Last Updated: Thu Feb 10, 2011 07:00 am (KSA) 04:00 am (GMT)

Egypt newspapers see a radical change in rhetoric

Al-Ahram newspaper's title reads "Jan. 25, the day of a new Egypt"
Al-Ahram newspaper's title reads "Jan. 25, the day of a new Egypt"

Egyptian newspapers that traditionally served as mouthpieces for President Hosni Mubarak’s regime but have recently started changing gear by sidelining with the country’s popular anti-government revolt, with some papers calling for the ousting of their respective editors in chief.

A far cry from its previous stance, Egypt’s most famous newspaper, al-Ahram, saw a radical change when its main title on Wednesday read: “A fourth ‘million march’ confirms the solid base of Jan 25 revolution".

Before changing its rhetoric, al-Ahram reported January 25 as a day of “disorderly chaos” with only few dozens of protesters flocking Tahrir square despite international media reports describing hundreds of thousands of protesters.

The paper did not only describe how the “protesters demand the downfall of the regime and ousting Mubarak,” but its new found freedom of speech and expression continued by saying that the “rigorous movements led by leaders drawn from all of the youth movements, al-Jabha party, National Council for Change, and the committee of ten emanating from the national council and the People’s Assembly to form a general leadership for 25 revolution for all of Egypt,” proved a remarkable change from its previous support to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of Mubarak’s.

Ranked as the third most influential paper in Egypt, al-Jumhirya newspaper described the January 25 protests as not major with numbers of protesters not exceeding 100 in both of Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez; the three cities that have witnessed the most violence and battles with security forces in January 28.

Incorporating “Muslim Brotherhood”

Al-Ahram was prohibited to mention major opposite group the Muslim Brotherhood but post- January 25 the newspaper began mentioning the name of the Islamist party which was banned from running in Egypt’s last election.

"The youth movements aimed to shut the doors against those who try to hijack the revolution, or speak on its behalf before the sudden appearance of those that started to take its lead,” al-Ahram wrote in reference to the opposition parties’ , including the Muslim Brotherhood, meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman. Ten of the opposition parties representatives were drawn from al-Jabha , Justice and Freedom, Muslim Brotherhood parties, April 6 movement, and four independents from Shabab al-Thawora, and supporters of former director general of the IAEA , Mohamed El-Baradei, an Egyptian opposition figure and Nobel Laureate.

The newspaper wrote that the alliance of the opposition parties will choose its representatives to start a political dialogue but only after Mubarak leaves office.

It described Tuesday’s protests with dozens of people demonstrating early morning to gradually balloon into hundreds of thousands by the end of official work hours.

"The protesters come from different backgrounds, ages, classes, political orientations, and the population calls for the downfall of the regime,” it described, adding “Dozens of thousands prayed in Tahrir square. Men and women side by side, creating a scene similar to that in Mecca during pilgrimage.”

Al-Jumhuriya newspaper known for its ardent stance for the NDP , used to have its first page known as a notorious mouthpiece for the latest news of the ruling party and Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son, who many speculated as being the next president of Egypt.

Al-Jumhuriya used to substitute “Muslim Brotherhood” with “the banned” since editor in chief Mohammed Ali Ibrahim took charge.

Wael on front page

Now al-Jumhuriya’s full-fledged change makes it seem rather moderate interview with Wael Ghonaim by Muna al-Shadhli on Dream channel on Tuesday as its second main topic on its first page.

Ghonaim, the Dubai-based Google executive, was jailed and blindfolded for 12 days after he participated in organizing the January 25 protest. During the interview Ghonaim said he was not a hero, and went on crying over the ones who were killed, and left the interview in emotional disarray.

It read “Tears of Wael,” continuing. The tears shed by Wael in his interview in Dream channel was like a sword cutting the neck of the interior ministry. His honesty and loyalty to his country confirmed that his belonging to Egypt is not via the emergency law or through the kidnapping of citizens.”

Protesters and opposition parties demand the government of Egypt to amend the long-running emergency law, under which authorities can detain and arrest whoever without further proof as collaborative to terrorists.

Before the change, the newspapers used to describe the country enjoying a multitude of freedoms, and saw the police as necessary against all those plotting against the country, and the emergency law as an important tool in protecting Egypt from terrorism.

Roz al-Youself newspaper called what happened in Tahrir square on January 25 as the “al-Tahrir farce”, but is now facing a protest within its institution.
On Wednesday for a second day in a row, people working for Roz al-Yousef demonstrated against what they said was the situation worsening of the newspaper, and the lack of professionalism and asked for the administration of the newspaper to step down.

The newspaper’s protesters on Tuesday threatened that if their demands were not met, they would join protesters in Tahrir square.

Coat of Dr. Mahmoud

Al-akhbar which is considered the second most important newspaper after al-ahram, published a picture of a coat hanged in Tahrir square soaked with blood, and the title next to the picture read "Blood of 25 January martyrs on the coat of Dr. Mahmoud."

Dr. Mahmoud is one of the protesters who vowed not to wash his coat after the bloody clashes on January 25 and has now become a symbol in Tahrir square.

The paper quoted him of saying, "I will never wash the coat, I will always be proud of the martyrs’ blood on it."

Al-Akhbar also zoomed in with more of people’s and human stories of the revolution with another title that read “Hairdressers of the revolution and for free".

The newspaper reported on the story of two hairdressers, Sayid Taha,30, and Ahmed al-Rifai, 28, who participated in the protests by offering their services to young men for free. Taha and al-Rifai styled and cut the hair of the protesters wanting to look presentable in front of local and international cameras.

Ahmed Rijab, a prominent writer wrote in one of his columns in al-Akhbar that “Egypt has witnessed a youth revolution and a very modern one,” he wrote, continuing “the most striking character of the revolution is safety and security. It is an unprecedented in the world and history. It is the first revolution that rejected all types of violence.”

“Protesters never fired a gun, and never carried a riffle, and never thought of hurting another human being, killing is not of part of their honorable revolution. We saw them weeping for every martyred Egyptian. Tears of Wael Ghonaim are my tears, and his tears were not tears of weakness or an emotional collapse but tears of a sublime humanity.”


(Translated from Arabic by Dina al-Shibeeb)

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