Screen shot,Al-Ahram, the flagship state-owned newspaper announced in its main headline “Turkish army overthrows Erdogan”. On Friday, July 15, in the throes of Turkey's deep crisis which left international media befuddled by who was truly in power, numerous Egyptian media outlets jumped the gun in their reportage. They prematurely declared that the attempted coup had ended in success, heralding the Turkish army's control over the country and overthrow of President Erdogan.
Within hours of the start of the attempted coup, these outlets exposed their unprofessionalism by falling prey to propaganda. Despite confirmed news sources proving that the democratically-elected government remained in charge, and people taking to the streets to support Turkish democracy, several Egyptian state-run as well as privately owned newspapers came out on Saturday, July 16, with headlines and front pages showing a different trajectory.
State-run newspaper Al-Ahram main front page banner headline stated that the Turkish Armed Forces succeeded in ousting President Erdogan. The red headline said “The Turkish army overthrows Erdogan” and was followed by the subhead “The armed forces seize power, declare martial law and Recep Tayyip vanishes."
State-owned Akhbar Al-Youm, announced in its main headline “A military coup in Turkey,” while the subhead said “The military announced it has taken over to protect democracy and human rights, Erdogan calls on supporters to take to the streets to safeguard legitimacy.”
Taken in this light, Egyptian newspaper’s choice of the word “legitimacy” is a reminder of when former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was mocked for repeating the same word in his final late-night televised speeches when he addressed the nation before being ousted by his army generals three years ago.
Egypt’s privately-owned newspapers had been faring just as badly when it came to their lopsided coverage of the recent tectonic events in Turkey. Under the headline “The army topples Erdogan,” Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper seems to have duplicated Al-Ahram’s headline, however, suggesting their similar biased ideologies.
Other privately-owned newspapers, such as Al-Watan, not only ran the headline “The army takes over, deposes Erdogan,” its subhead also reported that Erdogan tried to claim asylum in Germany at the height of the military coup, citing unreliable western sources.
Unlike the other Egyptian print media outlets that failed dismally at journalism and excelled at propaganda, it was only the privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper that delivered impartial and balanced coverage. It ran a headline on its front page entitled “An attempted coup in Turkey, Erdogan announces quashing it.”
Aside from printed newspapers, the Egyptian news website Al-Youm Al-Sabea published a report on its social media account naming “the reasons that led to Erdogan’s fall." The most important of which was Erdogan's animosity towards Egypt.
However, when Erdogan had largely succeeded in quashing the coup, Al-Youm Al-Sabea resorted to publishing a story that claimed the coup was merely an “epic theatrical act” put on by Erdogan himself.
“A revolution, not a military coup”
Anyone who casually swapped between Egyptian state-run or even privately-owned channels during the chaotic early hours of Friday night knew that Erdogan's government was not in favour.
Ahmed Moussa, one of the most popular TV presenters in Egypt, praised the military coup and the Turkish army, defining the events as “a revolution, not a military coup.” Moussa, who hosts a TV show broadcast on the privately-owned channel Sada El-Balad, continued by saying: “Erdogan spent millions of US Dollars on terrorist groups…Erdogan has to learn a lesson: there is a difference between the coup in Turkey and the revolution in Egypt. He (Erdogan) relentlessly tried to label Egypt’s events on June 30 as a coup.”
However, as the events unfolded, Moussa shifted to describe the botched coup as an “ousting trial”, hoping that by the end of his TV show, the military coup in Turkey would succeed.
Similarly, the Egyptian media personality Khairy Ramadan, who hosts a talk show on the privately-owned TV channel CBC described Turkish military action as a "revolution” and “retaliation” against Erdogan’s policy towards Egypt after the June 30 revolution and the overthrow of the former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
The Egyptian talk-show host Osama Kamal first mocked Erdogan for appearing on CNN-Turk television, holding an interview via mobile phone during the early hours of the military movement. Then, adopting the same strategy of the news website Al-Youm Al-Sabea, Kamal claimed that Erdogan might have “staged” Friday’s bloody coup to win people’s sympathy and regain his popularity among Turkish citizens which had recently declined.
Some other Egyptian media figures avowedly voiced their opinions in the early hours of Turkey’s attempted coup via their social network accounts, especially Twitter.
Prominent journalist and Egyptian MP Mostafa Bakry wrote on Twitter: “The Turkish army declares seizing power. Go to hell Erdogan.” He even wrote another controversial tweet: “Erdogan has gone and [President Bashar] al-Assad remains. Long live the Syrian Arab Army. Erdogan must be trialed as a war criminal."
Another well-known TV anchor Youssef El Hosiny was gloating over Erdogan’s fall by writing a tweet: “These terms will be circulated worldwide to describe what had happened in Turkey: power transfer, restoring constitutional legitimacy, toppling Erdogan, deposing the tyrant and Erdogan’s fall.”
Shortly after the army released a statement on Turkish TV channels of seizing power, the Egyptian state and privately-owned channels were brim with news tickers such as: “Pro-army demonstrations in Turkey, chants against Erdogan,” “Erdogan flees to Germany, seeks safe haven for him and his family,” “Erdogan threatens to create bloodbaths to restore power,” and the like. It was painful to see.
In former President Mubarak's era, journalists were divided into two camps: with the president or the opposition.
Today most Egyptian journalists and media figures are siding with the military government. This trend explains why Egyptian media swerved sharply to welcoming, unabashedly, the Turkish military coup, let alone prematurely hailing Erdogan’s overthrow. Tensions between Egypt and Turkey sparked after the overthrow of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Since then, the Turkish President, who was an avid supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, has been harshly condemning Egypt’s military government. He was even seen flashing the four-finger Rabaa sign during several public speeches. Moreover, many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders found sanctuary in Turkey after fleeing from the bloody crackdown in Rabaa and Nahda.
The animosity between the two Middle Eastern countries reached a crescendo when Egypt objected to a United Nations Security Council statement that urged all parties to "respect the democratically elected government of Turkey." Egypt sees that the council is "in no position to qualify or label that government - or any other government for that matter - as democratically elected or not," according to UN diplomats.
On the other hand, Erdogan excoriated President Sisi on his latest TV interview with Al-Jazeera, saying that he “has nothing to do with democracy. He killed thousands of his people."
In conclusion, one could say that the antagonism between Egypt and Turkey will not come to an end anytime soon, especially when both Sisi and Erdogan are still in power, and Egypt’s media seems to be happy to play along with these political games.