CPJ’s launch yesterday in Cairo of our 2008 edition of Attacks on the Press received widespread coverage in the Egyptian, regional, and international media. But not from the state media, which made little mention of Egypt’s ongoing repression of the country’s press, or of the astonishing number of lawsuits the government has pending against journalists, or of the moves it has made to restrict regional satellite broadcasting.
Whether certain media organizations covered the press conference at the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate and how they chose to cover it spoke to the state of the media in Egypt and the Middle East at large. The fiercely independent Egyptian daily Al-Badeel (The Alternative) devoted an entire page to the conference and the book, covering not just the Middle East portion of the report, but our findings on the world as a whole. Other independent Egyptian dailies–like Al-Masri Al-Youm, Al-Dustur, and the English-language Daily News—also ran detailed stories.
On the other hand, of Egypt’s three governmental and semi-governmental dailies, one wrote a perfunctory story that merely announced that a press conference had taken place and neglected to note any of its conclusions, while the other two ignored it altogether. Rose al-Yussuf, a pro-government Egyptian daily known for running paid opinion pieces and advertising (by different governments in the region that inevitably smear respected journalists and human rights activists) in the garb of independent journalism, ran a story on the launch of the book with the headline “CPJ: The Iranian regime continues to pursue civil society organizations…and Iraq remains the world’s bloodiest country for journalists.” While the report does indeed make those observations, the word “Egypt” appears only once in the lengthy article, and only in passing.
Overall, the launch and the television, radio, and print, interviews that I and my colleague Kamel Labidi, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, conducted were a success by any measure. The coverage by many Egyptian and regional publications and television stations was for the most part heartening, but also shows that a long road lies ahead before one can say that the Middle East and North Africa enjoy a free press. Our courageous colleagues fight that good fight on a daily basis, and we salute them for it.
UPDATE: Here’s a piece (in Arabic) aired by Al-Jazeera: