Media Whores: The Egyptian Media’s Defamatory Coverage of the Murders of Heba & Nadine

A week ago, Heba Akad, the daughter of famous Moroccan singer, Laila Ghofran, was brutally murdered while sleeping over at the house of one of her girlfriends.

Heba and Nadine. Image via Facebook group.

Heba and Nadine. Image via Facebook group.

Her girlfriend, Nadine Gamal, was also murdered and died from stab wounds and a slashed neck.

Heba, who was stabbed half a dozen times, called her husband as soon as the murderer left and told him what had happened. It took her husband two hours to drive over to the apartment at Sheikh Zayed, a city on the outskirts of Cairo, and by the time he got there, Nadine had died. Heba died in the operating room shortly after her husband got her to the hospital.

The deaths of the two 23-year-olds (pictured left), both college students, are tragic.

But what is more tragic is the way the Egyptian media dealt with the murders. Rather than answering (or attempting to answer) the 5W’s and H in their articles (Who, what, where, when, why, how), they decided to use the front page spots to create what I can only call sensationalist trash. Headlines such as “Hashish and opium and drugs” were a dime a dozen.

If it bleeds, it leads.” So true.

The papers had a field day publishing rumors, manipulating facts, embellishing half-truths, and focusing on (what they believed were) the lives of the two women rather than their deaths.

To sum up what (the majority) of the press reported:

Nadine is one of Egypt’s elite, living it up in a sumptuous villa enclosed in one of Egypt’s many exclusive compounds. She lives alone, meaning she was loose and had no morals. She held huge parties with men coming and going at all hours. She and Heba were high on drugs and booze, and the man who killed them did so violently, meaning it was a crime of passion. It was so violent it couldn’t have been a robbery. The neighbors heard shouts, which means Nadine was arguing with a man—it must be a boyfriend. Oh, and also, she gave LE 40,000 to a boy at university, that must mean something. Perhaps trading in drugs?

Speculations, assumptions and downright lies.

Heba was not hung out to dry in the media, perhaps because of who she was, and perhaps because she didn’t commit the scandalous crime of living on her own. But once the papers found out that she had married her husband behind her parent’s backs, the press tore her to shreds. Who cares how she was murdered or who murdered her? Let’s write about how her mother must feel at this moment! Let’s focus on that!

Nadine’s father, the poor, distraught man, appeared on national TV during one of the nation’s most watched news programs, Al-Beit Beitak (This house is your house), to refute what had been said about his daughter.

The truth:

Nadine’s parents are middle class, and live in Saudi Arabia. She came to Egypt to study. She lives alone in an apartment, not a villa. Her father paid for the apartment over the space of three years, and had to wait another year before he had saved enough money to actually make it habitable. Nadine had been living with her grandparents in Giza, which was a two hour commute both to and from her college. Her grandfather was bedridden and her grandmother was also taking care of two other grandchildren, both of whom had Down’s Syndrome. Tired of the commute and of being an added burden on her grandmother, Nadine asked her father to live in the apartment nearer to her university.

Her dad called her a dozen times a day on a special Saudi line (to save money) to make sure she was okay. She held no parties. She was a “good girl.” The boy the papers said she gave LE 40,000 to was a boy who was thinking of proposing to her. No money was ever exchanged. And she wasn’t his girlfriend in the way the papers insinuated she was—the coroner told her dad that she was a virgin. Blood tests showed there was no drink or drugs in either of the girl’s systems and no drink or drugs were found in the apartment.

“My daughter has just been killed and I have to ask the coroner if she was a virgin to salvage her reputation,” said her father on TV as he struggled to hold back tears. “I had to cancel the funeral because of what the press has reported. Haram what they did. Publish lies. Nahsh a’rad alnas [An Arabic phrase that translates as "clawing the honor of people."] If any of it was true, then write it! But if it’s not, then don’t ruin the memory of an innocent girl who died a horrible death.”

Poster via Facebook group.

"To every newspaper who wronged Nadine and Heba. Your apology or the trash can is waiting for you." Poster via Facebook group.

A Facebook group with almost 2,000 members (another one has over 5,000 members) is asking newspapers for a public apology. Pictured right is one of three posters they’ve created saying: “To every newspaper who wronged Nadine and Heba. Your apology or the trash can is waiting for you.” At the bottom the text reads “An invitation to boycott yellow journalism.” Another poster reads “Nadine: To everlasting paradise. No condolences [accepted] from yellow journal[ists].”

I am totally disgusted. It’s press like this that gives us journalists a bad reputation. If these were any two girls who were murdered, I’d bet anything that not even a tenth of the press coverage would have been given to their murders. But since it was the daughter of a famous singer that was killed, it’s news. And not just any news, but front page news for an entire week.

Yesterday the killer, Mahmoud Abd Al-Hafeeth, was apprehended. He’s only 20 years old. He bought a knife with him and entered the apartment to rob the women, only he woke up Heba. She screamed, he stabbed her. Nadine woke up, ran after him, so he stabbed her. She ran to the kitchen to get a knife, so he stabbed her in the back and slaughtered her, then tried to decapitate her to make sure she was dead. He then ran away.

And the worst part:

He killed them for LE 400 ($70) and a mobile phone.

All the papers published that it turned out there was no crime of passion, only a burglary that went very wrong. But not one paper apologized for what they had previously published.

If you understand Arabic, you can watch the episode on Al-Beit Beitak which talks about the arrest of the murderer here, where the host asks the Journalist’s Syndicate to investigate what the papers wrote and penalize them.

If you don’t understand Arabic, you can watch this small clip of the show, if only to see how nonchalant the murderer is when talking about his crime (he’s in the blue sweater and talks at 2:12) and reenacting—at the actual murder scene—how he climbed up the pipes.

YouTube Preview Image

In lela wa ina ilayhee rage’oon (From God and to Him we return).

May God give them peace.

  • http://tomgara.nomadlife.org Tom G

    this is one of the few times where the ability to sue egyptian newspaper editors for abstract crimes against the community / country could turn out to be a good thing. now where is one of those sketchy NDP-affiliated lawyers when you need them?

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    This is beyond reprehensible! The journalists should be shamed, sued, and fired!

    May God give these women and their families peace.

  • Mandi Fahmy

    This is typical of Egyptian newspapers. Journalists treat themselves as if they were people gossiping in a wedding or a funeral. There is no such thing as professional standards, even in the highly-esteemed papers. The parents of these two girls -May their souls rest in peace and may they be in Heaven- should and must take this issue to court because this is not only about their daughters, but as an act of charity to set a precedent so that newspapers act professionally in the future and stop writing irresponsibly!

  • Ethar

    @ Tom: Here’s hoping! But since the murders aren’t really connected to anyone “important,” (even if I stretch, I don’t think the singer can really be called ‘important’) I doubt there’ll be enough fuss to really punish the newspapers responsible for the libel.

    @ Fatemeh: I agree, 110%

    @ Mandi: *cough* I’m an Egyptian journalist *cough* But I understand why it is few people think Egyptian journalists write as they please. For the most part, unless you’re talking about a touchy political/ economic issue, there isn’t really any supervision over what the press writes. Which is ironic considering there is censorship and that we can get clapped behind bars according to the whims of you-know-whos.

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  • http://www.themuslimah.com Umm Layth

    This is so sad, subhana’Allah. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. : ( Why can’t we even show respect to the dead anymore?

  • Julz

    This guy is sick!!! I can`t believe he is sooooo damn calm!
    There is no way in hell he is a normal being.. definetly ABNORMAL..
    It`s like he never did anything.. explaining and reenacting the murder like he is proud of it..
    And to the press… Leave the girls alone.. let them rest in peace!

    God bless you both Heba and Nadine, our prayers are with you both.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines.]

  • http://www.saudiamber.blogspot.com SaudiAmber

    Thank you so much for this post; it really upset me, but it says so much about the media, and how many believe that the senseless and brutal murder of a woman is inevitable or can somehow ‘justified’ by perceived cultural or sexual transgressions. Disgusting.

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  • Ahmed Amin

    i am totally horified of the murder of the girls,but what struck me was why would a married woman sleep somewhere else,rather than her husbands house.i am not happy that they were so brutaly murdered,but i am not happy as-well that a married woman could sleep in somebody elses house.

  • Someone

    Fatemah, “No,” sleeping out of her husbands house doesn’t justify what happened to her.

    I have friends who knew both victims. But if all of us just took a step back and realized that if good ‘ol fashion behavior, Christian & Islamic principles, which are traditionally prevalent in our society — but somehow ignored — had been applied. Things like this wouldn’t have ever happened in the first place. Namely because, in moderately strict Christian & Muslim families, a related man must always be around unprotected women precisely for such reasons.

    Even the defamation from the media outlets is liable & contrary to such principles of faith. What has happened to Egypt? At the funeral which was a Muslim procession, wasn’t Quran being recited? The very verses which forbid women to sleep alone unaccompanied outside of their houses.

    But I guess we only turn to God when it’s too late. Too busy trying to -be “iPhone-Cool” religiously following the TOP 40, Starbucks, Social Guru’s to care about being labelled nerdy Christian or Muslims.

    May they both just rest in peace. After all, God is love & forgiveness!

    PEACE!

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Ahmed: what are you saying? Why is it a problem that a woman sleeps at her best friends’ house if they are both women? Does that mean she somehow deserved what happened to her?


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