Beware misinformation
Gamal Essam El-Din, Saturday 28 Sep 2019
Gamal Essam El-Din reports on the response of political parties to the aggressive media campaign against Egypt orchestrated by the banned Muslim Brotherhood

Political parties joined in this week’s denunciation of a hostile media campaign, led by Muslim Brotherhood-linked TV channels broadcasting from Qatar and Turkey, which alleged thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on 20 September to protest against corruption and demand the overthrow of the regime.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Coalition of Egyptian Political Parties, which has more than 40 members, said the Muslim Brotherhood was behind social media and TV campaigns which aimed to spread chaos and undermine the army.

“You will always find protests like this in our regions, especially with political Islam,” President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said pointing the finger to the Muslim Brotherhood during a meeting with President Donald Trump in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting.

“The campaign involved not only TV channels broadcasting from Qatar and Turkey but foreign intelligence agencies which want to destroy Egypt’s stability,” said the Coalition of Egyptian Political Parties statement.

“Most of the coverage of what they claimed were street protests in Tahrir Square on 20 September used footage from 2011, when protests erupted on Egyptian streets.”

The statement urged the public to pay no heed to false claims emanating from the Brotherhood-affiliated channels and said the sole aim of the campaign was to tarnish the reputation of Al-Sisi and the Egyptian army.

Broadcasts from Egyptian channels “showed there were no organised protests at all and traffic flowed smoothly through Tahrir Square.

“Some football fans had gathered following Al-Ahli’s win in the Egyptian League’s Super Cup to express their joy but channels hostile to Egypt misrepresented this as a protest.”

A number of Aljazeera reports alleged that President Al-Sisi had cancelled his trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly and the Egyptian delegation would instead be headed by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri. Others claimed that General Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel had fled Egypt.

MBC Masr’s Amr Adib told viewers on Saturday that while some small-scale demonstrations did take place on Friday night, “they were led mostly by the children of incarcerated Brotherhood members and were very short-lived.

“It seems their main purpose was to allow footage to be filmed to be posted online and sent to Aljazeera for broadcast.”

Al-Hayat Al-Youm’s Lobna Assal, and Sada Al-Balad’s Ahmed Moussa, warned that the vast majority of social media accounts sympathetic to the protests were fake.

“Most of these accounts were created by the Muslim Brotherhood’s electronic propaganda arm based in Istanbul which wages an online war against the Egyptian state and seeks to destabilise the country,” said Moussa.

Political analyst Abdel-Moneim Said wrote in Al-Masry Al-Youm that “having failed on the ground the Brotherhood is now moving its activities to cyberspace.”

“The Brotherhood and its sponsors in Qatar and Turkey want a coup against the 30 June Revolution, and they want it now. This explains why the media campaign targeting President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and the army was so ferocious and malicious,” wrote Said.

He says that while some in Egypt follow Aljazeera and Brotherhood channels broadcasting from Turkey they do not take what they say for granted.

“They know Aljazeera’s history of fabricating news in order to spread chaos in Egypt and other Arab countries. When a choice has to be made, people choose stability and security.”

The Coalition of Egyptian Political Parties also attacked a statement issued by the opposition Dostour and Socialist Popular Alliance parties demanding that constitutional amendments passed by public referendum last April be revoked and recommending that an open list system be adopted in parliamentary elections slated for the end of next year.

The coalition said the Dostour and alliance statement was misleading.

“It claims the Brotherhood is a political movement and its incarcerated members should be released. The two parties are not only sympathetic to the terrorist group, some of their officials are members of the Brotherhood.”

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Girgash posted a tweet on 21 September saying “the Brotherhood’s organised campaign targeting Egypt and its stability has proved a failure… It is clear that the Brotherhood’s media outlets have been rejected by Egyptian citizens who support their government and its institutions.

“I am sure Egypt will continue to move forward and is capable of standing up to challenges every day. The situation in Egypt is completely different from the image these rogue channels are trying to disseminate,” said Girgash.

Mariam Al-Qaabi, an Emirati writer, noted that “Aljazeera mainly targets Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“They led a campaign against Saudi Arabia last month, and have now mobilised to launch an electronic war against Egypt. It is clear that preparations for this war began some time ago with the creation of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts.”

Kuwaiti journalist Fajr Al-Said accused Aljazeera of using lies and fabrications to spread chaos in Egypt.

Head of parliament’s Telecommunications Committee Ahmed Badawi told reporters Sunday that hostile media campaigns mainly used fake accounts and videos.

“The major objective of these fake accounts and pages, funded to the tune of thousands of dollars, is to spread rumours and lies,” said Badawi.

“What is good is that officials, including President Al-Sisi, continue to respond and defuse these campaigns. The committee has tracked at least 53,000 rumours spread on social media against Egypt in just three months.”

Badawi says laws on cyber crime should be amended to stiffen penalties for holders of fake accounts and pages which harm national security and “contain the war against Egypt that has been launched on social media.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 September, 2019 edition ofAl-Ahram Weekly.