Next month, we Egyptians will have a critical and significant opportunity to help make our aspirations for political and economic stability a reality. On 26 and 27 May, millions of us from all over the country and abroad will cast votes to choose Egypt’s next president. As we vote — just as we did when we voted overwhelmingly in January to approve the most progressive and inclusive constitution in our history — we will be fulfilling a hopeful promise. That pledge, made to Egyptians and to the world, was for an accountable, effective and balanced government, one that expands rights, puts Egypt on a path toward economic prosperity, and truly answers to all the people of Egypt.
While neither this milestone on Egypt’s transition to democracy nor others come without challenges, it is a sad reality that one constant in this process has been the existence of stubborn detractors. These critics who seem most interested in cheering for Egypt’s failure close their eyes to evidence of progress and open them only to problems — many of them exaggerated, taken out of context or just outright misrepresented. In this, The Washington Post continues to lead the pack. Egyptians have grown accustomed to seeing gross factual inaccuracies and biased editorialising littered throughout both the news and opinion pages of the Post. We see the standing of the once-heralded newspaper sadly shredded by this disappointing, persistent stance. But now The Washington Post’s editorial board has irresponsibly sunk to a new low, with a 30 March Op-ed entitled, “The White House’s empty words on supporting Egyptian democracy.”
The editorial states that, “the planned presidential election, expected in less than two months, will not be fair.” It is nothing short of reckless to make such a judgement well ahead of actual events and without any evidence, never mind that any such statement would need a very high standard of evidence to be considered appropriate. The piece goes on to ask, “How could it be [fair] when the winner of the last five elections, the Muslim Brotherhood, is being violently repressed?” This is, of course, factually inaccurate, since the Muslim Brotherhood won three elections, not five. Such sloppy reporting is inexcusable, calls into question other conclusions in their writing and further undermines the Post’s credibility within Egypt. It is hard to understand the motivation for such a sweeping, unsupported pre-judgement.
Egypt’s political achievements are not the only areas in which the Post chooses fiction over fact and judgement over thoughtful contribution. Our gains on the economic and security fronts, too, have been deliberately ignored. For example, the latest editorial goes on to say that “the Egyptian stock market dropped in response to [El-Sisi’s] candidacy” and concludes that “prospects for an economic recovery under his rule are bleak.” Here the Post’s last shred of credibility is obliterated by unsupported judgements. In fact, when now-retired Field Marshal El-Sisi announced his candidacy for president, Egypt’s stock market surged to a five-year high. And the fact that the market has seen historic gains — totaling more than 55 percent growth since last summer — is among many bright spots that demonstrate that the Egyptian economy is regaining strength. Another is the appeal of the Egyptian market to international companies, all of which remain committed to Egypt and many of which are making big, new investments in Egypt’s future. Coca-Cola, for example, plans to invest $500 million in Egypt over the next three years, while AIG recently announced it is planning a major expansion in Egypt.
These developments and many others have been beacons of light for Egyptians and sources of great pride and optimism. Egyptians have fought so hard to see our aspirations come alive, only to see them questioned from abroad and threatened by extremists at home. These militants seek to derail Egypt’s transition to representative, pluralistic democracy with attacks and other acts of terror. But here, too, the government of Egypt continues to make progress, killing nearly 300 terrorists in confrontations with security forces, arresting more than 1,000 terrorists and seizing countless firearms, rounds of ammunition and explosives since last July in Sinai. This progress fails to find its way into the Post’s coverage.
The Washington Post does not only fail to pass the test of Journalism 101 when it comes to reporting the facts, but — even worse — they fail over and over again to capture the spirit of the Egyptian people: our resilience, our hope and our commitment to a better future. Noticeably absent from The Washington Post’s news and opinion coverage is any thoughtful recognition of the enormity to us of all of these events taking place in our country. Democratic transitions are never easy for any nation, but recent revolutions, the passage of a new constitution and upcoming elections mean we Egyptians are, for the first time in history, fully able to direct our own political fortunes. By approving the constitution, the people laid the foundation for a political structure that shall not waver once it has been built — a foundation that includes checks and balances on power, term limits and an impeachment process. Next month, Egyptians will choose an elected, civilian leader as president. Then we will have the chance to choose additional leaders in parliamentary elections. All those elected officials will then set about passing and revising laws to continue to bring the democratic promise to life. Throughout, the people themselves will judge that leader’s performance on fulfilling their desire for a prosperous, stable and democratic Egypt.
The Egyptian people have irreversibly set all this in motion. We have together locked arms, raised our voices and voted in favour of undertaking the difficult but extraordinary steps to realise our destiny and become a democratic nation. But despite all of this progress and promise, The Washington Post’s snide characterisation is that “Egypt will be neither democratic nor stable.” These indeed are “empty words” that will only serve to stoke the furnace of the fire that burns in the bellies of Egyptians everywhere. As the Post’s credibility wanes with its distorted representation of reality, the resolve of the Egyptian people will only grow as they continue their crusade towards an enduring democracy.