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ELECTION COVERAGE FAVOURS MUBARAK: CIHRS

As Egyptians headed to the polls on 7 September 2005 in the country's first multi-party presidential elections, an interim report by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) has found that media coverage has so far been biased in favour of incumbent Hosni Mubarak.

Since the launch of the electoral campaigns on 17 August 2005, the IFEX member has been monitoring the coverage of four state-owned television channels (Ch. 1, Ch. 2, Ch. 3, Nile News), two independent channels (Dream 2 and al-Mehwer), and 17 independent and state-owned newspapers and magazines.

During its first week of monitoring, CIHRS found that state-owned television channels allotted far more time to covering Mubarak's campaign than those of his nine rival candidates. Private channels also devoted the lion's share of coverage to the incumbent.

While print media provided more balanced coverage than television channels, "the majority of newspapers have dedicated themselves to supporting [Mubarak], and sometimes, to challenging his main competitors", says CIHRS. However, several independent newspapers, including "El-Masri El-Youm" and "Nahdet Masr", provided "excellent service both at the level of information and analysis," the group noted.

Moataz El Fegiery, coordinator of the monitoring project, says CIHRS' interim report has been widely covered by the Egyptian media. "The state funded media paid attention to the findings. However, they covered the report in a selective way and published what was positive for them, rather than any criticism." CIHRS has also met with government officials to discuss its findings.

El Fegiery has expressed concern that CIHRS and other non-governmental organisations, including international groups, have been barred from observing the elections as independent monitors. "The refusal of the government to cooperate with international and national observers raises questions about the fairness of the upcoming elections," he says.

Freedom House rates Egypt as "Not Free" in its 2005 global survey of political rights and civil liberties, "Freedom in the World."

The government owns and operates all terrestrial broadcast television stations, and the few private satellite television stations that have been established are owned by people with ties to the government. While a few private radio stations have recently been established, their programming is restricted to entertainment. The three leading daily newspapers are state controlled and their editors are appointed by the president.

Read CIHRS' report: http://www.cihrs.org/PDF/interim_report_EN.pdf

Visit these links:
- CIHRS: http://www.cihrs.org
- Interview with RAP21: http://www.rap21.org/article18640.html
- Egyptian Organization for Human Rights: http://www.eohr.org/press/2005/pr0822.shtml
- Freedom House: http://www.freedomhouse.org/media/pressrel/090605.htm
- Human Rights Watch Report on the Elections: http://hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/egypt0905/index.htm
- Press Freedom in Egypt: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/mideast04/egypt.html
- BBC Analysis: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4216750.stm

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