Egypt and Tunisia: Twin Wikileaks Stories? (I)

In a recent post we showed some empirical results about what we considered the first political crisis after Wikileaks revelation of secret US Department Cables. Tunisia opened the new era where media counts with official documents on how the US diplomacy evaluate the political situation in every country.

Now, a fast developing political crisis takes place in Egypt. Up to now President Hosni Mubarak has removed entirely his Government, and has announced that he will not present as candidate in the next general elections, September 2011. President Mubarak has refused to quit the Presidency and the country, as he considers essential to conduct the transition in order to avoid chaos. Demonstrators still urge President Mubarak demission. There are clashes between partisans and opposition to Hosni Mubarak.

At this stage of the political crisis, not still closed, we present the results concerning the pieces of the storyline of the crisis in Egypt based exclusively on the news directly related to cables revealed by Wikileaks. This is the same exercise we ran with the Tunisia case.

As both the Egyptian and the Tunisian case are apparently extremely close in time, the country profile and the inception of the political unrest and crisis, we propose to show the Wikileaks news on Egypt by comparison with the Wikileaks news referring to Tunisia. This expercise offers us a quite nice check of how media uses and gives interpretation to the content of US Department cables. As the cases of the two countries are rather similar for a foreign reader (and probably also for some journalists) unfamiliar with the reality of both countries before the crisis started, we can address here the research question: do international media portray a similar picture for Egypt and Tunisia when referring to Wikielaks sources? As we have pointed out in many of our precedent posts, we do not assume the mission to elaborate or propose theoretical models from any field before presenting the empirical results. Our goal is just to provide empirical results to interested scientist and readers, as raw material for their own analysis and consideration.

We show then how international media publishing in English explain the situation in Egypt and Tunisia using Wikileaks sources. We follow the same approach used to analyse the case of Pakistan. We have also included a third set of observations, referring to the news where both countries are explicitly mentioned.

The empirical analysis we show is based in content analysis of some 3.000 articles about Egypt (with explicit mention to Wikileaks),  2.000 articles about Tunisia and 900 articles about Egypt and Tunisia together. Values in the graph are relative, and reflect the quantitative weight each issue has in the storilyne of the crisis and the secrets revealed.

First two graphs refer to terms that we consider that are basically showing how media depict the country politics and the Government based in the leaked cables. These terms should probable be those more in relation with the content of the secrets and confidential information revealed.

Our empirical results suggest clearly that the country and Government profile depicted when using Wikileaks sources is not homogeneous at all, as the weight of some terms changes dramatically in Tunisia and Egypt. The most extreme case is “Corruption”. It appears as the most present term in the Tunisian framework, while it counts some five times less in Egypt. In coherence with this result, a similar thing happens with the terms “Scandal” and “Bribe”. In the other side “Human Rights” and “Accontability” has a higger prevalence in Egypt than in Tunisia. As for the underlying economic conditions, it does not appear a clear picture: “Poverty” issues prevail in Egypt media coverage, while “Economic Crisis” is more present in Tunisia related news. “Terrorism” does not appear to be a key player in both countries and take a similar media attention.


The following results are  more related to the description of the ongoing political unrest and crisis, according to our understanding. We find again a specific media coverage for each country, even if the relevant issues are basically the same in both Egypt and Tunisia.

News related to “Freedom”, “Unrest”, “Riot” and “Conflict” prevail when explaining the crisis in Tunisia. “Chaos”, “Revolutionnaires”, “Violence”, “Demonstration” and “Concern” are much more associated to the crisis in Egypt.