There’s an Egyptian Arabic language website and accompanying newsletter called Egypt ICT, which provides news, views and commentary on that most excellent country’s burgeoning ICT scene. Recently it’s been the centre of an outbreak of PR/journalist angst which has proven most fascinating, reporting on a series of events that appear to have sparked a new, well, grumpiness on the part of the country’s press corps.
Back in June, the newsletter gleefully reported a series of gaffes on the part of mobile phone company Nokia. A spat over the apparent exclusion of a number of journalists from a press event appeared to create significant ill-feeling amongst the media there. This was then followed Nokia’s communications people in Egypt apparently suggesting to a rather ungrateful Egyptian media that they might like to conform to a new points based system for rewarding compliant journalists. Points were allegedly to be awarded in return for coverage and journalists who collected lots of points would have privileged access to Nokia executives.
The howl of protest that accompanied this move has still not died down: journalists are, I venture to suggest somewhat gleefully, attacking Nokia and, increasingly, its products in the Egyptian media.
Now the outbreak of grumpiness has crossed over into that most delicate of relationships: that between PRs and journalists. An invitation has been sent out to Egypt’s PR fraternity (‘the marina boys’ in the invitation: a reference to the fact that PRs are seen as yahoos from the yacht club) that offers them a training course in writing media releases and other materials in ‘decent’ Arabic.
It would appear that battle lines are being drawn and that there is going to be some fun to be had out of this. Long abused, disrespected and neglected, Egypt’s journalists have often created a rod for their own backs because it is all too easy to ‘buy’ coverage – either through paying the paper directly or a journalist indirectly. There are, don’t get me wrong, decent and scrupulous journalists in Egypt who do not do this.
It would appear, however, that the money is no longer enough. It looks like the sheer disrespect accorded Egyptian journalists has finally become too much. Companies beware!