Is Mohammad Morsi the ‘New Hosni Mubarak‘?
A Comparison of the Editorial Coverage given to Morsi by the New York Times and the Khaleej Times, from June 25, 2012 till November 29, 2012.
By Fakiha Hassan Rizvi
Protests that sparked around the Arab World, collectively called the ‘Arab Spring‘ toppled down decades long regimes. Starting from Tunisia and spreading across Syria, where the inflammation has aggravated, the Arab Spring will remain a significant sign post in the political history of the world. For the Egyptians, the billows of the Arab Spring brought a democratic dispensation being headed by Mohammad Esa al Ayat Morsi. On July 1, 2012, Morsi had formally sworn in as the first democratically elected president of Egypt by beating his competitor, Ahmed Shafq (prime minister of Egypt during Mubrak’s rule) with a narrow margin of 3.5%. There are differences over as to how fair the elections were and the question of a citizen-centred change. However, the change is obvious, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, ruling Egypt. Morsi has taken charge of his country during a crucial period and he is under a global-glare. Belonging to a party, widely known for its staunch Islamist nature, antipathy towards Israel, hostility towards the U.S and resentful over the role of military at home, Morsi’s presidential actions are being examined carefully. Under the Mubarak regime, Egypt had been a key ally of the US in the Middle East by cooperating with Israel, its relations with Iran were strained on account of sectarian divide. Philips. L . David (2009) predicted that a path for Muslim Brotherhood to enter politics is likely to make Egypt an undisputed democratic leader in the Arab region. However, there are conditions and tests for this to materialize. Starting from the steps that a non-violent Islamist party can take to stop the more fanatic violent one’s from entering into politics, extent of civil participation in the politics, transparency, press freedom, socio-economic development to the diplomatic orientation adopted by it. 
However, Bowker (2010) has argued that there can be broadly three likely drivers of political change: a new class of entrepreneurs, an impact of demography and generational changes on both the secular and Islamic political life and the effects of engagement with other countries like the United States and Israel. 
Vincent. H. Billie (2012) described the adverse changes that could lead to grave consequences for the region and above all, the Egyptians. “A worst-case scenario would be if Morsi turns out to be a weak and pliant president. His flexibility can allow the terrorists to compete for power. If this happens then the military will stage another coup, creating long-term turmoil in Egypt.” 
Morsi’s bout with the military and the need to restore economy is a complex duo. After taking charge as the president he has been in the international mainstream media. Commentators and media analysts from around the world are assessing the developments in Egypt under his control, ranging from Egypt’s Sinai problem, the débâcle between Egyptian military and parliament, to broad issues like the protests against the anti Islam film or the regional destabilization due to turmoil in Gaza. James Petras in his article, ‘The Summer of Muslim Discontent: it’s not “the Amateur Film” Stupid, builds the opions that the “Egyptian Muslim and secular populace are profoundly disenchanted with the Brotherhoods betrayal of their promises of welfare, jobs, prosperity and nationalist foreign policy .The “film” served as a “legitimate pretext” to unify their forces: the protest against “the film” was in reality about the larger socio-economic and political cleavages emerging and the tremendous boost in US influence in Morsi’s Egypt.” 
Amid these wide range of discussions, Morsi is being stigmatized for exercising dictatorial powers that make his decisions irrefutable and legitimate till a new government is elected. Such measures are not constructing a positive image of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, who is time and again being described with phrases like: the ‘new Mubarak’, ‘Morsi the new dictator’, ‘Morsi’s democratic dictatorship’ and ‘Morsi’s Coup’. On the other hand, dissenters have already started to gather once again in the historical Tahrir Square, raising slogans that warn Morsi (remember Morsi – after the throne, there is jail).
In light of the background information this research has the following objectives:
R1 What is the extent of editorial coverage given to Mohammad Morsi in The New York Times and Khaleej Times after he won the presidential seat?
R2 What suggestions are given by the editorials for handling governance issues, whether explicitly or implicitly, by The New York Times and Khaleej Times?
R3 What words/adjectives have been ascribed with Morsi during the editorial coverage in The New York Times and Khaleej Times?
Method:For the first research question, the researcher will present a quantitative analysis of the editorial coverage of Morsi by both the newspapers. For the second and third research questions, a discourse analysis of the editorials will be presented, according to the relevant hypotheses. All the editorials from June 25, 2012 till November 29, 2012, containing the terms ‘Morsi’ and ‘Egypt’ will be considered as the sample for the research. The time frame starts from the day Morsi took charge as the President till late November this year. A discussion following the editorial will compare and contrast editorial coverage, the description of Morsi and the advices that the editorials are lending to him as the president.
The New York Times: An American daily newspaper. The paper’s motto, printed in the upper left-hand corner of the front page, is “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” The New York Times website (NYTimes.com) has the motto “All the News That’s Fit to Click.” Copies of this newspaper have circulated in the New York City since 1857. It has won the most Pulitzer Prizes among all the news organizations in America. It is also considered as the most popular American print media outlet. The paper in owned by The New York Times Company. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times]
Khaleej Times: A Dubai based newspaper catering to the needs of the readers in the Gulf. First published in 1978, the newspaper became the first English language newspaper of Dubai. The government of the United Arab Emirates owns it partially. Khaleej Times Online is the global face of the newspaper on the internet. The online version offers more stories and exclusives not found in its print paper. Currently, it’s print edition is the second most popular English language newspaper in Dubai. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaleej_Times]
The following hypotheses have been formulated by the researcher:
H1 Khaleej Times gave greater editorial coverage to Morsi as compared to The New York Times.
H2 The New York Times explicitly mentions that stability in Egypt can’t be achieved without the cooperation of US, whereas, Khaleej Times suggests Morsi to handle the situation keeping view the aspirations of his subjects.
H3 The New York Times will be more blatant while ascribing certain words with Morsi and Khaleej Times will present a more factual account regarding Morsi rather than attaching words like ‘conservative’ with him.
Editorials of The New York Times and Khaleej Times were retrieved from the websites of both the newspapers. After analysis, the following quantitative data was observed:
H 1 Deduction: Editorial coverage of Morsi by Khaleej Times is greater than that of The New York Times
The New York Times gives the following suggestions to Morsi:
The New York Times has talked of Egyptian transition as yet another chance for the people of Egypt to steer through a democratic pathway and for this more willingness is required to reduce political polarization. It has explicitly stated that Egyptians can decide their own future, but they will need help from the United States. The editorials suggest Morsi to curb military power but not to dissolve the entire legislative cabinet (only the legally questionable number should be re-contested). [Another Chance for Egypt, June 25, 2012-The New York Times]
Regarding the Sinai problem, The New York Times mentions it as a new series of tensions between Morsi and the army. To make Sinai a priroity is in the national interest of Egypt and Morsi should deal with it as a test of his ability to control lawlessness in Egypt. It stated the possibility of Egypt revising its treaty with Israel in order to increase the military assets. In another editorial, it has implicitly suggested Morsi to improve security relations with Israel as there are a number of other problems like shattered economy to deal with at home. [Egypt’s Sinai Problem, August 7, 2012. Morsi’s First Crisis, August 10, 2012]
Morsi is exploiting the attack on Sinai Peninsula by firing Generals to seize on going protests going on in Egyptian streets. Egypt shouldn’t hope for change is Morsi continues with stern actions. [Morsis’s Rebalancing act, August 16, 2012-The New York Times]
The newspaper builds the opinion that Egypt cannot restore its economy without the support of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United States. Therefore, Morsi should consider the aid and loans being granted by the Obama administration. [Egypt’s Economic Struggle, September 24, 2012]
Morsi is blamed by the newspaper for a delayed response on the gruesome attack on the US ambassador for Libya and attacks by protesters of Anti-Islam film on the US embassies in Cairo. He should condemn violence with a firm fist in order to improve the economic condition of the country. It clearly mentions that the expected $4.8 billion loan to Egypt by IMF would receive the Western support if ‘Egypt is reasonably safe’ for the West. [Belated Response from Egypt, September 13, 2012]
Morsi can be given ‘some’ credit for the Gaza deal, but that doesn’t mean that the United States will support measures which are perceived to be of authoritarian nature by the Egyptians. “While the State Department advocated a constitutional process that ‘does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands‘.” [The Crisis in Egypt, November 26, 2012]
Khaleej Times gives the following suggestions to Morsi:
Khaleej Times describes the change in Egypt as a positive sign, but the free and fair future of democracy is uncertain. Cooperation between the military and the Islamists will decide the sustainability of ‘democratisation’ in Egypt. A compromise between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military can lead to a sustainable democracy. [What after the Elections?, June 26, 2012- Khaleej Times]
The newspaper endorses Morsi’s move of ‘negotiating powers back from the military’. It’s a painful exercise to make sure the required transition as civil engagement in the political process is also required. On the other hand, retaining military stalwarts in the cabinet can be disappointing for the protesters. [Transition in Egypt, Power Struggle in Cairo, Cairo’s Cocktail Cabinet, July 22, July 26, August 4, 2012- Khaleej Times]
Morsi should deal with the Sinai predicament like a ‘true leader’ by ensuring that Cairo has zero tolerance for militants. Egypt should not go against its agreements with Israel, especially when Morsi has to keep a check on radicalism and reply back to his political allies for the compromises he has made with military generals.Morsi has made the right move by firing generals as he has denied the chance of a puppet administration. The people of Egypt can’t tolerate a coup and Morsi has shown civilian authority by retiring generals using the brazen attack in Sinai as an opportunity. [Cairo’s Sinai predicament, Bold-Shake up in Egypt, August 10, August 14, 2012-Khaleej Times]
“This is the time for the intelligentsia, media, academia and elected representatives to strive against poverty, terrorism and parochialism.” The newspaper doesn’t completely thwart Morsi’s decision of disallowing freedom of speech. Editorial reflects that press should be responsible enough in a democratic set up and at such a crucial time the government can’t look at superficial issues. People in Egypt won’t move towards the Presidential Palace if they are allowed personal freedom. AN example of this had been given by quoting Egypt’s Maria TV starting in July, where women wearing Niqab present shows. Under Mubarak rule there was a ban on head scarfs for female news presenters. The editorial asks Morsi to allow personal freedoms without taking into account Western reaction (that viewed the Hijab as a wave conservatism in Egypt). [Morsi versus the Press, Egypt’s ‘cover story’ August 26, 2012, September 4,2012 Khaleej Times]
The judiciary is not supporting the transitional process. Morsi should adopt a reconciliatory approach and nullify the baseless accusation against Muslim Brotherhood. The newspaper builds the opinion that President Morsi’s move is temporary just to increase the pace of legislative process. “The arguments against the Mursi decree may have their own merits, but it seems the president has taken the measure in good faith and in an attempt to let the elected representatives exercise their right of governing their constituents”. [Power Tangle in Egypt, November 27, 2012]
However, the latest editorial published warns Morsi that the protests will be more grand this time. He should consider the demand of the protesters or take them into confidence is they seem unstoppable. At this point in time, Egypt is in the hands of those who have a good will for governing the country. Agitators must be convinced somehow, even if it requires a compromise over the decree. Otherwise, an army is likely to stage a coup. [Trouble in Cairo, November 29, 2012]
H 2 As predicted The New York Times exhibits a total imbalance while suggesting Morsi, Khaleej Times has taken a balanced and rational approach.
Comparing words ascribed to President Morsi
The term ‘new dictator’ has only been used in one of the editorial of New York Times. Morsis has been labelled as a ‘conservative ‘Islamist’, for Khaleej Times he is a good will leader who can steer Egypt out of the domestic turmoil if he takes the proper steps. The New York Times has emphasized the dependence of Egypt on the financial assistance provided by the IMF and the United States. Morsi has even been blamed of being ‘shrewd’ when he removed the military generals in response to the Sinai attack. On the other hand, Khaleej Times expressed the notion that he can be a ‘true leader’ provided that he handles the things in accordance to the will of the people.
H 3 The New York Times is not taking a fair approach while ascribing words to Morsi.
Conclusion: An imbalanced editorial coverage by The New York Times, suggestions are made in a very authoritative and blatant way. Khaleej Times has a much fair line. Though at times it seems increasingly considerate for Morsi, but it strongly backs up whatever opinion it tends to formulate.
 Lawrence (2009) From Bullets to Ballot: Violent Muslim Movements in Transition, Transaction Publishers
 Bowker Robert (2010), Egypt and the Politics of Change in the Arab Middle East, Edward Elgan Publishing.
 Vincent H. (2012), Bombers, Hijackers, Body Scanners, and Jihadists, Xlibris Corporation
Editorials retrieved from the online versions of The New York Times and Khaleej Times.