The Mubarak regime is openly and shamelessly admitting that it is fine to lie to tens of millions of Egyptians: Al-Ahram, the largest, oldest and "most respected" newspaper in the Arab world has been caught doctoring a photo of President Hosni Mubarak.

This was not the first time that the state-run newspaper has been caught forging photos or fabricating news stories. Such cases are not unusual in Arab countries that are run by corrupt and totalitarian regimes.

Like the rest of their Arab colleagues working for state-owned media outlets, Mubarak's editors and journalists see nothing wrong with publishing lies and fabrications.

Mubarak's media have been publishing lies and fabrications for decades, especially with regard to Israel and the situation in Egypt. In addition, Middle East experts have often pointed out that the state-controlled media in Egypt is among the most anti-Semitic in the world.

Egyptian editors and journalists on Mubarak's payroll have been telling their readers that Jews were behind 9/11, that Israel was spreading AIDS in the country and that Israeli security agents had flooded the Egyptian market with chewing gum that makes women feel an urgent need to engage in sexual intercourse.

Some Egyptian journalists working for Mubarak's government even went as far as holding Israel and its supporters responsible for exposing the doctored photo. This is in keeping with the long-time and familiar policy of all Arab dictatorships, namely to blame Israel and Jews for everything that goes wrong in the Arab world.

These dictatorships think that the Arabs and Muslims are so stupid that they could get away even with fabricating photos.

A regime that fabricates photos and news stories cannot be trusted with holding free and democratic elections.

The case of the doctored photo in Al-Ahram should also serve as a warning to readers in the Arab world in general, and in Egypt, not to take everything they read and see in their media for granted. Arab journalists, on the other hand, need to get together to launch a campaign against such practices that defame their profession and damage the credibility of Arab media.

In the original photo, Mubarak appeared walking behind President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas during the launch of US-sponsored talks in Washington in early September.

The government-appointed editors of Al-Ahram decided that it was "unbefitting" of their president to be seen trailing behind other world leaders.

The editors found a quick and easy solution to the "problem." Using Photoshop, they played around with the picture so that Mubarak would appear at the helm.

Those who until now thought that these regimes use their media only to distort the truth and publish fabricated stories have now discovered how far the dictatorships are prepared to go in their effort to brainwash Arabs and Muslims.

The nerve, or audacity, of these repressive regimes also knows no boundaries. Instead of apologizing to its readers for deceiving them with the doctored photo of Mubarak, Al-Ahram rushed to defend its act of deception.

Al-Ahram's editor justified the trickery by arguing that the doctored photo was only meant to illustrate Egypt's leading role in the Middle East peace process.

The timing of the publication of the doctored photo is also significant: it comes at a time when Egyptians are starting to ask questions about the future of their country in the wake of reports about their dictator's deteriorating health.

For the media in the Arab and Muslim world, reality can sometimes be painful and unacceptable.

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