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World Media Watches as Egypt Explodes

From Al Jazeera to the Washington Post, outlets struggled to cover a fiery, largely Internet-less revolution

As the chaos in Cairo continued to escalate Friday — with Egypt’s government instituting a curfew and shutting down mobile and Internet access in the region — the world’s media struggled to cover what protesters had dubbed a “Day of Rage” in the region.

Below, a look at how major news and television outlets from Al-Jazeera to the Washington Post handled coverage of the unrest.

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera — whose role in inciting or at least galvanizing protests in the Middle East has been questioned — is providing by far the most comprehensive televised coverage of the Egypt protests. Several U.S. networks even the Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s English feed for spurts, as it was one of the only networks that managed to broadcast live images from the region.

Many Americans, however, were forced to watch the Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s online feed, as the network is not widely available in the U.S. (Mohamed Nanabhay, the head of online for Al Jazeera English, told the New York Times that Friday “represented the heaviest-trafficked day ever to the network’s live Web stream.”)

Al Jazeera even bought the Google keyword "Egypt" — delivering a paid link (to english.aljazeera.net) to people using the search engine for news on the protests.


BBC Arabic reporter Assad Sawey turned in perhaps the most visually arresting report of the day — conducting an interview with the BBC while covered in what appeared to be his own blood. Sawey, with a bandage on his forehead, said police tried to arrest him and ultimately beat him — showcasing the Egyptian government’s contempt for media trying to cover the protests. “They didn’t care about BBC or any other organization,” Sawey said.

CNN had the most reporters in Egypt of any U.S.-based outlet, with at least five teams (including CNN, CNN International and CNN en Espanol) on the ground there. Ben Wedeman, CNN senior international correspondent, has been live-tweeting the experience, including how his crew was attacked by “plainclothed Egypt police,” who stole their camera. “Violent suppression of protesters everywhere,” Wedeman said. CNN’s Nic Robertson and Frederik Pleitgen were already on the ground, and the network sent another — Ivan Watson — to the region.

CNN showed nighttime footage from the protests in Cairo and, like the rest of American cable networks, carried the White House’s emergency briefing on the unrest. CNN also used a split screen to show chaos in Cairo's streets as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak addressed the nation.

Online, CNN had the most comprehensive coverage of any U.S. outlet, with a pair of live feeds (one state-run Nile TV, the other a webcam) and a frequently updating live blog from Cairo that provided the most up-to-the-minute coverage this side of Al Jazeera.

Nile TV

The state-run Nile TV was broadcasting its own highly-censored version of the events in Cairo. At one point, the network reported police were dealing with protesters in a “very civilized way,” the demonstrations were “peaceful” and that the situation was largely “calm” — an assessment that could be quickly debunked by anyone with an Internet connection. (As a reporter on Al-Jazeera English noted, the state-run network is "opting to show Egyptians citizens a very different Cairo than what we are seeing.")

NBC, MSNBC and Fox News

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel landed in Egypt on Friday, and immediately began filing reports for MSNBC. As TVNewser noted, NBC News has a bureau in Cairo.

Fox News, like CNN and MSNBC, went live with coverage around midday. The network said it would have two correspondents and crews covering the news this weekend.

The New York Times

The New York Times was running the Egypt story at the top of its homepage throughout the afternoon — leading with a slideshow of images from the unrest and links to at least six stories of its on the protests.

The Times also promoted an online debate — “What the Egyptians Want” — in its homepage coverage package, as well as an audio interview with reporter Nicholas Kulish from Egypt. And, of course, another navel-gazing TimesCast video.

Several media members on Twitter — including some of the Times’ own — pointed to a story the paper published earlier in the week about Al-Jazeera’s role in “galvanizing” protests in the Middle East.

Washington Post

The Washington Post covered the story like the Times and other newspapers – with a big online package at the top of its homepage. But the Post also was one of the few to showcase an Associated Press story — published at 1:43 a.m. (ET) Friday — about the latest Wikileak (given to the New York Times) which revealed how U.S.-Egyptian relations have improved under the Obama administration.

The Washington Post also ran an op-ed near the top of its homepage with the headline: “Egypt protests show George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world.”


The Guardian, London: The Guardian was running no less than 10 stories or web features on the protests in Egypt on its homepage, including live, reverse-chronological updates on its always-reliable “News Blog.”

Al Akhbar, Beirut: Here, via the New York Times, was the Beirut leftist daily’s lede: “It has blown up in Egypt. Today, all eyes are focused on the mosques in the land of Egypt.”

People’s Daily, China: The People’s Daily did not mention the protests in Egypt, at least on its homepage, though the Communist paper did note the uprising in Yemen — and the heavy snowfall in New York City, and the “various, odd snowmen” popping up throughout Manhattan.

National Post, Canada: The Canadian National Post was running an amazing photoblog of images from the unrest in Cairo, including this one: