Egypt: Women workers speak out – Media workers fight to clean up state TV

The image of a young woman being dragged to the ground, stripped of her cloak and stamped on by soldiers shocked the world last December. After Al-Tahrir newspaper printed a picture of the attack on the woman on its front page under the banner headline ‘Liars’, activists began to organise protests, exhibitions of pictures and film showings in local neighbourhoods to expose the military’s violent attacks on protesters to a new audience.

Under Mubarak the state-run media was primarily a mouthpiece for the regime. During the uprising in January 2011 a revolt from within by media workers forced many state media outlets to change their line. However, by Autumn 2011 the main TV channels had reverted back to being a voice for the authorities. Coptic Christian demonstrators and their supporters were attacked by the army on 9 October outside the state TV headquarters at Maspero, but Egyptian TV reported that the protesters were responsible for the violence.

On the anniversary of the revolution in January 2012 thousands of activists marched from Tahrir Square and laid siege to the TV buildings at Maspero, demanding an end to the state media’s smear campaigns against protesters.

‘The media has to come back to the people’

“My name is Riham Salem. I’m a presenter on Nile Live TV channel. I’m one of the members of the Independent Media Workers, which was set up after the revolution, after the fall of Mubarak, with the aims of cleansing the media and securing its independence. We want to transform the media from being state media, to being the people’s media. This is quite natural and the Egyptian media has been run by the state for a long time, but now with the people’s revolution, the media has to come back to the people. Because Egyptian TV, here at Maspero, belongs to the Egyptian people, paid for through their taxes. So it should tell the truth and reflect the people’s wishes, and not those of the regime.”

“My name is Dalia Ishraq, and I work on Nile Live channel, which is a specialised channel in the Egyptian TV and Radio Union. After the revolution some of us working in several sections decided to set up a movement called “Independent Media Workers”. We’re a group of workers in the TV building who are very unhappy about the way the media is reporting on what’s happening in Egypt now. With the amazing changes that happened after the revolution of 25 January we thought things would change inside the TV as well. But unfortunately nothing at all has changed. There is same mentality, the same way of dealing with crises.

So we, as a group of workers decided we were going to fight back, that we’d grab freedom for ourselves: through issuing threats, by organising sit-ins. We’ll go to the media and try and take them ourselves. Really, inside the building its just the same as it ever was. They just tell us “there was a phone call from ‘upstairs’ – you can’t say this or that”. What’s that supposed to mean? So some of us have started to say ‘No’ and never mind the consequences. We’ve started saying ‘If you’re saying the guest we’ve invited shouldn’t come, then bring me an official letter from him, saying he doesn’t want to come.’ And of course they can’t do this. In the end we get the guest we want.

But we have to believe in ourselves, we must have confidence that we can force them to change the media. We can’t just do it from outside. We can see lots of people outside supporting us, they’re not media workers, but they came to support the media workers. The media workers have to feel that they’ve got the people’s confidence. They’ve got to force the management to change their whole culture and their media policies. We can do that. But we’re waiting for all the workers inside. They all need to join us.”

Riham and Dalia spoke to Mosireen video collective on 27 January 2012. Watch the full video online here: Interviews translated and transcribed by Anne Alexander

This is part of the MENA Solidarity Briefing: “Egypt in Revolution: Women workers speak out”. Read more by clicking on the links below

‘Here are the women’
Building the Independent Unions

Teachers’ unions build unity from below
Revolution in the hospitals: ‘The independent union knits everyone together’
‘Our strike was 100 percent solid’
Women on the frontline of protest

To order hard copies of the briefing email
Get involved with building solidarity: find out more here

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