Wednesday’s papers: A new form of protest in Egypt, secrets of Ben Ali’s escape and Tunisia’s interim govt

Egyptian papers on Wednesday dedicate their front-page headlines to new cases of people setting themselves on fire as a means of protesting conditions in the country. In the independent Al-Dostour, the top headline reads: "Three suicide attempts in less than 24 hours.. One dies." Sub-headlines read: "Mohamed set himself on fire because he was prevented from seeing his daughter.. Sayyed due to financial crisis.. And Ahmed in Alexandria due to unemployment." In the liberal opposition Al-Wafd newspaper the chief headline reads: "The burnt ones shake the government's throne." Sub-headlines read: "Four new Egyptians burn themselves," and "Death of the first burnt ones."
In the independent Al-Shorouk, more negative coverage can be found under the headline: "Suicide protest fever infects Egyptians," with sub-headlines reading: "Lawyer loses his daughter and so sets his body ablaze outside parliament.. Qaddafi [not the Libyan leader] attempts suicide in protest against his referral to investigations in Ismailiya… Hashim fails to find employment in Alexandria and attempts to end his life… Parliamentary security forces abort fourth attempt."

Al-Shorouk features a small map of North Africa with captions indicating that Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi's act of self-immolation on 17 December led to other such acts in Tunisia, and then to Algeria, Mauritania, and Egypt. Five self-immolations were attempted in Egypt (in Cairo, Alexandria, and Ismailiya; while a sixth person attempted to hang himself due to his unemployment) whereas at least four attempts were recorded in Algeria, and one case in Mauritania.

State-owned Al-Ahram mentions news of these self-immolations in a tiny headline on its front-page which reads: "Citizen burnt to death in Alexandria, two others rescued outside parliament." Only one paragraph on this news is mentioned on Al-Ahram's front-page, and the remainder of the article is buried on its 20th page–the "accidents page."  Al-Ahram's largest headline pertains to an Arab summit on economic development to be held today in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh. The chief headline reads: "Egypt convenes Sharm al-Sheikh summit to focus on development." Sub-headers read: "Mubarak opens economic summit in presence of 11 Arab leaders," and "Arab states strive to limit capital flight from the region."

In its coverage of events in Tunisia, Al-Ahram runs another front-page headline reading: "Withdrawal of four ministers from new Tunisian government." Regarding the escape of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from Tunisia, its headline reads: "Ben Ali and family flee via secret tunnel." In the independent Nahdet Masr newspaper: "Security bluff leads Tunisian president to flee without even taking his clothes along with him." In another Tunisia-related headline "Politicians: Tunisian scenario will not recur in same manner."

An Al-Shorouk headline reads "Tunisian street moves to bring down Ben Ali's ministers." Sub-headlines read: "Protests in capital's center call for dismissal of Ben Ali's [RCD] Party.. Tunisian General Workers' Union [UGTT] threatens to pull out from government;" and "New Arab measures and precautions to prevent Tunisian 'virus' from spreading… Sudan arrests Hassan al-Turabi, Jordan refrains from imposing new taxes."

In Al-Wafd a quote from the Inter Press Service news agency is featured: "Arab regimes fear bread uprisings/intifadas," and "People are setting themselves ablaze because they cannot bear to witness their families dying slow deaths due to hunger and poverty" is another key headline in that paper.

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-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned


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