CAIRO: Egypt’s state and pro-government media have abruptly changed their tune. Faithful mouthpieces of Hosni Mubarak’s regime until the end, they now celebrate the ouster of the longtime Egyptian president — and pledge to be more attentive to ordinary Egyptians. State TV even promised to be more truthful in its reporting.
During the 18-day uprising, state TV and pro-Mubarak newspapers portrayed the hundreds of thousands of protesters as a minority of troublemakers. While raucous protests raged in downtown Cairo, state-run Al-Nil TV showed serene videos of the Nile River.
But on Saturday, a day after Mubarak’s resignation, the message had been turned upside down.
“The people ousted the regime,” proclaimed the once pro-Mubarak Al-Ahram on its front page.
A state TV journalist, reporting from outside Mubarak’s Cairo palace where thousands had gathered after Mubarak’s ouster, said that “at these moments, Egyptians are breathing freedom.”
And an editorial by the state-run daily Al-Gomhouria called for greater transparency, complaining that “the sharks of the old regime sucked the life from Egypt.”
The Armed Forces Supreme Council, which assumed control of the country from Mubarak, has made clear it would continue to use the government-funded outlets as a platform, with a series of appearances by a uniformed spokesman announcing plans.
But Hisham Qassam, who publishes several independent Egyptian papers, said state media could even fade away if a new government cuts off funding. “It’s a slow demise, it could take over a year,” he said. “But it’s over, it’s finished.”
During the uprising, some pro-government media were targeted by the protesters.
Some of the largest and most violent protests took place in front of the Ministry of Information, from which state TV broadcasts. At some point, riot police clashed with protesters trying to take over the building. Many accused Information Minister Anas al-Fiqqi of orchestrating a heavy media campaign against protesters by accusing them of sabotaging Egypt.
On Friday, just hours before Mubarak resigned, thousands chanted in front of the heavily guarded building, preventing employees from entering. “The liars are here, where is Al-Jazeera?” some chanted, showing their preference for the Qatar-based satellite TV channel. Al-Jazeera was repeatedly targeted by the Egyptian government for what it viewed as coverage sympathetic to the protesters.
Many said Al-Jazeera’s live coverage of protesters was responsible for the large turnout in early days when the government blacked Internet and mobile phone communications. But there were also challenges from within.
A day before Mubarak’s ouster, reporters and editors at Al-Ahram demanded that the editor-in-chief be fired over the negative coverage of the protests. They demanded the newspaper run a front-page apology for what Hanan Haggag, a senior editor, called the “very unethical coverage.”
It remains unclear at what point editorial policy changed, but the dramatic shift was apparent.
On Saturday, state TV issued a statement carried by Egypt’s Middle East News Agency, “congratulating the Egyptian people for their pure great revolution, lead by the best of the Egyptian youth.”
“Egyptian TV will be honest in carrying its message,” the statement said. “Egyptian TV is owned by the people of Egypt and will be in their service.”