When watching Al Arabiya’s coverage lately, one gets the feeling that the station’s executives recently met with Mubarak’s PR team and asked, “what can we do for you?”
The Saudi-owned 24 hour news network seemed to be covering events rather objectively at the start of the demonstrations, but over the last couple of days it has portrayed the protestors as wildly violent, while airing a series of promotional videos that resemble state-produced propaganda. The most egregious of these is a slide show clip that has been running all day long during commercial breaks. In it, we hear Mubarak’s voice asking Egyptians to preserve stability and end chaos, played over slides of violent images:
And some glorifying the state’s security services:
The overall tone is a nationalist one, closing with images of flag waiving as Mubarak’s deep voice sounds a note of salvation and hope:
The promo video ends with the Al Arabiya slogan: “To know more”, as if to say Mubarak’s side of the story has been ignored, despite the fact that he’s been in power for decades.
Another powerful montage opens every Al Arabiya report on Egypt, again using images of violence to depict the protestors as dangerous and harmful to the country’s future. The piece zooms through tire burning and screaming protestors to focus in on a bandit-like character with menacing eyes:
The piece ends on with the graphic, “Crisis in Egypt”:
Indeed Al Arabiya’s anchors have regularly repeated the words ‘chaos’ and ‘destruction’ in describing events, echoing the soundbites of pro-Mubarak citizens, which are featured heavily in the coverage. A report on a relatively small pro-Mubarak rally was played at least five times this evening:
Other Al Arabiya reports seem to valorize the police, with images of citizens shaking hands with officers:
And fact boxes noting their vast–and perhaps intimidating– numbers:
Al Arabiya is also devoting a lot of time to the economic cost of the protests, detailing losses in the hotel and tourism industry, again depicting the protest and the protestors as harmful.
Al Jazeera, on the other hand, paints a vastly different image of the demonstrations with guests and reporters touting their participants as brave, patriotic, brotherly and educated. Even American broadcasters have picked up on this theme, with NBC running a report last night about Egyptians volunteering to direct traffic and pick up garbage around their city. Asked why she was volunteering, one young protestor replied “because I love my country and I have to take care of it.”
As I post this, Al Jazeera is now airing an investigative documentary it produced a few years ago documenting the routine use of torture by Mubarak’s security services–a film that landed the director in jail. Al Jazeera’s reputation for challenging authority rather than pleasing it, is undoubtedly a major reason why it continues to lead Al Arabiya and others in the ratings.