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July 24, 2013

The mediatization of Egypt's June 30

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Thanks to today's media technologies, some events just seem to happen 'out of nowhere' such as Egypt's June 30th popular uprising/coup. Mediatization refers to the role of the media in reporting such events and the perceptions that they create, sustain, or challenge.

The media seem to have no time to report important facts related to pre/post-June 30.

On the cover of a recent issue of Time magazine, Egyptians are labeled "the world's best protesters" and "the world's worst democrats". But democratization involves (1) the establishment of the rule of law, (2) political pluralism, (3) an independent judiciary, (4) a free press, and (5) free elections.  Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood never promoted the first four, but took advantage of the fifth and Morsi became an elected-president-turned-dictator on November 22, 2012.

In addition, the non-elected Brotherhood’s Murshid, the Supreme Guide, and his deputies were in reality the rulers of the country. For any political or business dealings, foreign officials had to meet not with the country president but with Khairat el-Shater, the first deputy of the Murshid. No wonder there were hundreds of protests, during Morsi’s one year in office, calling for “Down Down with the rule of the Murshid”.

Morsi's winning of the presidential elections on June 30, 2012, though with a small margin of 2%, gave him a degree of legitimacy.

But legitimacy without consent is meaningless and consent was lost within a year because the Brotherhood did such a disastrous job of governing: pushing through an Islamist constitution against the country’s social fabric of moderation, with only 20% of the registered voters, breaking the majority of Morsi’s electoral promises, refusing to establish a coalition government, and appointing a mediocre Prime Minster who failed miserably to manage the country’s economy. Every day for millions of Egyptians was, literally, worse than the previous day and there was no hope at the end of the tunnel. None.

On June 30, 2013 (the first anniversary of Morsi taking office), millions of Egyptians went to the streets exercising their democratic right by calling for an early presidential election. When Morsi completely ignored their demand (as he ignored this same demand for months before June 30), they called on the country’s – not foreign - armed forces: we need your help.

The armed forces positively responded – they had to - by ousting a president who, in just one year, succeeded only in alienating the entire country: labor, farmers, artists, youth, liberals, lawyers, judges, woman groups, Copts, business people, armed and security forces in addition to millions of moderate Muslims.

Morsi enjoyed only the support of his Muslim Brotherhood and religious extremists. Some were convicted terrorists, who were set to inflame sectarian violence, turning Egypt into a Syria, a Pakistan or an Iraq.

Royal-family-owned Qatari TV news channel Al Jazeera for mysterious reasons established a 24/7 Arabic news TV channel, Al Jazeera Mobasher, to cover only Egypt.

The royal family did not establish such a channel in any other country. Egyptians rightly ask why? Especially when they observe that Mobasher has been used as propaganda tool for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, pre, during and post June 30. To a lesser extent, the same propaganda is clear to any informed viewer on both Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Jazeera English TV news channels. Recently, many of the Egyptian reporters resigned in protest.

What escapes Al Jazeera is the fact that when Egyptians took to the streets in their millions it was a revolutionary act that was also profoundly democratic. The youth-led Tamarod movement which started months before June 30, and which I fully supported online and by protesting in Ottawa, was in essence, a recall vote. Twenty two million registered voters, twice the votes Morsi got, signed a petition calling for the president to hold an early presidential election.

What also escapes Al Jazeera is the fact that when hate speech becomes a direct incitement to violence, suppressing it is necessary. In such cases, the Egyptian, or any government such as we have here in Canada, has a responsibility to prosecute those responsible for both the incitement and the violence.

Many of those millions of Egyptians who protested peacefully on June 30 did not really care who ruled them, an elected president or a dictator, an Islamist or a liberal. They only cared about fulfilling their daily family needs and having hope for a better future for themselves and for their children. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood never delivered on either. To them elections alone were never enough. They felt cheated by the president. Many of them voted for him. Instead of working hard 24/7 for them, he spent his time busy multiplying the political and the economical gains of his Muslim Brotherhood.

When Morsi was elected, opposition parties gave him the benefit of the doubt. He stood in Tahrir Square and said his legitimacy was part of and based on the legitimacy of the people in the Square.

He promised he would deliver on the goals of the revolution: to establish democratic rule, to achieve economic growth and social justice. But security forces under his watch imprisoned, raped, tortured and killed innocent citizens – just as Hosni Mubarak’s regime did.

Moreover, what many Egyptians saw with horror, under Morsi’s dictatorship, was that religious tolerance, which they were rightly proud of during the last 1400 years, was disappearing.

For the first time in Egypt’s history, majorities killed minorities in cold blood: Muslims killed Christians, and Sunni killed Shi’a. In addition, according to the Brotherhood leadership’s confession, Muslim extremist terrorists in Sinai killed civilians, military and police personnel to put pressure on the new interim government to reinstate Morsi.

The world is lecturing Egyptians about democracy. But, as the American historian and activist Howard Zinn wrote, "protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it".

I am very proud of the youth of my birthplace who ousted two dictators in two years. Thanks to them, today Egypt is on the right track, after a yearlong nightmare. The road ahead is long and hard. But I am hopeful. The agenda includes political reform and the creation of a new constitution that protects and promotes respect for human rights, equality, inclusion and pluralism.

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