Tim Radford, chairman, greeted the audience and introduced himself and the speakers.
At the outset he stressed that in Britain everything is written according to the audience – they dictate their expectations.
Nadia El-Awady, Program Manager & Founder, WFSJ & Arab Science Journalists Association, Egypt
She outlined specific case – how the media in Egypt covered the swine flu (May, 2009). This case revealed weaknesses of the Egyptian media. Egypt has a special background which creates a certain state of mind and leads to chaos. It can be illustrated by following steps:
- 23 April – WHO began reporting cases of N1H1.
- 28 April – Egyptian parliament called for slaughter of the pigs.
- 29 April – Slaughter started by presidential decree.
- Egypt is the only Islamic country that has a significant pig population: 100 000 – 300 000 heads. Consumption of pork is prohibited by Islam but there is a large tourism industry and 10 % of population is Christian. Majority of the pigs belong to the Christian minority.
- Egyptian government received much criticism in the past few years – there was huge rockslide which killed 100 people, fires which burned parliamentary house, ferry sinking which killed hundreds of people. This created a lot of mistrust to the government.
- Plans to remove pigs were here since 2006 already because pigs are not bred on farms but live with people in their homes in slums. People who have
the pigs are garbage collectors who bring the garbage to pigs to eat. This creates sanitary problems. The plans though were never carried out.
- There exists tension between the Christians and the Muslims in the past few years.
- There are concerns over corruption in every section of the society.
- As a result Egyptian government involved itself into the drastic response to the imminent threat – they felt the pig flu virus would mutate in the pig and become dangerous.