Muslim Brotherhood Moves Into Mainstream Media
Until the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was a banned organization with little media presence outside the Internet. Now they are moving into mainstream media in an effort to reach out to wider audiences.
Until the uprisings, Islamic media was dominated by salafis. Because salafi groups eschewed politics and supported the status quo, the Mubarak regime allowed them to establish several satellite pushing extremely narrow views of Islamic orthodoxy and promotong rigid forms of Islamic practice.
The Muslim Brotherhood benefited from these programs because although salafis were hostile to the brotherhood–which it represented as too worldly–they were the only organized political force to offer an Islamic perspective.
Now that the salafis have their own political parties–and have done better than the liberal parties–the Brotherhood is launching its own media empire.
It started in May when the Muslim Brotherhood launched Misr25, a satellite television channel under Hazem Ghorab, a former Al-Jazeera producer. The channel offers talk shows and other programs of general interest, but emphasizes news. There are three news shows, a continuous rolling news ticker, and a five minute news update at the top of each hour.
Unlike its salafi rivals, it has some women reporters and anchors; unlike its secular rivals, they wear the Brotherhood interpretation of Islamic dress–the higab and long-sleveed, loose-fitting dresses.
Then Al-Horriya wa Al-Adala (Freedom and Justice), the official newspaper of the Muslim Brotherhood, began publishing Friday, October 28 under general manager editor Mohamed Mostafa and editor-in-chief is Adel Al Ansari.
Many–the Brotherhood claims a majority–of the journalists both on TV and in print are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood or its political party. They adhere, however, to a strict code of “appropriateness,” especially in choices of images.
Both media emphasize the need for stability, and the dangers posed by “anarchists” who want to undermine the state. The are scathing of critics of the Muslim Brotherhood, usually depicting them as acting in bad faith rather than treating them as having an honest difference of opinion.
In addition to its salafist rivals, the establishment of Muslim Brotherhood political media parallels that of the the Free Egyptians Party and Wafd Party. The founder to the latter, Naguib Sawiris, owns ONTV, while Wafdist leader Al-Sayed al-Badawy owns the Hayat channel.
Unlike these, though, Misr25 is funded by a large pool of small investors–mostly members of the Brotherhood, of course. Their models, they claim, are BBC (UK), NHK (Japan), and NPR (US). [I can’t wait to see the pledge drives…]
This trend is not a new effort for the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather a return to its previous practices. Under the British Colonial occupation the Brotherhood issued Majallat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin and other publications.They continued to issue print media even under the censorship of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s by releasing them under other names with various figurehead publishers. They returned to publishing under their own imprint after Anwar Sadat allowed the group to operate openly again.
Under the censorship of the Mubarak regime, the group moved their publishing to cyberspace, launching its official Ikhwan Online web site in 2001, and following it with an English language version, IkhwanWeb in 2006.