The Corner

So Who Lost Egypt?

To the long list of culprits I would like to add the mainstream media.

As was the case with dictator and thief Yasser Arafat, whom the MSM found — shocker! — to be a dictator only after he died, the Western press has enabled the repressive regime of Hosni Mubarak. They did it simply by not expending the energy they could have. Occasionally the New York Times or CNN ran stories about repression in Egypt but clearly their hearts were never in it.

Certainly not the way their hearts flew to the righteous task of cataloging, tracking down, and taxonomizing the failings of the Israeli government next door.

There are several reasons for this imbalance, an important one of which is sheer journalistic pragmatism: It is much easier to maintain active bureaus next door to Egypt in zippy, modern, prosperous Tel Aviv. There reporters can settle down and find a life very much like the one they enjoyed in, say, Santa Monica, Calif. — while they file stories about government abuse to their hearts’ content. In Egypt the same newshound behavior could get a reporter jailed or expelled.

Amnon Rubinstein of the Jerusalem Post got it right in his opinion piece, “Surprise, Surprise: Mubarak Is a Dictator.” He writes,

The world of news and NGO reports is slanted. It has a tendency to find fault with open societies and is misled by repressive regimes in which there are no free media or independent courts. Thus a paradox is established: The more democratic and open a country is, the more exposed it will be to allegations of human rights abuses.

Now we know a little more about life in Egypt;  masses of her citizens forced the matter, and Western reporters have come around tut-tutting. It was impossible, and not desirable in ratings terms, to ignore such a great “TV story.” But what about, to pull up just one example, Syrians who want more freedom? Can they expect any help from CNN or do they have to take to the streets until they can’t be ignored?

— Stephanie Gutmann is author of The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Battle for Media Supremacy, Encounter 2005.

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