Russian influence operations extend to Egypt


One of the oldest daily news organizations in the Arab world, based in Cairo Al-Ahram, And publishes stories from SputnikAnd the A propaganda arm of the Russian government.

As part of prof 2015 agreement between Al-Ahram and Russian Sygodnia, Russia A government-owned news giantSputnik stories appear in the gate Al-Ahram, the newspaper’s website, along with reports from legitimate news agencies such as France Media And the Reuters.

Unlike these news outlets, the Kremlin-controlled outlet spreads a fair amount of fluff on Al-Ahram, like inviting the Network of Syrian Researchers to Boycott the use of make-up Or news about Excavations and restoration From the iconic 1958 Chevy ex-president of Egypt.

It’s a nice car, but is it news?
Al-Ahram / Sputnik

These articles help Al-Ahram by increasing your overall internet traffic. For Kremlin advocates, their mere presence accomplishes a major strategic goal: neutralizing the distinction between media outlets like Reuters and Sputnik and leveling the playing field between journalism and fake news.

This cooperation is part of a long-running Russian campaign to build influence in the Egyptian media and elsewhere around the world – including in the United States My research, Including In an upcoming bookProvides more information about Moscow’s efforts to counter efforts to promote democracy in the Arab world through the media. It is part of Russia’s global campaign to support nationalist movements and politicians sympathetic to Russian interests.

Reality shifted

The spread of Russian disinformation in Egypt is not as surprising as it might seem to a Western audience. Since at least 1961, Al-Ahram has served as the official spokesperson for the government in Egypt. Russia has always sought influence in a major Arab country.

In recent years, Russian Corporations and government agencies have invested in Egypt Army, It Offshore gas reserves, It nuclear And the Industrial infrastructure And him Educational programming.

At the same time, there was a Russian media campaign that found a sympathetic audience at the leadership of one of the most prominent newspapers in the Arab world. Al-Ahram’s managing editor said about the agreement with Sputnik: The Egyptian-Russian relations are closer than ever before, and A new “media cooperation” protocol that supports this relationship.

Echoes of culture in the pyramids State-run media culture in Russia. Reality, as it appears in the pages of Al-Ahram, echoes the government line. When facts do not fit the official story, editors may simply alter the image of reality – as it did in 2010 when Al-Ahram was published. Photo of a fake White House press release Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is shown walking in front of a group of international leaders, when he is already behind them.

Divert your audience’s attention

In 2011, when anti-government protests known as the Arab Spring spread to Egypt, Al-Ahram began covering the events with Russian-style disinformation, including journalist Peter Pomerantsev who called it.Connect and distract. ”

On January 25, 2011 – the day protests were due to begin in Egypt – the front page of Al-Ahram newspaper included an article about the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria three weeks ago. It was a big story, but it is also a tale of distraction considering what was happening that day in Cairo.

By contrast, Al-Shorouk, a prominent opposition newspaper in Egypt, began its coverage of the protests on January 25 with an article highlighting “online demonstrations” between government forces and the opposition.

While this was happening in downtown Cairo, one of the leading newspapers was trying to distract Egyptians with other news reports.
Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

On Jan. 26, Al-Ahram The wrong direction strategy continued By publishing an article announcing the intensification of protests and riots – in Beirut. The Other stories That day was the recap of the church bombing story and the plans of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry to reject a major trade agreement with the United States.

On the other hand, Al-Shorouk coverage began on January 26 with the title “Volcano of anger It sweeps the streets of Cairo and explodes in Tahrir Square. “

Second transfer

As I noticed while doing that Live and search in Cairo on time And as a document in my book, various parties from inside and outside the country have worked hard at this time to shape public opinion about the protests. Al-Ahram got a helping hand from WikiLeaks.

On January 28, as news agencies around the world were preparing to cover “Friday of Rage” in Egypt, a massive demonstration that would show for the first time the full human strength of the Muslim Brotherhood, WikiLeaks released a series of documents from a cache of stolen US State Department cables. the previous. This batch of leaks provided useful support to Al-Ahram’s efforts to counter popular support for the protests.

The Daily Telegraph in London, who just was She signed a deal with Julian Assange To publish parts of the leaks, publish a story titled “Secret America’s support for insurgent leadersIn Egypt. Besides the article, The Telegraph published a “secret” note describing the 2009 meeting in Washington whereMany opposition forces agreed to support an unwritten plan In order to move to a parliamentary democracy, which includes a weak presidency and a powerful prime minister and parliament, before the presidential elections scheduled for 2011. “

Other leaked cables In that installment it was revealed Allocation of millions of dollars By the US State Department for “pro-democracy groups” in Egypt. As the US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey told me, US support for democratic activism in Egypt and elsewhere It was not a secret.

However, the pyramids, Echoing Mubarak’s famous midnight speech to the nation on January 28th, An article on January 29 Frame the information as evidence From a “plot of land”. The content and timing of the coverage appear to have been chosen to undermine public support for the protesters, suggesting that their funding and ambitions were born out of American interests – rather than driven by real Egyptian concerns.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak addresses his nation on January 28, 2011.

Lingering effect

WikiLeaks and Russian media operations continued to influence public debate in Egypt after Mubarak’s resignation.

Independent numbers are difficult to obtain. But a recent study It shows that the traffic to RT is far outperforming competing news organizations, such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya or the US-sponsored Al Hurra channel.

Since its first story appeared on Al-Ahram portal in April 2016, Sputnik has published nearly 700 articles, far more than other contributing services. Often these articles push the stories into the Russian novel Winning the war against terror In the region and Confronting the forces of instability.

Egyptian politics goes back to the days of dictatorship, after President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi returned Obtained the right to rule until 2034. This, combined with the increasing spread of information controlled by Russia, is likely to attract Egypt, Besides Syria, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and othersDeeper in the geopolitical sphere of Russia and China and far from the dream of democratic transformation that was Tahrir Square.

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