The second episode of Egyptian journalist and television presenter Yosri Fouda’s new show on Deutsche Welle Arabia is due to air Wednesday evening, amid rising attacks against his team and employers.
Fouda, who quit his show in Egypt in September 2014, made his debut return on Germany’s international broadcaster, with a first episode on the controversial issue of the transfer of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
Egyptian columnists, members of parliament and public figures, mostly government loyalists, attacked the show and Deutsche Welle (DW), claiming they are biased and aim to tarnish Egypt’s image abroad.
After the controversial first episode of Fouda’s show, “The Fifth Estate,” the renowned talk show host hit back at criticisms in a statement on his official Facebook account. He asserted that the show was conducted in an objective manner, with equal space given to both sides to air their views. He also justified his reasons for focusing on the island deal, as he did during the show itself, explaining that the issue is still a hot topic, despite it first surfacing in April.
In relation to the criticisms, Fouda told Mada Masr, “There are mentalities that belong in the past that are offended by the presence of any free voice that can’t be controlled anywhere. I respect people and I’m happy to take their suggestions into consideration, but I don’t pay attention to obscene campaigns and I prefer to focus on my work.”
Fouda is well known for his critique of the Egyptian government and military. He worked previously for the BBC and Al Jazeera and started his show, “Akher Kalam,” (The Last Word) on the privately owned ONtv channel in 2009. The show quickly earned a reputation for providing professional coverage that was independent of the pro-government perspectives typical in mainstream Egyptian media.
Fouda aired his last show in Egypt on September 25, 2014. His disappearance from the local media landscape came amid a tough crackdown on oppositional views and the detention of dozens of journalists and activists.
As Fouda returns to television, the channel has been described by government loyalists as a “suspicious” media outlet with an adverse agenda.
Christoph Jumpelt, head of corporate communications and spokesperson at DW, which provides media services through television, radio and online, told Mada Masr this accusation is baseless.
“DW is covering events in Egypt with balanced, neutral journalism,” Jumpelt said. “Opinion articles and commentaries are clearly labeled as such.”
In its regular, short commentary, “Box,” on August 4, the state-run Al-Akhbar newspaper called on Egypt’s Foreign Ministry to look into the channel, which it said “airs programs that discuss Egypt’s internal matters with a lack of professionalism and impartiality.”
Members of the parliamentary culture and media committee also criticized DW to the privately owned Youm7 on August 7. Most notably, MP Mostafa Bakry, a journalist and government loyalist, drew comparisons between DW and the Qatari-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera, which is renowned for its stance against the Egyptian government, particularly after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
Similarly, MP Ali Badr told Youm7 DW “airs its poison” toward the Egyptian people and operates with “suspicious funding,” and the aim of stirring instability in Egypt.
Indeed, rumors are circulating in several media outlets that DW has allocated hundreds of millions of Euro for its alleged anti-Egypt campaign, which was claimed to include training programs and cooperation agreements.
Jumpelt addressed this matter when speaking to Mada Masr: “The annual budget of DW is 300 million Euro for all 30 language departments. This means the overall budget for four television channels, nine radio programs and 30 internet sites,” he said.
“The Deutsche Welle Academy has trained journalists in Egypt in the past. Any such programs have always been conducted in close and financially transparent cooperation with Egyptian authorities and institutions. Currently, there are no training programs in operation or planning,” he added.
In response to allegations DW has shifted much of its media coverage to focus on Egypt, Jumpelt said the extent of DW’s coverage in any area “depends on the amount of news coming from that region.”