Tuesday’s papers: Rallies, martyrs, judges, and labor

Tuesday’s papers focus their top coverage on four main developments today: a host of rallies supporting and opposing President Morsy’s new constitutional declaration, the funeral processions for two teenage martyrs from the anti- and pro-Morsy camps, the ongoing judges’ strike in light of Morsy’s decrees that placed the president beyond judicial oversight, and reactions to the president’s controversial Labor Decree 97, which was issued on Sunday.

Topping the news are rallies and protest marches which are scheduled in cities across Egypt today. A mass protest is being organized Tuesday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square by opponents of Morsy’s new constitutional declaration, along with protest actions in Alexandria and other cities to begin around 5 pm.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood, its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, and its Islamist allies had agreed to postpone their pro-Morsy rallies, citing concerns regarding the potential for violence between the opposing protest stands, newspapers, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s mouthpiece, are reporting that these protests will take place as originally scheduled.

Morsy’s constitutional declaration, which was issued on 22 November, grants the president sweeping powers while insulating him from judicial oversight.

The Brotherhood’s daily, Freedom and Justice, runs a front page headline reading: “Million-person renaissance rally to confront the remnants of the old regime and their new allies.” The FJP paper also mentions that “workers, farmers, and transport employees support Morsy’s decrees,” without mentioning how or why these professions are supporting the president.

Another headline in the paper reads: “Today, a million-person protest supporting the president’s decrees in front of Cairo University.”

The protest is reportedly to be held by the Renaissance statue, outside the university, in reference to the Brotherhood’s “Renaissance Project” which aims at lifting Egypt into a new age of rebirth. This later article mentions that “President Morsy’s decrees aim to protect the goals of the revolution and safeguarding national stability.” This article goes on to mention: “the rally, called for by the Muslim Brotherhood, is widely supported by national and revolutionary forces.”

The liberal opposition paper Al-Wafd runs a front-page headline reading: “The revolution continues and Egypt stands above the Brotherhood: the word today belongs to the Egyptians in Tahrir Square.”

This article goes on to denounce Morsy’s constitutional declaration, along with “violations against the independence of the judiciary, disregarding the state of law, power-hungry ploys for additional sovereignty, despotism over the rights of the populace, insulation against judicial oversight, and a return to emergency measures.”

Another article in this paper says: “Uprising of the people, judiciary, lawyers and national forces… Al-Wafd is at the forefront.”

In the independent Al-Sabah newspaper runs a headline reading: “Judges, journalists and workers in their tents occupying Tahrir Square, while the Brotherhood seeks to mobilize its forces by recruiting students and Central Security Forces.” The paper fails to adequately mention how the Brotherhood is capable of mobilizing riot-police troops and unaffiliated students to join their rallies.

Also in Al-Sabah is the headline “Today, Cairo University Bridge stands between opposition and Brotherhood in million-person-protests.” The bridge straddles the Nile, where the opposition will be protesting in Cairo Governorate, while Morsy supporters planned to protest westwards, across the river in Giza Governorate.  

In the independent Al-Shorouk, the main headline reads: “The revolution is susceptible to collapse.” This article mentions that “Egypt is holding its breath prior to the opposing million-person-protests scheduled for today.” The article also reports that “security reports have warned the president about a potential outbreak of explosive violence between the two opposing camps.”

The state-owned daily Al-Gomhurriya steers clear of mentioning these two opposing rallies, instead running a front-page article explaining how “President Morsy consults Prime Minister Hisham Qandil and Interior Minister Ahmad Gamal Eddin about security conditions in Cairo and the governorates,” in light of the nationwide protests relating to the President’s constitutional declaration.

Al-Wafd reports that 72 were injured in “bloody clashes” in the Nile Delta cities of Mahalla and Tanta over the course of the past week. Other clashes also took place in Cairo, Alexandria, Damanhour, Minya, and Assiut.

Al-Wafd reports that a total of “two martyrs and 444 [were] injured as a result of street battles in Cairo and the governorates.” These statistics are confirmed in Al-Gomhurriya which mentions the same numbers, citing the Ministry of Health.

The two deaths reported are those of 16 year-old Gaber “Jika” Salah, a member of the April 6 Youth Movement, and 15 year-old Islam Massoud, a Brotherhood supporter — both of whom died on Sunday in violent street battles between Morsy opponents and supporters.

“The story of Jika and Islam” according to Al-Sabah, is that the former “took to the streets protesting and demanding justice for the martyrs and their families, and was thus shot dead by Morsy’s police.” While the latter “fell victim to a rock attack” targeting the Brotherhood’s regional headquarters in Damanhour.

Al-Shorouk runs a headline reading “Jika and Islam … their blood is my blood.” The article mentions that thousands attended the funerals of both the teenagers — in Cairo and Damanhour, respectively. Jika’s parents are holding Morsy personally responsible for their son’s death; while Islam’s brother has blamed the Freedom and Justice Party for his death. “How does the FJP expect a 15 year-old to protect its headquarters from a mob of angry protesters?”  Islam’s brother, quoted in Al-Shorouk, reportedly asked.

The FJP paper, portraying the president as a compassionate leader of all Egyptians, mentions that “Morsy has mourned and honored the deaths of both these youths.” The president has reportedly called on his new hand-picked public prosecutor to immediately investigate the deaths of both these teens.

The FJP paper runs its top front-page headline as “Instigators of strife killed Islam.” Page six names and identifies the killers as Sameh Ashour, the president of the Lawyers’ Syndicate and an opponent of Morsy’s, who has “called for the burning of Brotherhood offices and destruction of public institutions” along with Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister who competed with Morsy for the presidency, “who allies himself with advocates of chaos,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA chief, Nobel Laureate and liberal opposition leader, who is “attempting to instigate a military coup” and finally Amr Moussa, the former Secretary General of the Arab league, and unsuccessful presidential candidate, who is “a product of the deposed dictator, donning the guise of the revolution.”

Regarding its coverage of the ongoing judges’ strike, the FJP paper runs a headline reading “Courts and judges reject strike!!” This article says that “90 percent of courts and prosecution departments ignored the strike called for Justice Ahmed al-Zend and his Judges’ Club.”

Al-Wafd mentions “Judges protest and strike, paralyzing courts and prosecution.” This paper mentions that 22 primary courts (courts of first instance) while four additional circuits (of the primary level) are considering joining the strike.

Al-Sabah reports that 20 courts are on strike, and that 15 primary courts and five appeals courts joined the strike call against Morsy’s violations of judicial independence, and interferences.”

Al-Shorouk mentions  “Judges’ strike expands” the piece cites “21 primary courts out of a total of 26 are striking, with only four of these courts still hearing cases as usual.”

In other news, Morsy’s first law issued after his constitutional declaration on November 22 — Labor Decree 97/2012 — issued on November 25, has been met with resistance from both the state-controlled trade union federation and independent trade unions.

The FJP paper runs a piece detailing Decree 97 without adding any commentary. This decree aims to replace unionists over the age of 60 within the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and replacing them with younger officials, who are to be chosen according to seniority in votes and/or appointed by the ministry of manpower. Decree 97 also extends the ETUF’s term of office for another six months — although the ETUF elections have already been postponed by a whole year.

Al-Wafd reports that independent unions reject the labor decree. Its article cites the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU,) which claims that the president’s decree facilitates intervention into the independent affairs of labor unions, along with facilitating the “Brotherhood-ization” of the state-controlled ETUF.

Al-GomhurriyaNewspaper quotes the (Brotherhood’s) Minister of Manpower. Khaled al-Azhary: “this labor decree aims at pumping new blood and rejuvenating union leaderships.” This minister dismisses claims that Morsy’s decree aims at replacing the ETUF’s old guard, primarily Mubarak loyalists over the age of 60, with newer Brotherhood leaders. “The decree does not aim at Brotherhoodizing the ETUF or settling scores” according to Azhary.

The state-controlled ETUF has rejected Morsy’s labor decree, and has denounced Azhary’s actions as “unwarranted interventions, serving only the interests of the Brotherhood.”

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