Monday’s news: Govt MPs endorse shooting protestors

How can we tell that President Mubarak is truly back in business? State-owned flagship Al-Ahram tops its Monday front page with the old-favorite shot of Mubarak sitting, gesturing and talking with a fellow head of state. This time it’s Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the pair, according to the headline, discussed “regional Arab issues and the Iranian nuclear file.”
Given the president’s recent gall bladder removal surgery, his advanced age and the ripples of concern generated when French President Nicolas Sarkozy postponed a state visit to Egypt due to Mubarak’s health, Monday’s front page story seemed geared to demonstrate that Mubarak was indeed recovered and vigorously attending to his presidential duties.
In addition to Mubarak meeting with Saleh, Al-Ahram announced that the president will be speaking with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and that he has dispatched letters to his counterparts in Chad and Cameroon.
Another front-page Al-Ahram story focuses on the European travel chaos due to the recent volcano in Iceland, and its potential effect on Egypt’s vital tourism industry as the summer high season approaches. With flights unable to take off from all across northern Europe, the newspaper reports that the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism has formed an emergency operations room to track the crisis, and assured readers that the problems, “are only just beginning.”
Among the independent press, Al-Dostour and Al-Shorouq top their Monday papers with almost identical front-page banners. Both papers offer pictures of men in suits shouting at each other and being forcibly separated. The two headlines, almost word—for-word, both proclaim “National Democratic Party MPs request that the Interior Ministry open fire on protestors.”
The flashpoint this time, according to the papers, was a joint meeting of the parliamentary committees for human rights and national security, which addressed the recent, heavily criticized, crackdown on a 6 April protest in Tahrir Square. According to Al-Shorouq, MP Ragab Hemeida launched an extended rant against the protestors, calling them “a bunch of troublemakers” and demanding harsher treatment in the future–including the use of live ammunition.
Al-Shorouq’s coverage offers a particularly chilling sub-headline, quoting Assistant Minister of Interior General Hamid Rashid as saying his troops have the right to open fire on protestors with actual bullets “if they threaten general security.”
Rashid, according to the article, shrugged off accusations from opposition MPs that his comments were unconstitutional, saying that the only violations of the Constitution were coming from the protestors, not the police.
The comments understandably drew a livid react from many opposition parliamentarians. Al-Shorouq quotes Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated parliamentarian Hamdi Hassan as saying that such threats to peaceful protestors “damage Egypt’s reputation.”

Egypt’s newspapers:
: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef
: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
: Daily, privately owned
:Daily, privately owned
: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma
: Weekly, privately owned

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