In Columbia Journalism Review, July 25, 2012:
CAIRO, EGYPT — The Muslim Brotherhood’s year-old television station, Misr25, broadcasts from a building in Egypt’s Media Production City, a vast complex of buildings built under former president Hosni Mubarak in the desert west of Cairo, well beyond the pyramids. The compound is home to dozens of production studios, including those of Misr25’s direct competitors in Egyptian television.
A red vinyl banner hangs on the concrete exterior of Studio 15, announcing the station’s presence. On the banner, Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood candidate who won the presidency in June, smiles and extends his hands in welcome. During a visit last week, technicians, producers, and journalists crowded past each other in the building’s narrow corridors. In the studio, the host of a talk show titled People’s Opinion was discussing “freedom, justice, and renaissance” in Egyptian society, in between taking viewers’ calls. On the other side of the room, outside the camera’s gaze, a designer was arranging a kitchen set, apparently for a cooking show.
The number 25 in the station’s name is a reference to January 25, 2011, the start date of the 18-day popular uprising that ended Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship. The channel owes its existence to the uprising, which also ended the Mubarak regime’s grip on Egyptian broadcast media. As a banned opposition group under the old regime, the Brotherhood was prohibited from spreading its message of Islamic reform on the airwaves.
In Misr25’s small, fluorescent-lit newsroom, earnest journalists insist that the channel’s news reporting is independent, but their concept of independence includes advancing the Brotherhood’s political project. The group’s stated aim is to reform society and the state based on Islam, although Brotherhood leaders have insisted recently that legislation should be based only on an Islamic “frame of reference” and not on full implementation of Islamic religious law.
“We support the Brotherhood’s Islamic project, the brotherhood’s civilizational project, not by privileging something other than fact,” said Yasser Ad-Dokani, the station’s news director. “We are capable of being balanced, but we do not deny our relationship or our connection with the Brotherhood.” Ad-Dokani, like many of the new channel’s journalists, is not a member of the Brotherhood, though he says he supports the organization’s aims. He was a 10-year employee of state television before he joined Misr25.