Egyptian state TV in u-turn

Coverage on state television in Egypt has gone through a u-turn since the uprisings began in the country earlier this year

Social media, state and independent media have all played a major role in documenting the historic uprisings and developments taking place in the Middle East in the last 8 – 9 months. More than 15 international and Danish researchers took part in the conference “Covering the Arab Spring” in Copenhagen organised by International Media Support and Copnehagen University from 1 – 2 September, presenting a range of new analyses on the role of media in the past months’ historic developments in the Middle East.


According to Ehab Galal, assistant professor at Copenhagen University, state television underwent a complete transformation in the months that the revolution in Egypt unfolded. State television has traditionally been seen as the extended arm of the government in Egypt with little or no room for editorial independence. For this reason, state television also enjoyed a low level of trust in the population.

Through his research, Ehab Galal has mapped out six phases through which Egyptian state TV passed in its response to the uprisings between January – August 2011. His research shows that state TV in other Arabic countries in transition such as Tunisia is going through the same phases, albeit at present they find themselves at different stages depending on the progression of the uprisings in the various countries.

Silence and then denial

In the first days of the revolution, as people took to the streets, Egyptian state television was fiercely loyal to Mubarak and reacted to events with silence. The revolt was ignored and no images were shown, in stark contrast to the epiphany of images flooding social media sites during the same period.

The second phase of coverage was characterised by denial. Any talk of an uprising was passed off as rumour.

Then followed a concession of events in the coverage, accompanied by a tone of suspicion on the part of the news readers and journalists. Presenters admitted that something was amiss, but the demonstrators were consistently discredited as young trouble-makers and lied about, according to Egad Gala’s findings.

Turning point

As events in the streets became impossible to ignore and friends of Mubarak turned on him publically, the next stage of the media coverage is described as “obliging”. Mubarak reaches out to his opponents in an act of trying to quell their anger and secure peace. Voices of his opponents begin to feature in the coverage in very late evening programmes, but state TV continued to cast the demonstrators in an unfavourable light, deeming them the puppets of foreign powers eager to cause internal turmoil.

Then there was a turning point, a u-turn in the coverage on the revolution on Egyptian state TV. Suddenly new presenters and news readers appeared. The language used to describe the revolution changed and state TV started broadcasting from Tahrir Square. The demonstrators were now called “the sons of the revolution, Ehab Galal explains.

Now state TV is continuously tossing a coin, caught between their traditional support for an autocratic regime, but also trying to offer a space for the demonstrators to voice their opinions. But state TV still relies on the ruling power to define the next step.

How state TV will develop in future is still unclear, but there is hope for a more pluralistic and independent media scene if the political scene becomes more pluralistic, he concludes.

The Arab Spring conference was organised by Copenhagen University and International Media Support. View the full programme here. A compendium of essays related to the coferenence theme by the participating speakers will be compiled. For more information, please contact