“Victorious” drama… what creativity is sanctioned by the state?
The fields of culture and information received great presidential interest, and were always addressed by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in his speeches, which emphasized the need to limit abuses. We present here examples in various periods of the President’s speeches on culture and information, and how these speeches and their implications influenced the drama committee and other committees formed while monitoring the content of creative works.
“During his inauguration of the Suez canal development axis, El Sisi said “The late leader Gamal Abdel Nasser was lucky, because he was talking and the media was with him.” This sentence is very descriptive to reflect the ideal model that the Authority sees and supports in governance. The drama committee and its members also recalled the rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser to pay tribute to the level of artistic and creative works at the time, or to praise the intervention of the state which tightened its grip on the production process and the nationalization of the production market, as well as in recommendations by the media council, foremost those related to the need for the return of the state’s “national productions” to the drama market and the need for a national drama festival to be organized and supported by the ministry of culture.
During his meeting with the delegation of artists during his presidential candidacy, Al-Sisi clarified that the role of art has declined during the last period compared to previous periods, stressing that the developed nations are trying to market their foreign image and always try to export their image to different countries in the world. These messages were formulated with great care, to highlight the role of values in society and indirectly instill good meanings within the hearts of young people and children.
“We worked to move the state against the axis seeking state destruction, and worked to address all the reasons for the overthrow of the state, and we call on the media to create a phobia against the idea of the fall of the state.”
President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Youth Conference in Alexandria, July 2017
It is clear here that the current authority, like others, is very adamant about its image. Therefore, its control of the cultural and media platforms seeks to nourish the image of the “victor” of itself and its vision of morality, religion and government. It seeks to project this image and to frequently repeat it until it is imprinted in the minds, and are sought by the audience in drama works, so that it can be projected back on the state.
“We need our experience to be rich. I repeat to all of us even to the media, TV, movies and series, who will take this upon themselves, who will shape consciousness. Mr. Ahmed you, and Ms. Yousra you will be held accountable for that “by God”. Yes, you will be held accountable. Present people with hope, give them hope for tomorrow, improve our values and morals; only you can do this. Each state sector will have a role and we shall see next Ramadan”.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a ceremony celebrating the 2015 police day
This nationalistic moralistic tone adopted by the Authority in its speeches calls for the performance of serious and moralistic art, which portrays a society of high virtue, and presents members of this society as key actors in the process of change that begins and ends by individuals, completely individualistic individuals, totally free to make free choices and become good people in a moralistic society, where there are no conflicts or complexities.
This was what the Drama Committee proposed for the meeting discussing the TV drama season of 2017. At the meeting, it was agreed to draft a working paper on the priority topics of content that the community needs at the current stage, such as those that “raise the values of cooperation and spread joy.”
We also find that the list of irregularities monitored by the Egyptian National Council for Women on the first half of the month of Ramadan, which it presented to the drama committee in the reports, strongly expressed the stereotype women in Egyptian society, projected in a beautiful drama genre of a utopian society. Below we shall present some of those quotes.
Examples of the “bad” women’s image in the report of the National Council for Women:
Positive images of women whose son is martyred by terrorist groups and refuses to receive compensation despite their need, and the appearance of women involved in terrorist groups.
The appearance of drugs and smoking among women, and the excess audacity in some scenes of women, alienating the public and malicious to human feelings.
The appearance of women who bear humiliation and beating without objecting.
The emergence of some professions for women in a negative way, especially the media presenter that precedes events and misrepresents and condemns without evidence.
The wife who screams at her husband constantly and asks him a lot of things .. The wife who controls the husband and criticizes him in front of others .. The wife who controls her husband and is usually not grateful.
Examples of the positive image of women in the report of the National Center for Women:
The female friend who supports the main character in defending his rights and cares for his family.
The ambitious, persevering young female journalist who seeks to achieve self-actualization despite circumstances and works to help her boss to work to uncover the truth and access information.
The woman who is responsible for her home and successful in her work and trying to find solutions to problems and seeks to satisfies all parties, help her family and support them
The female divorcee who does not succumb to the surrounding social conditions and succeeds in her work.
The liberated women within the traditions of society capable of leading the work in companies, participating alongside men and excel above them.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The Supreme Council of Media and its chairman Makram Mohamed Ahmed face many problems and difficulties in the new formation of the drama committee. The council approached members of the film and drama sector to persuade them to chair the committee, replacing Mohamed Fadel. However, successive apologies received by the council raised questions about the future of the committee and whether there will be a review of the role of the Committee and its terms of reference and statements emanating from the membership. Makram Mohammed Ahmed had promised to announce the formation of the new drama committee in early July 2018, which has not been achieved so far because of the reluctance of everyone after the wide criticism it was met with.
We can consider that the suspension of the work of the drama committee until it is reconstituted is a limited success for creative artists and workers in the field of television drama, where the drama committee was forced to struggle with the Supreme Media Council to prove the authority of the committee and its ability to implement its decisions and define the obligations of art workers, a conflict that was temporarily resolved in favor of the drama workers, as the Supreme Council of Media did not abandon its wish to revive the drama committee again.
AFTE believes that the responsibility of shaping the next phase lies to a small part on the shoulders of intellectuals and workers in the field of television drama industry. Therefore, we call on this group to use the confusion of the Supreme Media Council in re-forming the committee, and pressure to cancel the work of such committees, or pressure to propose another alternative to this committee, mechanisms and that are not related to the control of dramas, but rather propose agreements and laws that guarantee freedom of creativity based on provisions of Article 67 of the 2014 Constitution, and to take into account the diversity and plurality of modern access tools of this age, with which the terms such as censorship and prevention become totally absurd, seeking to facilitate the work of creative artists and to identify their problems without restrictions or conditions, and to ensure that the viewer has the right as a consumer to the enjoyment of drama works without falsification or control, by limiting advertising to only three adds per series.
Despite the difference between this proposal and the previous work of the drama committee, the Committee has addressed in its meetings recommendations that contribute to adoption of a different role, such as emphasizing the need to protect the viewer’s right to enjoy watching drama works without excessive advertisement breaks and the need to activate protocols of cooperation by sending of delegations of artists for study and training abroad, and to coordinate with the relevant State bodies regarding excessive prices, fees and premise rentals.
“Freedom of artistic and literary creativity is guaranteed. The State shall encourage arts and literature, sponsor creative artists and writers and protect their productions, and provide the means necessary for achieving this end.
No lawsuit may be initiated or filed to stop or confiscate any artistic, literary, or intellectual works, or against their creators except by the Public Prosecutor. No freedom restricting sanction may be inflicted for crimes committed because of the publicity of artistic, literary or intellectual product. As for crimes related to the incitement of violence, discrimination between citizens, or impingement of individual honor, the Law shall specify the penalties therefore.
In such cases, the court may obligate the sentenced to pay punitive compensation to the victim of the crime, in addition to the original compensations due to the victim for the damages incurred. All the foregoing shall be in accordance with the Law. “
Article 67 of the 2014 Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt
The experience of the drama committee, which was short-lived, shows the inability of the state represented in its councils, bodies and intellectuals to make a decisive victory by imposing its moral and ethical standards by presenting an ideal image of Egypt and the Egyptians, an image that claims to doctor reality to make it the desired and hoped for reality and on the other hand can be later used as a reference for new pretenses, depicting the desired individual and society or their imagined image of women, classes, police, professionals, etc.
However, this failure was not only a result of the success of the defenders of freedom of expression, or those who advocate for the existence of reduced censorship, but because of the inability of the drama committee to understand the freedom of creativity that existed in the period when the state previously dominated the production of drama or the later stage that witnessed openness and diversity in production. In both eras drama works enjoyed a margin of freedom, which allowed for the production of some works which would not have passed the standards of the resigned drama committee.
It does not appear that the state represented in its Higher Council for Media Regulation has been able to support the vision of the highly reactionary drama committee. This may be due to the presence of producers and manufacturers outside the control of the state on the one hand and attempts by the state itself to take control of production, which enforces those standards of a Utopia at the source without a need for committees to intervene postproduction.
Perhaps the trend that the drama committee has already succeeded in is to unleash more and more parties to compete in creative works and to contain it from all sides, a trend that could help enhance self-censorship among creative actors and producers themselves.
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