Egypt state press highlights chaos, violence–not regime change–in Tunisia

Four days after the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt's state-run press has been working hard to downplay any political or economic similarities between Tunisia and Egypt.

Rather, government-owned newspapers have been focusing heavily on scenes of Tunisian chaos and violence, with the front pages bearing pictures of the looting and arson currently plaguing the North African country.

State daily Al-Akhbar on Tuesday featured five front-page articles highlighting measures adopted by the Egyptian regime aimed at easing the chronic socio-economic discontent of its citizens.    

"Not only in Egypt, but across the entire region, the state-owned media has tried to frighten the public with the chaos that has erupted in Tunisia,” said veteran Egyptian journalist Ekram Youssef. “The basic message is that change will only bring trouble.”  

"In autocratic regimes, in which all channels for independent political activism are closed, violent and spontaneous reactions from the un-politicized masses are normal reactions in any uprising," Ekram added.   

State-owned newspapers have also hastened to dismiss the possibility of the Tunisian scenario recurring in Egypt.

An analogy between Tunisia and Iraq has also been employed by several state papers to stoke fears of the consequences of abrupt political change, with several comparisons drawn between events in Tunisia and the looting in Baghdad that followed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.    

On Monday, Abdel Monem Saeed, chairman of flagship state daily Al-Ahram and member of the ruling National Democratic Party, wrote that the "revolutionaries" in Tunisia were no different from their Iraqi counterparts, both of whom wanted to topple their respective regimes but lacked clear strategies about what to do afterward.  

According to Saeed, any violence–or calls for retribution by Ben Ali loyalists–will only serve to hamper efforts by any future Tunisian government to properly address the economic and social needs of the Tunisian people.

Ragab Saad Taha, a researcher at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, described the Tunisia-Iraq analogy as a "manipulative tactic."

“In the case of Tunisia, it was a popular revolt, which succeeded in overthrowing one of the bloodiest regimes in the region–without any foreign support," said Taha.

Egyptian officials, meanwhile, have been keen to dismiss all comparisons between Tunisia and Egypt. 

On Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit described talk of a regional "domino effect" emanating from the Tunisian uprising as “nonsense.”

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