Key ECME Observation on Media Performance on the First Day of the Presidential Elections
Within ECME’s efforts to monitor the Egyptian Elections, the Media Unit at Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies monitors the performance of media with regard to the coverage of the electoral process and adherence to the professional standards announced by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) to ensure balanced coverage and equal opportunities for both Candidates. Hence, we monitored a sample consisting of five independent and state-owned TV stations (Aljazeera Mubasher Masr, CBC, Al-Qahira Wal-Nas, the Egyptian Satellite Channel and Sada El-Balad), and of five independent and state-owned printed newspapers (Elwattan, Al Ahram, Al-Akhbar, Al-Shorouk and Al-Wafd) in addition to three websites (Alyoum7, Masrawy and Rassd) from 9 AM to 9 PM.
1. TV elections coverage, by the monitored TV stations, attempted, this time, to adhere to objectivity. They made great efforts to be balanced for both candidates through their live coverage of the elections day. They were accurate and unbiased to one one candidate at the expense of the other. Nonetheless, in some parts, the guests supported a certain candidate or expressed their intention to vote for him.
2. An exception from the attempt to remain objective was Aljazeera. Since the morning, Aljazeera intentionally launched an anti-elections campaign that aims primarily to distort the entire process, particularly the candidate Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi whom it referred to sometimes as “The Killer”.
3. The Media content incorporated some indirect messages favoring Field Martial Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi through using coverage and clips from past events in which he partook in his former official capacity.
4. The electoral process and procedures with its different timings were not properly covered by the different mass media. The focus was on the two competing candidates and the discrepancy in voter turnouts foro each.
5. The Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) did not hold a conference similar to the one its predecessor did in 2012 to shed light on the events of the first voting day. The Media did not focus or cover this part despite its importance in enhancing the transparency and integrity of the electoral process in its entirety.
1. Many of the newspapers monitored by the Media Unit have moved away from the required objectivity and did not adhere to the instructions of the PEC regarding media coverage of the electoral process, particularly the electoral silence.
2. The most objective newspapers in terms of its coverage of the first Elections Day were Al-Ahram and Al-Shorouk. They attempted to cover the event in a highly professional manner without taking sides. The most biased newspapers were Elwattan and Al-Akhbar. Al Akhbar, for example, allocated a big space on its front and last pages to support Al-Sisi and described him as “The Knight of Egyptians”. In addition, Al-Watan Newspaper did not respect at all the electoral silence for the third successive day and continued to execute campaigning activities in favor of Al-Sisi on its pages.
3. It is worth mentioning that even the newspapers that tried to be objective, such as Al-Shorouk and Al-Wafd, published a number of articles supporting Al-Sisi and calling upon people to vote for him.
• Online Media
4. There were many websites covering the elections, but Masrawy was the richest and most diverse in terms of the news published and was the most professional and objective as well. Al-Youm7 Newspaper tried to provide a comprehensive coverage but was biased towards Al-Sisi in many of its content. On the other hand, Rassd Network was covering everything negative about the electoral process and Al-Sisi.
ECME’s Recommendations to PEC
1. PEC calls upon all mass media to respect the electoral silence and apply the rules relating to media coverage of elections. Those who would violate those instructions must be held accountable.
2. 2. ECME urges all media to remain objective in their coverage and to refrain from influencing citizens to vote for any of the candidate.
3. ECME praises to all media outlets that respected the professional standards of media coverage, made effort to provide comprehensive unbiased coverage, and moreover adhered to all PEC’s instructions regarding cessation of any campaigning activities in favor of any of the candidates during the period of electoral silence or the execution of any polls that may influence how citizens vote.
4. ECME appreciates the important role the media played in getting out the vote and clarifying the procedural rules of the electoral process. ECME calls on all media outlets to allocate specific times tomorrow for explaining the various rules of the electoral process.