Sunday, January 27, 2013

Letters from Egypt: Foreigners under Attack

Source: AUC

One of my greatest pet peeves is when so-called journalists write inauthentic stories in order to get fame and/or grow a site. And with this new year, it appears one Egyptian site, started by an American, has not only expanded its reach but also falsifies information.

Joseph Mayton, Editor and Founder of Bikya News (formerly Bikya Masr) says in the About section: “Bikya News is a multiple award-winning independent news website with staff based in Egypt and across the globe.” I haven’t been able to find any awards Bikya News has won (although Ethar El-Katatney won the Samir Kassir award under Bikya Masr staff writer, not the publication and not the publication under its current name Bikya News), but that doesn’t surprise me given this story written by its Editor and Founder: “Foreigners fear for safety in Egypt as violence engulfs country.” Just like the title of my blog is misleading (on purpose), so is Mayton's article.

The piece began by saying that amid all the violence happening throughout Egypt (although it is not as violent as other Arab Spring countries and the incidents are isolated), that “foreigners living in the North African country have begun to report instances of intimidation.” The article’s source(s)?

“For one American, who asked not to be named due to the security situation, who lives in Garden City, he said police were roaming the streets and asking if foreigners lived in any buildings.”

The article continued quoting the anonymous source: “’We heard from our bawwab (doorman) that police had asked about foreigners living in our building and a few others on our street. Thankfully, they told them nobody lived here and the police went away, but others haven’t been so lucky,’ he told” I would like to see reports from the “others” that weren’t “so lucky.”

And throughout the article is this continued anonymous source, although part of me wonders if this source is actually Mayton, who relocated to the Garden City/Tahrir area shortly after the uprising in 2011. The reason is this statement within the article that diminishes the idea of a fair and balanced, without any opinion, report: “For foreign journalists covering the ongoing street battles it has become difficult to maintain their cool as questions from protesters continues to hurt their ability to do their job. But they battle on.”

Has it? You certainly haven’t provided any foundation to validate this claim and from my own personal experience – the censorship is equivalent to that of the Mubarak era. This sounds as though Mayton himself is having the difficulty which would mean that the so-called “one American” source was actually him. Listen Mayton, if you’re going to write your own story then do so and dub it Opinion/Analysis – do not try to make it appear a news piece and heighten unwarranted fear because of your desire to claim fame.

I understand that as a journalist, you want to make a name. You want to have your work showcased, but when does that encroach on your judgment to produce fair and accurate reports? We should all be in this together and if you truly cared for Egypt like you say Mayton, you wouldn’t spread unwarranted fear unless you were absolutely certain and could produce viable evidence – which in this case you haven’t. OR you would have published this as an OpEd piece.

You and I have had this discussion before after you plagiarized a friend’s blog. It still amazes me that you try to portray yourself as a credible journalist, but you refuse to let any comments past moderation that are not in your favor (just like the repeated comments posted over your plagiarism).

I posted this comment at 8:06 pm, and it has yet to be passed for moderation (although you posted a comment in response to someone’s Tweet at the same time):

Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Joseph, once again you have written an article without credible sourcing and expect it to pass as thorough journalism. I’d be willing to bet this is from you entirely without another “American” and I’m also here to tell you (though doubtful you will allow this post past moderation if the past is any indicator) that publishing unfounded reports of the such causes more harm than good. I’m an American. I live in Cairo. I’m a foreign journalist. I have YET to come across the reports that you are claiming in this article. In fact, I’d challenge that it is no different than under Mubarak’s censorship. So for the future, please cite your sources. Only one source with anonymity is certainly not enough to validate your argument. Large publications use anonymous sources, but also validate with named sources in addition. Stop spreading unnecessary fear and if you don’t want to be under surveillance, you should not have purposefully moved to Garden City. You get no sympathy from me.

I find it coincidental that Mayton attempts to highlight the government allegedly harassing foreigners without just cause when he cannot provide evidence (e.g. valid sourcing) to support his own claims. Pot, kettle, black?