Report claims media coverage pre-voting deepened polarization

Media coverage in the period leading up to the constitutional referendum reflected a deeply polarized scene, a media watchdog said in a report released Tuesday.

Cairo Institution for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) said that the performance of media outlets did not reflect a diversity of opinions regarding the constitutional referendum, deeming any voices opposing those of the official line of the state as “traitors.”

“The state was not committed to presenting balanced media content that guaranteed fairness in reporting on the approval or disapproval of the draft constitution, in addition to attempts [to campaign through] emotional blackmail,” the report claimed.

CIHRS listed nine indicators of how different media outlets failed to deliver balanced, professional coverage.

One of which, is the media’s failure to present content regarding the process of the referendum and the steps voters should follow. Instead, they largely promoted a “yes” vote.

The report claimed media outlets scared citizens with reports of alleged terrorist plans to obstruct the voting process by the Muslim Brotherhood, and emphasized the increased security measures being taken to protect polling stations.

Also heavily critiqued are the limited sources of information, and selective representatives on TV channels and radio. According to the report, there was a lack of diversity, not only regarding supporting or opposing the constitution, but also within those selected to represent the “yes” camp.

The report also said that media outlets prevented viewers from expressing their opinions in opposition to the status quo, particularly during phone-ins.

CIHRS reported that media outlets did not offer any in depth discussion on the entire constitutional document, but rather focused on certain articles. In addition, most of the discussions focused on controversial, emotional issues, pressuring viewers to agree to the constitution out of fear of the alternative.

The report revealed that there was an over coverage of political parties that endorsed the draft constitution, like the Salafi Nour Party.

Additionally, it claimed advertising often featured offensive “hate speech,” with no indication of which entities were behind them.

The report also criticized the coverage of news outlets allegedly affiliated with the deposed Muslim Brotherhood, like Rassd News Network and the Freedom and Justice newspaper, which it claims committed similar professional violations, but from an opposing position.