In Egypt, split narrative over state TV protests

It was one of those surreal Cairo moments, where you realize just how completely polarized the narratives of Egypt's post-uprising protests have become. 

Even as my Twitter timeline was moving fast Sunday afternoon with news from local activists of clashes between protestors and unknown assailants outside Maspero, the massive Nasser-era fortress that houses Egypt's state television in central Cairo, the government press center, located on the first floor of the same building, was ringing my phone.

 "Hello?" I answered, a bit baffled considering the violence reportedly taking place just outside.

Hundreds of protestors, sometimes reaching into the thousands, had been protesting outside Maspero in varying intensity since the first anniversary of the beginning of Egypt's popular revolt on Jan. 25, 2012. Activists are demonstrating against what they say is outrageous government propaganda spouted by the regime-run media stations there, and that incites violence against protestors. 

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"Yes, Miss Erin," the press center employee, who I will not name, replied. "Please come to Maspero to pick up your paperwork."

"But, is it safe to enter the building?" I asked. "I hear there is violence right now in front of Maspero." 

"No, no," the employee answered dismissively. "Nothing is happening. It is completely safe."  

The clashes were indeed minor — with just three injured from rock-throwing and apparent battles between two groups with sticks — but the tussles and tense atmosphere lasted for hours.

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It was unclear if the press center functionary was offering a real assessment of the level of conflict, brushing off the impact of the demonstrations, or was truly unaware that anti-Maspero protestors were sparring with plainclothes attackers just below his office.

Activists said the group of attackers was hired by police or army to break-up the protest.  

Regardless, the conversation was a window into how different the perceptions of pro-democracy activists and the Maspero employees they are trying to reach are a year after Egypt's uprising — even when they are just meters apart. 

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