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Egypt's media target Saudi Arabia

Egypt media is in a war of words with Saudi Arabia [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 November, 2015

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A war of words has erupted between Egyptian and Saudi media figures and outlets over the past few weeks signaling tensions between the two countries.

A war of words has erupted between Egyptian and Saudi media figures and outlets over the past few weeks signaling a rise in tensions between the two countries.

On 16 October, the Egyptian newspaper al-Youm al-Sabea reported that an argument broke out between the chairman of state owned al-Ahram media group, Ahmed El-Sayed El-Naggar and the Saudi ambassador to Egypt, Ahmad Qattan, at a meeting held at the residence of the Algerian ambassador in Cairo.

     An argument broke out between the chairman of state owned al-Ahram media group, Ahmed El-Sayed El-Naggar and the Saudi ambassador to Egypt, Ahmad Qattan

The argument began after the Saudi ambassador criticised reports published by al-Ahram that demean the regional role of Saudi Arabia, to which El-Naggar responded by saying that al-Ahram "or even a building in central Cairo" is older than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to reports.

Appearing in a televised interview on Algeria's Ennahar TV on 22 October, El-Naggar said: "I was defending the honour of my country," when asked about the incident between him and the Saudi ambassador.

El-Naggar's comments came moments after he implicitly criticised the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

"Egypt does not have anything to do with the destruction of schools, hospitals, civilian airports or cultural landmarks," said El-Naggar.

'Insulting' Egyptian media

On Saturday, Khaled Salah, editor-in-chief of al-Youm al-Sabea and a presenter on Egypt's privately owned al-Nahar TV launched an attack against the Saudi owned MBC group's Egyptian branch, MBC Masr, for broadcasting a comedy sketch that poked fun at Egyptian TV stations.

The "offending" sketch on the comedy show Abu Hafidha, featured a song titled "Look at the exclusive on Egyptian TV" performed by Egyptian actors, which accused Egyptian TV of being boring and living in the past.

Salah attacked the Saudi owned TV channel on Twitter demanding the channel make a formal apology and calling the Egyptian actors that took part in the sketch "slaves".

He also demanded that head of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union take legal action against MCB Masr, and accused the MBC group of attempting to destroy Egyptian TV for foreign capital to sole influencer of Egyptian opinion.

Another prominent TV personality, Ibrahim Eissa, renewed his attacks on Saudi Arabia this week and called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stop accepting massive Gulf funding.

     While Eissa attacked Saudi Arabia, he had nothing but kind word to say about the United Arab Emirates

Speaking on his weekly political talk show on ONTV, Eissa accused Saudi Arabia of funding terrorist groups in Syria and called on Sisi to stop being "a captive to Riyadh," adding, "Egypt needs to be liberated from the relationship of gratitude to Saudi Arabia".

While Eissa attacked Saudi Arabia, he had nothing but kind word to say about the United Arab Emirates, which he described as "an important, respectable and large country with an amazing population".

New player on the field

The systematic attacks on Saudi Arabia by establishment media figures signal a shift in Egyptian-Saudi relations, which started to cool off after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in January.

In late June, Saudi deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman visited Cairo and signed what was dubbed the "Cairo Declaration," which included agreements on Saudi-Egyptian media coordination.

However, current political indicators suggest that Egyptian media outlets are pivoting towards the UAE, which has started playing a larger financing role through directly funding projects such as al-Ghad al-Arabi TV, al-Bawaba News and others.

Furthermore, in August 2014, a UAE company bought full sponsorship rights in the Egyptian football league for $11.2 million.

Another indicators to the growing importance of the UAE to Egypt is Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's visit to the UAE last week, which observers believes was aimed at bolstering business and investment relations.

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