ME/NA/SA FUTURISMS MENASA FUTURISMS :: 2 - Page 7

Dear citizens of Trump’s America, First of all, I want to congratulate you on having an election that’s exactly like the ones the rest of the world has been having for decades, often because of you. Welcome to the club of countries with dictators installed by foreign despots! But anyway, let’s talk about the news. Not just the events that have been taking place recently - alarming though they might be - but the actual news media. I grew up in the country that ranks 159th out of 180 countries in the 2016 Press Freedom Index. In Egypt, there are currently 25 journalists in prison, possibly more, for crimes like the publication of information about counterterrorism efforts by the armed forces that contradicts their official statements. 1 The Egyptian President then had the audacity to state on Portuguese television that you could “Look at the press and media in Egypt and you will find people talk as they please.” He had this interview translated into Arabic and broadcast from Egyptian state television. The head of the Egyptian journalist’s union is currently in prison for harboring colleagues wanted by the law and spreading false news. 2 It’s most likely that what he’s actually in jail for is criticizing Egypt’s recent sale of two islands to Saudi Arabia. 3 In Egypt, the government gives you the news, and everything else is untrue. Especially if it’s written by journalists. Its president once famously said this: “Don’t listen to anybody’s words but me. I am speaking in all seriousness, don’t listen to anybody’s words but me. I am a man who does not lie, nor do I beat around the bush. I have no interests except those of my country. My country only.” 4 Sound familiar yet? How does a country get like this? By carefully and systematically ensuring that the government is perceived as the sole reliable source of information, and that the professional news media makes a living by spreading fake news. 5 In Egypt this is fairly easy, as 25% of the population is illiterate. Moreover, people there have spent literally over a thousand years being lied to by governments, from the Ottomans to the British to Nasser right through to Morsi and Sisi. The game really got stepped up in the 50s, when Gamal Abd-el-Nasser--who perhaps unsurprisingly is still a god to the Egyptian people--employed army