for state owned media anymore? this was just the propaganda arm of mubarak. but we have a free and vibrant democracy now ... which needs to be informed by unbiased media.
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ragga
11-10-2011 07:11am
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STATE TV
They need to pull the plug completely from State TV. THEY are all liars. I saw that when I first came here in 2009 and had many questions about them.. Now is the time with what just happen to delete them completely . They are a disgrace to Egypt. Anyway, once Mubarak was out, I did not understand why they were left up and running still. As for the Military,,I always use the term wolves in sheep clothing' The Army is Mubarak and Mubarak is the army. Only a fool would think they really had the peoples best interest at heart. The people were fooled, I wasnt. The army and the people are one hand...no the Army is from the people, they listen and do what their commander orders not the people. I hope everyone see the difference...The only bad thing is the revolution was betrayed...How sad On top of that they are still trying to round up people who were involve in the original revolution...I said go for the elections, get them out of there dont give time a chance to stage a plan B for
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2



Sherif
11-10-2011 01:22am
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Shameful!
The Maspero Massacre of Copts on October 9, 2011 will go down in history as another black mark of shame on the head of Islam.
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1



Ariely
10-10-2011 11:02pm
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Foul me one-shame on you; Foul me twice shame on me
$Help only if Islamists are outlawed ------ How many times the west will be fouled by Islamist? The free world has committed to help Arab countries with 80 milliards $. However they didn’t required to outlaw parties preaching for 7 century values, opposing the 21 century values ,with a militant ideology using terror against the all non Muslim *** When the free world will start demanding Muslim countries to outlaw Islamist ideology ahead of providing help? The Arabs spring revolution is turning up to be a long Islamist power taking winter. -------- Will they ever learn? 1:Obama leads the free world to legitimize the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt,Tunis,Syria. Muslim brotherhood leaders declared that: *Osama Ben Laden was a Muslim martyr *Hitler didn’t finish the job- The Muslims will finish *Christians will not be allowed in management government position on top of Muslims *A counsel of clerics will monitor and impose that the elected government will follow Islam law-Shar
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