Egypt’s media can’t resist spicing up stories

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Egypt’s media can’t resist spicing up stories

Almost a decade ago, I was involved, among others, in organizing a large political conference in Egypt, in which my former party hosted a few hundred well-known liberal politicians hailing from all continents. At the time, I naively assumed that the Egyptian media would be greatly interested in reporting on the conference’s deliberations. I was shocked when the media completely ignored the substance of the three-day conference, while instead providing substantial coverage of a tiny problem that occurred during the event. 
Eventually, I came to understand that “spicing it up” is the reality of the Egyptian media, who often look for exciting elements that can be circulated widely — at the expense of presenting any substantive content. In fact, if no element of excitement can be found, the media itself will add the required flavor, justifying its actions by claiming to be fulfilling its readers’ desires. With time, the Egyptian media went from simply adding the spicy flavor to cooking up an entire story that may make good reading (even though parts of it have no basis in fact). 
The confusion between what is fact and what is fiction is considerable in Egypt, which should prompt readers to properly appraise the veracity of any published report. I personally tend to crosscheck what I read against other sources to make certain that I am getting the true story. Nevertheless, I have been trapped many times into crediting false narratives. I finally decided that, since journalists often advocate for “freedom of expression,” I too deserve my “freedom to believe.” Now I use my judgment to evaluate the material that I read: I am better off living with my own private “devised beliefs” than falling prey to fabricated narratives. 
A single school of thought currently dominates the Egyptian media — a tendency to address emotions at the expense of candid reporting. This approach, designed by our media celebrities, capitalizes on their personal talents in “talk shows” and does not oblige them to impart any actual substance. As a result, media content has been stripped of any intellectual thought or comprehensive reporting, overwhelmed by people who are, quite simply, loud on TV. 
The pervasiveness and prevalence of fake news make it difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction in our lives.
Mohammed Nosseir
Egypt is probably one of a tiny handful of nations where TV screens and microphones are handed over to presenters to deliver hours-long monologues about their private views on all matters of life. No one appears to have noticed that this type of directed media not only has low credibility; it also no longer appeals to audiences. The media style of screaming instructions and “dos and don’ts” at Egyptians is also being used by the state’s opposition media — their naturally destructive messages are better served by this tactic.  
I eventually learnt that dealing with the media requires a special talent, particularly in Egypt. Nevertheless, regardless of their personal talent, if the media platform in place is a deceitful one, TV guests are obliged to work within this corrupt environment. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi once pointed out that it does not make sense for corruption to be widespread in all Egyptian government entities with the exception of the media, which happily highlights weaknesses in all fields but disregards its own faults.
Since Egyptian media’s credibility is diminishing and fabricated news is widespread, it does not matter which channel is more trustworthy. The media has a significant role to play in educating citizens by presenting multiple perspectives to help them understand life’s realities better. This aspect is completely lacking in Egypt — not because of any shortage in talented media representatives, but because we believe that our current media tactics serve our nation best. 
The pervasiveness and prevalence of fake news among Egyptians make it quite difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction in our lives. Leaving Egyptian audiences ignorant on many issues does not mean that they will always buy into the state’s arguments. On the contrary, people become more susceptible to the fabricated narratives emitted by its enemies. Reforming our media content and outlets will benefit the state more than anyone else. 
  
  • Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view