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Monday, August 19, 2013

Egypt’s Media Cheers on Army Crackdown

As my colleague David Kirkpatrick reports from Cairo, criticism of the deadly crackdown on Islamist protesters by the security forces has all but disappeared from the Egyptian media since channels that supported the Muslim Brotherhood were shut down last month.

State television broadcasts, like an interview this week with a former supreme court judge who endorsed the widespread conspiracy theory of covert American support for the Brotherhood â€" and took it one step further by claiming, without evidence, that President Obama’s Kenyan half-brother was a financial backer of the Islamist organization â€" are now framed by on-screen graphics reading, in English, “Egypt Fighting Terrorism.”

An Egyptian state television interview of Tahani el-Gebali, a former supreme court judge who claimed that President Obama’s family provides financial support to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Not to be outdone, private channels eager to help the military-installed government win international support for its use of deadly force have also added English-language captions and voice-overs to reports that cast the killing of hundreds of protesters in Cairo last week as a necessary part of Egypt’s “war on terrorism.” The satellite channel ONTV, once known for its sympathetic coverage of anti-Mubarak activists during the 2011 revolution, is now running a live stream of its ongoing special report “Egypt Under Attack,” dubbed into English for foreign viewers.

As the activist blogger Gigi Ibrahim reported on Monday, ONTV has even produced a sort of trailer for the security crackdown. The 45-second spot, which features police images of Islamist violence that have been broadcast by American news organizations, blames the Western media for supposedly failing to report on the “Real Holocaust in Egypt” being carried out by the Brotherhood.

Against this backdrop, some Egyptian bloggers and journalists have been trading examples of the apparent competition among the various channels and newspapers to outdo one another in the fervor of their support for the military crackdown.

Among the strangest of these efforts was a weekly newspaper’s front-page tribute to Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the defense minister who deposed the elected president, Mohamed Morsi, last month.

As the blogger who writes as The Cairene Penguin demonstrated, the template for that photo-illustration, which showed the whole of Egypt’s population as manifestations of General Sisi, appears to have been a poster for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” complete with yellow New York City taxi cabs still visible in the background.