The news of a hot air balloon that crashed in Luxor, killing at least 19 tourists and injuring others, as well as a new session of the contentious national dialogue, broadcast live this time, are the two major headlines in Egypt’s newspapers Wednesday.
“Egypt wakes up to a scary tourist massacre,” reads the main headline of state-owned Al-Ahram. The newspaper says 18 tourists and one Egyptian tour guide were killed in the balloon crash, while another tourist and the balloon’s pilot were injured.
The newspaper cites Luxor-based officials as saying that a forensic committee investigating the matter found that the balloon had a valid permit. Orders were also given to halt the tourist balloon flights until investigations are complete, according to Al-Ahram.
Sister state-owned newspaper Al-Akhbar deems the crash a “new massacre in the skies of Luxor,” adding that the balloon plummeted from an altitude of 300 meters. Some of the passengers leapt to their deaths from the balloon after it caught fire in the air.
Al-Akhbar reports that the dead included an Egyptian tour guide, one Hungarian, two French, two British, four Japanese and nine from Hong Kong, while the survivors were the Egyptian pilot and a British national.
Privately owned Al-Tahrir newspaper asks who is responsible for the crash, quoting tourism experts as saying that the incident will have severe repercussions for the already-suffering tourism industry in Luxor, where hotel occupancy rates were already below 10 percent before the accident.
In a different sort of disaster, a new session of the national dialogue called for by the president convened Tuesday, prompting sarcastic headlines in private newspapers and a celebratory one on the front page of the ruling party’s mouthpiece.
Freedom and Justice newspaper says the talks were aired live with wide participation from political parties and public figures, including the Wafd Party’s Al-Sayed Al-Badawy, disqualified Salafi presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, writer Fahmy Howaidy, judge Mahmoud al-Khodairy and publisher Ibrahim al-Muallem, among others.
While the ruling Freedom and Justice Party declares its commitment to all guarantees of free and fair elections, its mouthpiece quotes officials in the High Judicial Elections Commission as saying that the committee is completely independent.
But the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper says that the national dialogue has turned out to be an “allies meeting,” as only representatives of Islamist parties were present amid a boycott from the opposition coalition National Salvation Front and Copts.
The newspaper quotes former presidential hopeful and NSF member Hamdeen Sabbahi as saying that the front is committed to boycotting the dialogue due to the absence of guarantees for its seriousness.
Al-Shorouk also quotes sources inside the FJP as saying that the party would never agree to delay parliamentary elections as the timing of the elections is a constitutional obligation.
Privately owned newspaper Al-Watan says that “Morsy was talking to Morsy” for the third time, amid the boycott by the Coptic Church and most political parties.
The newspaper quotes various figures politicians who slam the talks and say Morsy's attempts to cement the powers of the Brotherhood from which he hails threaten his legitimacy. They also reportedly cite the alleged torture and violations committed by police forces under his tenure.
In a special report, Al-Shorouk sheds light on the character of the Orthodox Church’s recently elected Pope Tawadros II 100 days into his tenure.
Titled “100 days after Pope Tawadros sits on the papal throne: The Church’s pharmacist is still looking for the medication,” the special report purports to investigate his performance and the opinions of Islamist political forces on his political stances, as well as the contentious issues he faces.
FJP leader Gamal Heshmat says that the pope’s tenure has shown a fairly “constitutional” character, particularly after the withdrawal of the Church from the Constituent Assembly and its boycott of the national dialogue session.
Heshmat slams the pontiff's alleged cooperation with liberal parties, adding that “Islamists and the Church share a common ground in being religious, and both are in a position of responsibility, unlike the liberals.”
Salafi Nour Party leader Shabaan Abdel Alim stipulates that it’s too early to judge the pope's performance. Alim rejects confrontation, "although the Salafi current was extremely outraged by the Church’s decision to withdraw from the Constituent Assembly," he said.
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Youm7: Daily, privately owned
Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned
Al-Sabah: Daily, privately owned
Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party
Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party