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Abstract

This essay analyzes the article Journalists Attacked by Mobs, Detained in Cairo, which was filed by the Associated Press and ran in the February 3, 2011 edition of the New York Times in the Middle East section (Associated Press 2011).

Associated Press staff reporters from around the globe contributed to the report; journalists from numerous countries have endured threats, beatings, robberies, detainment and in a few cases death while attempting to do their jobs (Associated Press 2011). The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects and promotes freedom of the press as a core structural component of a healthy democracy.

This essays suggests that the First Amendment freedom of the press clause has transcended its physical boundaries and now functions as a protective ideological bubble not only for American journalists but for journalists all over the world, which in the case of Egypt, creates problems for the Mubarek’s followers, who claim that the coverage of the conflict has been unrelenting in its pro-democracy bias and consistently disregards and distorts the government’s side.

Journalism, the First Amendment and Egypt

The political unrest that exploded in Egypt in late January epitomizes newsworthiness, and as such, has attracted a global contingent of journalists to Cairo to cover the demonstrations. Since the protestors began filling Tahrir Square to demand the resignation of Egypt’s current President Hosni Mubarek however, journalists there to report on the violent clashes between protestors and government troops have encountered vicious assaults at the hands of Mubarek’s supporters.

This essay analyzes the article Journalists Attacked by Mobs, Detained in Cairo, which was filed by the Associated Press and ran in the February 3, 2011 edition of the New York Times in the Middle East section (Associated Press 2011).

The report provides an overview of the violence targeted toward journalists to date, which truly has an international scope (Associated Press 2011). Associated Press staff reporters from around the globe contributed to the report; journalists from numerous countries have endured threats, beatings, robberies, detainment and in a few cases death while attempting to do their jobs (Associated Press 2011).

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects and promotes freedom of the press as a core structural component of a healthy democracy; however what happens in cases such as this, where the news happens in foreign countries? Do American journalists carry their First Amendment privileges with them then they travel to countries where freedom of the press remains not so enshrined?

This essays suggests that the First Amendment freedom of the press clause has transcended its physical boundaries and now functions as a protective ideological bubble not only for American journalists but for journalists all over the world, which in the case of Egypt, creates problems for the Mubarek’s followers, who claim that the coverage of the conflict has been unrelenting in its pro-democracy bias and consistently disregards and distorts the government’s side in the reports sent back home (Associated Press 2011).

Journalists Attacked by Mobs, Detained in Cairo details the violence inflicted upon journalists since the Egyptian conflict began, including “24 detentions of journalists, 21 assaults and five cases in which equipment was seized” reported on February 2 alone (Associated Press 2011).

The long list of detainees and assault victims include journalists representing outlets that span the globe, including the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, CBS News, NBC News, Fox News, Swedish publish television broadcaster SVT, the Sunday Times, ABC News, France 24, and the BBC (Associated Press 2011).

CNN reporter Anderson Cooper “tweeted, from Cairo, that he was kicked and punched repeatedly,” while New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted, “pro-Mubarek thugs at Tahrir…hostile to journalists. Several journalists attacked” and later “encountered men armed with machetes, straight-razors and clubs, very menacing” (Floyd 2011).

Heavy hitters such as Hilary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounce the attacks against journalists, under the assumption that “the Egyptian government must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists’ ability to report on these events to the people of Egypt and to the world” (Associated Press 2011). The grievous incidents strike terror into the reader and paint an anarchistic portrait of the Egyptian government’s ferocious will to prevent reporter access.

According to Journalists Attacked by Mobs, Detained in Cairo, “Egyptian authorities have complained the network’s coverage was slanted in favor of protesters and could encourage unrest” (Associated Press 2011).

Reference to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution arose in coverage of the issue of violence against journalists reporting from Egypt in the WNYC blog, wherein reporter Jami Floyd stated that “to Americans, democracy and journalism are nearly synonymous” and implied that the values that built and maintain the First Amendment are the same “values…deeply implicated in the current democracy movement in Egypt” (Floyd 2011). It is this level of implied solidarity that the Mubarek camp decries in Journalists Attacked by Mobs, Detained in Cairo (Associated Press 2011).

Essentially, because American reporters live and work with the First Amendment they come to expect access to newsworthy items such as the Egyptian political meltdown as mandatory. The First Amendment carries with it all of the inherent principles of the United States constitution, not to mention a firmly pro-democratic stance, and as a result the “Egyptian government has accused media outlets of being sympathetic to protesters who want Mubarek to quit now rather than complete his term as he has pledged” (Associated Press 2011).

The Mubarek camp views the presence of the journalists from other countries as a direct threat to the political stability of the country, and has repeatedly complained about slanted coverage of their government in the international media.

Magdy Rady, a spokesperson for the Mubarek government “denied government involvement in attacks on reporters and said officials welcomed objective coverage,” and added that “it would help our purpose to have [the media coverage be] as transparent as possible. We need your help” (Associated Press 2011). Rady complained about a lack of balanced coverage and “said some media were not impartial and were taking sides against Egypt” (Associated Press 2011).

Does he have a point? In this particular article, any pro democracy slant remains subtle; the article offers one heavily prejudiced comment from the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists Joel Simon who stated that “Egypt is seeking to create an information vacuum that puts it in the company of the world’s worst oppressors” (Associated Press 2011).

The question remains, are the complaints by the Egyptian government against its portrayal in the news coverage warranted? Though it does not state it implicitly, the article implies that the complaints are self serving, merely ludicrous attempts by a losing government to hold onto power and excuse inexcusable violence (Associated Press 2011).

The article suggests this not by stating so, but simply via weight of coverage; the lists of attacks on journalists outweigh the rebuttals from the government by a staggering amount (Associated Press 2011). Out of a 44 paragraph article, five are devoted to the side of the government; the rest list the violent incidents affecting reporters (Associated Press 2011).

This is not to suggest for one moment that the attacks on journalists from Mubarek supporters are in any way defensible. In fact, the “pro-government mobs” harm their cause with these activities (Associated Press 2011).

The violence against journalists described in Journalists Attacked by Mobs, Detained in Cairo resembles the final desperate act of a toppling government; whatever modicum of political legitimacy Mubarek may have had he surrendered the moment he endorsed violent and aggressive mobs convening on his behalf on the street. However, their criticism of the First Amendment in this case remains fair.

Like any country, Egypt has the right to govern itself as it sees fit. Pro democracy supporters have found allies in the international press, which staunchly advocates freedom of the press as an unalienable right. Should the pro-democracy supporters have their way, one can only hope that the coverage that supported their revolution supports their reconstruction equally.

References

Associated Press. (2011, February 3). Journalists attacked by mobs, detained in Cairo. . Web.

J Floyd. (2011, February 4). In Egypt, reflections of a world not safe for journalism. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2019, July 31). Journalism, the First Amendment and Egypt. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/journalism-the-first-amendment-and-egypt/

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"Journalism, the First Amendment and Egypt." IvyPanda, 31 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/journalism-the-first-amendment-and-egypt/.

1. IvyPanda. "Journalism, the First Amendment and Egypt." July 31, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/journalism-the-first-amendment-and-egypt/.


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IvyPanda. "Journalism, the First Amendment and Egypt." July 31, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/journalism-the-first-amendment-and-egypt/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Journalism, the First Amendment and Egypt." July 31, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/journalism-the-first-amendment-and-egypt/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Journalism, the First Amendment and Egypt'. 31 July.

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