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Media & the Egyptian Revolution

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera, who, since they’ve (officially) been kicked out of the country are probably telling the truth. What’s interesting is the priorities of the other news organisations in reporting the story.

The BBC interview Polly Toynbee, who asks “where are the women’s voices?”. Meanwhile sky is reporting from the airport where the main story is: not as you might imagine, the imminent freedom of 80m Egyptians from a dictatorial police state, but the ordeal of some white people with horrible accents, whose holidays have been ruined and are now (Oh. My. God. It’s AWFUL) sleeping in the airport as they try to get home. Disgusted by the warped priorities on display, I turned back to Al Jazeera, where I saw hundreds of men & women, on the street chanting slogans. True, the women are not chucking rocks at the police in any great numbers, but they’re there. That answers La Toynbee’s stunningly ignorant and self-reverential question. The media organisations are projecting their warped idea of their viewers own obsessions onto the back-drop of an inspiring moment in history. Or maybe Sky is reporting from the Airport because it’s CHEAP? Who knows.

The channel to which I’ve been glued is Al Jazeera English, whose live feed on Friday night was particularly telling – state TV showing a calm Cairo on the right hand side of a split screen. Fires from burning police wagons and protesters cheering the deployment of the Army on the left, as the police, responsible for most of the deaths, are chased from the streets. I might not agree with the editorial line taken by Al Jazeera all the time, and in fact I would worry if I did. But the network is a force for good in a region with few media organisations the people can trust.

At 11pm on Sunday, the BBC rang me: “What’s going to happen to the oil price?”. “It’s going up”, I answer, “how far depends on the other dominoes to fall”. Egypt is responsible for 1% of world Oil production, 2% of refining capacity and the Suez canal & pipeline carries another 4% or so to the west. Operations of both are, so far at least, unaffected. One other country in the region is responsible for 14% of world production. And the question I’m asking myself is whether you or I would be willing to pay $200 per barrel or more (taking a tank of petrol well over £100) in return for the fall of the house of Saud? As predicted, let’s hope the dominoes keep falling. And one-day if these revolutions usher in democracy, politics with the middle east might not be all about oil & terrorists. At moments like this, optimism is not necessarily naivety.