Mainstream media turn blind eye to dark side of Tahrir Square

At the beginning, most mainstream media turned into cheerleaders for the Arab Spring revolutions to topple secular dictatorships like Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt. Once Mubarak was gone, the story line went, democracy and respect for human rights would flourish. It didn't quite happen that way. The Muslim Brotherhood emerged instead as a potent replacement force.

More recently, thousands again demonstrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square, staging a second revolution - this time to get rid of military rule. Once the military are ousted, the new story line goes, political parties of varying stripes could take over and usher in a new era of parliamentary democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood is generally portrayed as just another political party. We are assured that it isn't a homogeneous, fanatical Islamist movement. Instead, it's supposedly comprised of many political shades and needn't be feared in any potential governing coalition, even if it were to become the dominant player.

As in past years, when newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post bent over backwards to portray Hamas and Hez'ballah in the kindest possible light and sanitized them of any semblance of terrorist fantaticism, now it's the turn of the Muslim Brother to get this kind of media whitewash.

So, it should come as no surprise that when the Muslim Brotherhood staged a rally this week in the most prominent Cairo Mosque and thousands of its followers chorused to "kill all the Jews" and volunteered for "jihad" to liberate all of Palestine - i.e. exterminate the Jewish state - most mainstream media, whether leading newspapers or the evening TV network news, generally gave this event a pass. Never mind that it revealed an ominous side of the Muslim Brotherhood's real agenda and cast a dark cloud over Egypt's adherence to its 1979 peace treaty with Israel. It just didn't fit the more favorable perception of the Muslim Brotherhood peddled by mainstream media.

The same inattentiveness by prominent media outlets left largely unreported two more sexual assaults of female journalists covering the tumult in Tahrir Square and other Egyptian hot spots. Never mind that Caroline Sinz, a journalist for the TV France 3 network, and Mona Al-Taditawy, an Egyptian-American reporter, told harrowing tales of multiple sexual assaults amid the latest revolutionary upheavals against Egypt's military rulers. Never mind that Reporters Without Borders, an international journalism group, issued an advisory to media editors and publishers not to send female journalists anywhere near Tahrir Square, making it clear that last February's rape of CBS News reporter Lara Logan was not an isolated threat. With their fixation and preference for an end to military rule, mainstream media largely ignored the not-so-happy fate that may await women under a new set of rulers for Egypt.

It's not as if there has been a total media blackout of the recurrence of sexual assaults in revolutionary Egypt or the Muslim Brotherhood's undisguised animus against Jews. UPI and AP filed some dispatches. So did CNN and Politico. But the Saturday, Nov.26 edition of the Washington Post kept these incidents from its subscribers - as did other prominent media that usually pride themselves of being ahead of the curve and serve as models for the rest of the media pack.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

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