Wednesday’s papers: Local press sells panic

With Wednesday’s headlines reading more like a series of ominous and unrelated cliffhangers, Al-Shorouk vies for attention by placing a thick red frame around its own: “Calm in the streets, flames in Parliament, and a nation on the brink of civil disobedience.”

In its lead story, the independent paper writes that “while a cautious calmness has descended on the square for the first time in five days, Parliament has witnessed a series of heated events,” beginning with two former employees setting themselves on fire outside the building before being hospitalized (and winding up in Al-Shorouk’s tasteless pun). Less-literally heated events took place within Parliament, where MP’s apparently spent Tuesday’s session trading “accusations and insults” with an enthusiasm described to Al-Shorouk by an anonymous insider as “completely out of control.”

Escalation comes with liberal party paper Al-Wafd, and its countdown of “72 detrimental hours in the fate of Egypt.” The paper reports on “the call by various revolutionary groups for a nationwide strike on Saturday, to mark the one-year anniversary of the former president’s ouster.” The aim of the strike, Al-Wafd reports, is the immediate relinquishing of power by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces.

According to Al-Wafd, the April 6 Movement has confirmed its participation in the planned strike and its intention to “intensify its strike into civil disobedience until SCAF transfers power.” The paper also reports that, in preparation for the strike, several schools and universities have announced they will close Saturday, with students from the University of Alexandria even issuing their own warning to the SCAF, informing them that the nation’s youth has “lost its patience” with the ruling council, which they gave 72 hours to meet their demands.

Similarly, the Egyptian Socialists Youth Union has encouraged citizens to “not pay taxes, in order to adhere to principals of civil disobedience and general rules of striking,” Al-Wafd reports. The 10th of Ramadan Labor Unions have also stated their “guarantee of participation in the civil disobedience,” apparently forgoing the whole ‘strike’ part of the plan.

The Muslim Brotherhood announced it would “boycott the strike,” which it believes “will not be beneficial to the nation’s interests at this point in time.”

Further down the page and comprising the second of its four red-font news items, Al-Wafd looks into “the mystery behind Mubarak’s courtroom absence,” pointing out that Tuesday marked the first time the former president failed to appear at one of his hearings. The paper’s investigative reporting reaches the conclusion that Mubarak was kept from court by “either a deterioration in his health or unsafe weather conditions preventing his transport by plane,” before settling on the latter. In his absence, Mubarak’s team of lawyers continued to claim that the revolution was funded by foreign powers and that “it wasn’t ‘peaceful’ as the protesters claim, because so many police officers were killed.”

Featuring even more red font is Al-Dostour’s front page, which leads with the hilariously morbid headline, “Mubarak threatens to kill himself, and the people want him and his cronies to commit mass suicide.” The accompanying report describes the former president throwing a temper tantrum when informed of his impending transfer from the International Medical Center to slightly less posh Tora prison hospital. Mubarak reportedly “trashed his room” when his officers refused to follow his orders to “call their supervisors.” The 83-year-old calmed down only after being given tranquilizers.

Al-Dostour also reports on the transfer of Mubarak’s sons and cronies to separate facilities after sharing the same prison wing for the better part of the past year. Activists and revolutionary groups who had previously called for the separation are now demanding that the inmates be stripped of access to any means of communication with each other, or the outside world.

“These [former regime members] should each be held in solitary confinement, with no visitation rights, and lights out at 7 pm,” demanded one unspecified “revolutionary youth group.” “The Port Said massacre was only the first of many, all of which were planned and executed due to the fact that these inmates have had regular contact with each other and outside supporters.”

In Al-Tahrir, Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Eissa asks if the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi members of Parliament intend to testify in defense of Mubarak and former Minister of Interior Habib al-Adly in their ongoing trials. Eissa claims that both Islamist parties have already displayed signs they support the former regime with recent parliamentary announcements saying how essential the Interior Ministry is to the state, and clearly labeling the protesters currently gathered in front of it as ‘thugs’. Eissa points out the similarities between those statements and the arguments of Mubarak’s defense team, while questioning the parties’ motives, and obvious hypocrisy.

State-owned Al-Ahram turns its attention to foreign affairs in its lead story, citing the “escalating tension between Cairo and Washington” over the American NGO workers referred to a criminal court on Sunday on allegations they illegally used foreign funds to instigate unrest within the country. Al-Ahram reports that the military delegation sent to Washington last week to discuss this and other issues abruptly ended its visit on Tuesday and would return to Cairo the following day. Meanwhile, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Abouelnaga has downplayed the issue, saying “The Egyptian government is not against the work of NGOs, as long as they exist within a legal framework.”

In Freedom and Justice, the brightly-colored newspaper published by the Muslim Brotherhood party (“It’s for everyone,” their slogan promises) an enticing report follows the “Army’s search for the third hand in Suez.” According to the paper, entire divisions of the infantry’s third platoon in Suez have been deployed on a special mission to find the “Third Hand,” (i.e. subversive elements, i.e. foreigners). The infantry has even enlisted several of the governorate’s “young, unemployed men” to assist it in “navigating neighborhoods with which they are already familiar.” While the party paper points out that the young civilians will not be given firearms, they will presumably still be allowed to pose with them.

Egypt’s papers:

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-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: 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

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