Egypt's State Media Implicated In Violence Against Christian Demonstrators
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- Egyptian state television has been accused of spreading false information and inciting violence against Christians protesting in front of the TV building in Maspero on October 9. Calls have been made for the Information Minister Osama Heikal to resign. Egyptian lawyer Hamdi el-Assuiti filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General against the Minister of Information and TV presenter Rasha Magdi, accusing them of "deliberate broadcast of false news, information and rumors, which disturbed public security, causing terror among the public, and harming public interest."

While the event of the attack on the Copts was ongoing, news presenters called on Egyptians to come to the aid of their armed forces, which were being attacked by "armed Coptic protesters, killing three military personnel and wounding many," said broadcaster Rasha Magdi. The news bar read the same for over three hours.

Angry Muslim young men from the neighbouring Boulak, Sabtiya and Ezbet el Safih in Ramsis, hurried to the help the army, chanting anti-Christian slogans and intercepting Copts in the streets and assaulting them with stones, clubs, and firearms, before going to Maspero to join the military police attack on the peaceful protesters.

Dr. Emad Gad, head of strategic studies at Al Ahram Organization, called on the Minister to resign, saying the State television's coverage "could have led to wide-scale massacres, or even civil war. I know Copts who did not go to work for two days, afraid to leave their homes."

"This was devastating to the Muslim-Christian relationship," said Nabil Sharaf-eldin, Muslim liberal and head of El-Azma electronic news wire, who attended the Maspero candle vigil before being joined by the 150,000 Christians arriving from Shubra district. He said on his way back home he heard Muslim comments against Christians, adding "it caused a spiritual divorce between them that will never heal."

The Information Minister denied that military armored vehicles were crushing protesters alive. He denied it an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, only to be embarrassed by video footage showing army vehicles indiscriminately driving into crowds of Coptic protesters (Al-Arabiya video).

The State television issued a correction in the morning after the protest, saying no army personnel were killed and it was the fault of the "nervous" TV presenter.

Presenter Rasha Magdi appeared on an independent TV channel and said that she was given the text to read by a "big TV official" and was unaware of the clashes taking place outside the TV building. She admitted to being unprofessional by not mentioning how many Copts were killed.

Hundreds of journalists, broadcasters and public media figures marched today from Sahafa (Press) Street to the State-run TV building in Maspero to denounce the "Sectarianism of the media," calling for the resignation of the Information Minister and a clean-up of the Egyptian State TV, accusing it of igniting sectarian strife.

The demonstrators held the military council and the Minister of Information responsible for the bloody clashes, which took place on Sunday night in front of the Maspero. They held Egyptian flags with the cross and the crescent (the symbol of Islam) on it and banners reading "Osama Haikal set Egypt on fire by the television's coverage."

Two days ago, Major Atman of the Supreme Council of the Armend Forces (SCAF) complimented the Egyptian state TV on its coverage of the Maspero incident.

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