Thursday’s papers: Mubarak’s meetings, ‘thousands of lawyers’ protest, Badr steps up

State-owned Al-Ahram starts off today’s news with a report on President Mubarak’s meeting with both the Lebanese and Tunisian prime ministers, Saad Hariri and Mohamed Ghannouchi, in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday. According to the paper, the meeting mainly revolved around “the interest expressed by Egypt and President Mubarak in supporting cooperation within the region.” The three leaders also discussed the current state of the region along with recent developments, in particular “the progress of Islam, and Egypt’s attempts to lift the siege on Gaza, as well as its efforts in securing the rights of Palestinians.”

The report also made the front page in Al-Akhbar, but was overshadowed by the state-owned paper’s lead story on secondary school examinations. In a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif yesterday, cabinet members reached a final agreement on the details of nation-wide secondary school examinations which, according to their conclusion, will begin this coming Saturday in 1,931 schools. Members of the meeting also agreed that 18 September would be the official first day of school and university for the 2010/2011 academic year.

As usual, independent dailies are more concerned with a different set of stories altogether, as seen on Al-Dostour’s front page. For its first lead story, the paper reports on the “thousands of lawyers” demonstrating on the steps of the Tanta courthouse yesterday, in support of two of their colleagues, who are in custody after being charged with assaulting the governorate police chief’s second-in-command. Throngs of protesters gathered to chant and demonstrate outside the courthouse while awaiting the judge’s verdict.

In the meantime, lawyers for the two defendants have put forward pleas for their release in accordance with Egyptian laws. Al-Dostour reports that not only were the pleas immediately denied, they were countered by demands from Tanta’s chief of police, calling for “immediate imprisonment and maximum punishment” for the two lawyers. The defendant’s representatives continue to insist that their clients’ files have been tampered with, claiming the sudden disappearance of 18 crucial pages of records prove that the attack was instigated by members of the police force.

Al-Wafd’s coverage of the same story was a little more up-to-date, coming under the headline: “5 year sentence for each of the lawyers charged with assaulting police chief.” According to the independent daily, the verdict was announced two hours after the court session officially ended, and all lawyers had left the courthouse.

Al-Dostour also reports on Education Minister Ahmed Zaki Badr’s decision to personally supervise the year-end examinations, scheduled to begin soon throughout the country’s schools. In an attempt to guarantee efficiency, Badr has since sent out letters to every Egyptian governor, outlining their personal responsibility in overseeing the safe transport of exam papers from their distribution points to the actual schools. The papers themselves will be delivered to the distribution points by the Egyptian army, which will fly them to the various locations in an attempt to “cut costs, save time and effort, and ensure confidentiality,” according to Ministry spokesman Magdi Rady.  In the meantime, critics of Badr have stated repeatedly that his intervention was inevitable, due to the fact that he has “deemed the ministry’s leading authorities as unnecessary” during his term and has ultimately “given them up.” Badr’s decision to supervise the elections came shortly after Acting President of Examinations Naguib Khazam suffered a crippling stroke.

Besides its coverage of the lawyer-led demonstrations in Tanta, independent daily Al-Shorouq also focuses on a recent report issued by the World Bank, which warns: “Egypt’s current financial situation is an obstacle to its development.” The report predicts that Egypt’s current financial policy, while beneficial in the short-term, will have negative long-term repercussions.  Al-Shorouk points out that the report’s findings do not necessarily coincide with the “government’s expectations for development.”

Egypt’s newspapers:
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef:
 Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
 Daily, privately owned
Daily, privately owned
 Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
 Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
 Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma:
 Weekly, privately owned

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