Monday, September 24, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 9/24/2012: New York Times Biased Interview of Morsi

1) Gift wrapping Morsi

Reporters David Kirkpatrick and Steven Erlanger interviewed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Given the lack of challenging questions and the reporters silent approval of Morsi's answers, it was designed less as a profile of Morsi than trying to show his good side to an American audience. Though the reporters don't choose the headlines, the headline Egypt’s New Leader Spells Out Terms for U.S.-Arab Ties, gives some sense of the article: it's on Morsi's terms.

Elder of Ziyon ably dissects one section of the interview, NYT lies, says Israel violating Camp David. Elder of Ziyon correctly points out what was so egregious about the "mistake."
The bolded text is written as if it is a known fact that Israel is violating Camp David. It is not quoting Morsi - it is a straight statement written by the New York Times.
And it is a flat-out lie.
Not only do Kirkpatrick and Erlanger show understanding of Morsi's position regarding Camp David - they distorted the truth to support him.

There are at least three other outrageous sections to the interview.

Here's how the attack of the American embassy was treated:
And he dismissed criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to condemn protesters who recently climbed over the United States Embassy wall and burned the American flag in anger over a video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad. 
“We took our time” in responding to avoid an explosive backlash, he said, but then dealt “decisively” with the small, violent element among the demonstrators. 
“We can never condone this kind of violence, but we need to deal with the situation wisely,” he said, noting that the embassy employees were never in danger.
However, that doesn't tell the whole story. The protests for September 11 were announced in advance
The protest was planned by Salafists well before news circulated of an objectionable video ridiculing Islam's prophet, Mohammed, said Eric Trager, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 
The protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was announced Aug. 30 by Jamaa Islamiya, a State Department-designated terrorist group, to protest the ongoing imprisonment of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman. He is serving a life sentence in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Further, Barry Rubin wrote:
But note well that everyone — except the Western media — understands that holding such a demonstration at the U.S. embassy in Cairo on September 11 means supporting the September 11 attack. The Egyptian government knew the time of the demonstration and the participants — it was all publicly announced — yet Egyptian security forces did not protect the embassy. 
And so the demonstrators scaled the wall, entered the compound, tore up the American flag, and put up the historic revolutionary flag of Islam (the eighth century black one, not the seventh century green one) in its stead. Why didn’t Egyptian security forces stop them? It was a deliberate decision no doubt taken at the highest level.
Morsi had nearly two weeks to prevent the riots. He chose not too. The reporters for the New York Times didn't press him on this, rather allowed him to escape scrutiny by claiming that his government's delayed action was to avoid having the situation get out of control. (Another point they should have pressed Morsi on is the release of Sheikh Rahman. Morsi has advocated his release; but emphasizing that point likely wouldn't enhance Morsi's reputation in the United States.)

On the subject of Morsi's confrontation with Egypt's military, this how Kirkpatrick and Erlanger framed it. 
But last month Mr. Morsi confounded all expectations by prying full executive authority back from the generals. In the interview, when an interpreter suggested that the generals had “decided” to exit politics, Mr. Morsi quickly corrected him. 
“No, no, it is not that they ‘decided’ to do it,” he interjected in English, determined to clarify that it was he who removed them. “This is the will of the Egyptian people through the elected president, right? 
“The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop. Egypt now is a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern.”
The reporters, instead of casting the firing of the generals as part of a power grab accompanying the intimidation of the media, allowed Morsi pose as a democrat, a civilian asserting control over the military. In the middle of August, the New York Times reported Egypt’s Islamist Leaders Accused of Stifling Media:
In other cases, editors have been faulted for tamping down criticism of Egypt’s new rulers. And on Wednesday, for the second time in a week, the editor of a state-owned daily newspaper was accused of censoring writers who wrote columns critical of the Brotherhood. 
While many people here argue that new media figures like Mr. Okasha went too far — seeming to threaten Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood with violence on a recent show — the government’s actions have revived concerns about the methods the Islamists are willing to use to strengthen their hold on power. 
“What’s happening is very serious,” said Hani Shukrallah, the editor of Ahram Online, an English-language site. “We’ve got an organization that is not interested in democratizing the press, or freeing the press,” he said, referring to the Brotherhood. “It’s interested in taking it over.”
Kirkpatrick and Erlanger couldn't even be bothered to challenge Morsi with reporting from their own paper!

Eric Trager profiled Morsi back in April. Morsi's role was to enforce ideological orthodoxy within the Muslim Brotherhood. You'd think that with his current efforts to consolidate his power, that would be important for Americans to know.

Ahead of his visit to the United States, Kirkpatrick and Erlanger failed to challenge Morsi on any substantive issue, preferring instead to allow the Egyptian president to define himself.

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