Sex, bombs and no control in Egypt's press

Sex, bombs and no control in Egypt's press
Egypt's newspapers are filled with tales of lust and violence - often fabricated and obtained with no regard for ethics - leaving the country uninformed about real issues, and its people's problems ignored.
3 min read
26 Nov, 2014
Egypt's press falls over itself to praise the state [Getty]

An Egyptian newspaper recently splashed a story about the discovery of a "prostitution and explosives hideout" in a posh area of Cairo.

Its eye-catching headline perfectly captured the two biggest obsessions in the press: sex and terrorism.

The story is part of a populist wave sweeping the press, including previously serious, sober newspapers. Sensationalised stories of salacious sexual services - most fabricated - occupy space previously assigned to politics, which editors appear to think is no longer of interest to their readers.

Here are some other recent headlines: "Housewife has sex with a worker"; "Policeman restores virginity of young woman"; "Morality police capture two girls - both look Russian, but are originally from Faisal" - a reference to a Cairo street.

     It has become the norm to see front-page images of the dismembered bodies of alleged terrorists.

Stories of terrorism are also grabbed with gusto by editors, who publish stories that are just as unethical and often in contravention of media law.

It has become the norm to see front-page images of the dismembered bodies of alleged terrorists alongside bold headlines praising operations by the army and police.

Moral panic

Those arrested are often named and branded "terrorists" before any judicial process has begun - which has serious consequences for the people involved, and their families.

Nothing, it seems, stands in the way of this obsession for "scoops" and chance to declare loyalty to the state. Indeed, many editors believe their job is to support the security forces in their war against "terrorism", and boost the morale of the troops.

The Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS), meanwhile, has given the press even more opportunity to revel in violence with its steady stream of videos showing murders, executions and dismemberment. These are often carried by the media with nothing more than a warning of violence.

Hidden agenda

Behind these stories of blood and lust come articles on political campaigns and important regional issues.

We are no longer told much about the barrel bombs the Syrian government throws at its people, the acts of violence by the Libyan militias, or the incarceration of thousands in Egypt's prisons.

This shift to the sensational takes us back to the situation which existed before the first years of the Arab revolutions.

It also suggests that stereotypes held about the Arab world are largely true: Socially passive, obsessed with sex, and facing terrorism while being ruled by repressive regimes.

Until these media satisfy their appetite for excitement, the news and problems of the ordinary people remain marginal.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.