Following a wave of attacks aimed at German international news service Deutsche Welle (DW) by mainstream Egyptian media outlets, which called it biased and claimed that it intends to destabilize the Egyptian state, the broadcaster’s top executives held a meeting in Cairo on Monday to formulate some responses.
“Deutsche Welle is absolutely not anti-Egyptian. We do not support any political party in the country, and we work independently of the German government,” Peter Limbourg, director general of DW, told Mada Masr during the meeting.
In March, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper dismissed Limbourg’s previous affirmations of DW’s journalistic independence and balanced reporting, claiming it “presents only hostile views and stances towards the Egyptian state.”
The privately owned Youm7 newspaper went further, claiming that DW was “Hitler’s Media in the Year 2017,” questioning why the news provider was “turning a blind eye to the crimes of terrorism” being carried out in Egypt.
In another article published in March Youm7 depicted the DW logo as a bomb with a lit fuse, again calling it a “Hitler-ite” news organization. The same piece went on to say that DW supports local human rights organizations, political Islamist groups and along with leftist and liberal political groups.
Limbourg was clear that certain accusations do not deserve a response. “It’s a kind of satire,” he said. “Articles like these, you really can’t take them seriously.”
Similarly, DW’s spokesperson and Head of Corporate Communications Christoph Jumpelt issued a response to allegations that the organization operates in direct cooperation with Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, saying: “This is certainly not true. It is not even worth a comment.”
Fouda, who quit his job as a TV anchor on a mainstream satellite channel in 2014 and has been working for DW’s Arabic language channel since 2016, presenting a show entitled “Al-Sulta Al-Khamsa” (The Fifth Authority), was heavily censured by the authorities for his open criticism of their policies, particularly the controversial transfer of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.
Fouda previously told Mada Masr that within the government “there are mentalities that belong in the past that are offended by the presence of any free voice that can’t be controlled anywhere.”
Anchor Reem Maged, whose show “Gamea Mo’anath Salem” was produced by DW and aired on its Arabic language channel and the privately owned ONTV satellite channel, faced similar problems. ONTV took her program off air in May 2016 after only two episodes, though DW continued to broadcast it, amid speculation the former was pressured by Egyptian authorities.
The executives dismissed claims that their reporters are receiving payment for pieces intended to tarnish Egypt’s reputation abroad. Limbourg stated: “We have lots of different opinions within DW. We work with people in cooperation with DW who are well-recognized journalists. When they write a commentary, it is their opinion. Not every commentary is that of DW. We believe in a variety of different opinions.”
“We also work with journalists in Germany who criticize the German government,” he added.
The visiting executives also dismissed Youm7’s claims that DW displays journalistic incompetence, and employs “unqualified” employees in Egypt. The assertions specifically reference a former senior employee with alleged connections to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Limbourg further refuted comments recently aired in Egypt’s pro-state news outlets stating that DW criticizes the government without ever focusing on the real terrorist threats facing the country.
“We at DW recognize Egypt’s role as a stable country in the region. We also recognize that Egypt has to cope with a lot of terrorist attacks,” Limbourg asserted. “Terrorism is unacceptable,” and that “it is a common interest of all democratic people” to stand up against terrorists’ threats.
“DW is for tolerance, human rights and we do not support any terrorist activities. We want to prepare balanced and objective reports, we would like everybody to contribute their opinions — including the government, and people on the streets,” he added.
“We aim to be objective,” he said, asserting that that DW does not only focus on the negative news from Egypt, and “is very much open to positive stories about Egypt.”