Local media skews coverage of Forbes article on New Suez Canal

Wednesday’s newspapers were full of headlines about a report by Forbes allegedly celebrating the New Suez Canal project.


The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, independently owned Al-Masry al-Youm and Al-Watan, among others, reported that Forbes described the project as “a great achievement that would help Egypt present itself on the world stage as a country heading in the right direction.”


The local coverage however failed to mention that this sentence was followed by a disclaimer: “But it shouldn’t be forgotten that its stability today is fragile.”


The Forbes piece is an opinion article by Chris Wright, with a footnote explaining that opinions expressed by Forbes’ contributors are their own.


Local newspapers entirely overlooked his criticism of the project. They included his reference to the completion of the project before the deadline and his citing of Egyptian officials saying the new canal would increase daily traffic from 49 to 97 ships by 2023. 


Wright also mentioned that the US$8 billion project was funded through investment certificates, which he said demonstrates “the liquidity that is available in Egypt for the right investments.” He added that this is a positive indication of Egypt’s economy, despite concerns over inflation pressures, foreign exchange reserves, fiscal deficit and government debt as a percentage of GDP.


The second half of the article, however, focused on other concerns facing the country, such as security, the lack of a democratic basis for the current government — which overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood — the recent mass death sentences that have been issued, and a political environment in which Forbes says “radical Islam could attract the disenfranchised.” He also mentioned violations of press freedoms, which he said are worse than under Mubarak, “demonstrated by the appalling incarceration of Al Jazeera journalists on grounds that were nothing less than a mockery of the judicial process.”


“It’s an uneasy fact: the Sisi government, improving Egypt’s economy though it is, is as undemocratic as the Mubarak government that was overthrown in the revolution in the first place,” Wright wrote.


In an email to Mada Masr, Wright lamented the way his ideas were relayed, adding that there are obvious concerns that are worth discussing.


This comes as part of a trend of sugarcoating international coverage of the New Suez Canal project. This week, local papers cited English newspaper The Independent as saying that the project is a “symbol of national pride,” and that it “proves Egyptians’ ability to rise,” and is a testament to their ability. It failed, however, to mention that the Independent was sceptical as to the true aims of the project.


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