Reading through some of Egypt's newspapers today would make one think that Egypt is about to witness the "massacre of the century" brought on by the Muslim Brotherhood, whether their candidate wins or loses Egypt's presidential elections. Media campaigns against the Muslim Brotherhood are not new phenomena, but rather a classic practice by Egypt's state media since the era of ousted president Mubarak's regime. However, now the players are different; private media is joining in — not all such entities, but some.
Starting with El-Dostour newspaper published on 21 June, the front page headline reads: "The massacre of the century ... In Egypt!" The entire front page claims to leak a meeting inside the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood group. The meeting was allegedly held in secret between top notch Muslim Brotherhood leaders and was headed by Khairat El-Shater and Essam El-Erian. The participants discussed the Brotherhood's plan in the event that its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, loses or wins the elections.
By the standards of professional journalism, the piece is shaky. No sources are referenced. The main highlights of the story are that if Morsi loses, the Muslim Brotherhood is planning to mobilise protests where they will use snipers to shoot citizens and create chaos and bloodshed. Meanwhile, Bedouin groups from Sinai will attack security checkpoints in the peninsular to help members of Hamas enter Egypt to facilitate a revolt against the army and the new president. In the event that Morsi wins, the Brotherhood will get rid of a list of 300 public figures, to create fear in society. The piece goes on to say that the Brotherhood will set the country alight, politically, to help embed its long fought-for rule.
Moving to El-Fagr weekly newspaper, also published Thursday, one headline says: "El-Morshid's gang facing Al-Mushir state" (The Muslim Brotherhood's leader's gang facing the Field Marshal's state, in reference to Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and de facto ruler and head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Mohamed Hussein Tantawi). Another headline reads: "Down with the coming president," accompanied by Morsi's picture. A third headline says that the interior ministry announces detaining members of Hamas in three apartments before they were to engage in acts of vandalism. Inside stories explain how the Muslim Brotherhood is planning to take over power from military rulers by spreading chaos across the country.
The newly issued privately-owned newspaper Al-Watan headlines: "Egypt is about to explode; the Brotherhood stages sit-in in different squares and has a plan to mobilise 12 million in case Shafiq wins; the government assigns the interior ministry to intensify security in Sinai and on Egypt's borders." The piece carries some facts: the paper quotes Karem Radwan, Shura Council member, saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is planning a sit-in at Tahrir Square and other squares in Egypt. Meanwhile, the story discusses the Brotherhood's plan in case Shafiq wins, with no sources quoted.
On the other hand, private newspapers Al-Shorouk and Al-Masry Al-Youm, and the state-owned Al-Ahram, are not deploying the same discourse against the Brotherhood. They have mainly reported on the sit-in planned by the Brotherhood and Salafists, and without panicking readers.
The fact is that the Muslim Brotherhood along with some revolutionary forces, such as the April 6 Youth Movement, has been protesting in the thousands in Tahrir Square since Tuesday. The Brotherhood has also announced a planned sit-in and massive protest on Friday. Moreover, the Brotherhood's deputy leader, El-Shater, announced Thursday that the Brotherhood would use only "peaceful" methods to build a democratic political system, despite "repression" by elements of the old regime, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.
The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission is to announce the results of the second round of Egypt's presidential elections run-off within the next 72 hours. Only then will the reader be able to discern media propaganda from reality.