Thursday’s papers: Business as usual, military appeals to ‘honest’ types

The mutterings and grumblings of activists and rights advocates about how the revolution has not brought about the complete change hoped for is the topic of an eloquent article penned by Amani Zaki in the opposition daily Al-Wafd.

Zaki bemoans the state of Egypt post-revolution, directing her ire at Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and the transitional government, which she describes as the government that came from Tahrir and never went back. No mention is made of the military’s role in contributing to the lack of change, but her criticisms of the way business is being conducted as usual hit home. She cites as an example the changing of Egypt’s governors 70 days after the revolution to indicate that it’s the same old, same old.

“What’s amazing is Sharaf following in Mubarak’s footsteps in picking the governors from the security apparatus and universities in what always seems to be an end-of-service reward,” she writes.

Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies analyst Waheed Abdel-Meguid is quoted as saying that Sharaf’s government is the “new look of the old regime”.

Zaki shares a byline on another article that is a Q&A with Assistant Interior Minister in charge of Central Security Forces Salah Eldin al-Sherbiny, who says that Egypt will no longer be a police state.

Aside from the interesting statistic that 17,000 Central Security officers were mobilized nationwide on 25 January from a full force of 80,000, Sherbiny says, “It is no longer part of our remit to suppress protests, but it is now to face thugs and outlaws.” He adds that the failure of the past regime was to force security forces to interfere in political issues without appealing for the support of society.

Privately-owned Al-Dostour’s lead story is about the trial of police from Hadayek al-Qubba police station who are accused of killing 22 and injuring 44 during the revolution. Their lawyers have requested that the bodies of the victims be exhumed to determine the causes of their deaths, the paper reports.

Another story cites an unnamed medical source from the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital where Hosni Mubarak is receiving treatment as saying that the former president woke up in a panic at the sound of gunshots and his heart rate increased dramatically. The shots came from an altercation between two Sinai residents. Mubarak recovered, but is perhaps now a little more familiar with what life was like for the people trying to remove him.

State-run regime mouthpieces Al-Ahram and Al-Gomhuriyya each run stories on communiqué 64 from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that could have been written by the same person. They read as a bland public announcement and say the SCAF had “assured” the people of its commitment to a civil state built on democratic principles where freedom and justice will reign supreme. It did not suggest how trying civilians in military courts fit into that vision.

The SCAF also sent a message to its favorite Egyptians, the “honest citizens” – read: not protesters or workers on strike – appealing to them to support security forces as they meander back to their posts and counter “all those who are trying to endanger public security, scaring citizens and damaging the country’s higher interests.” In return, the SCAF promised to keep an eye on said security forces.

Always a crowd pleaser, the SCAF parceled out another ubiquitous catchphrase “the wheel of production”, after congratulating the Egyptian people and the youth of the revolution for their recent performance in getting the “wheel” going.

But we’re in a phase of renewal, and as bringing back retro with a twist can be all the rage in fashion, the SCAF pulls this off seamlessly with an appeal to a new breed that might not be as prevalent as they’d hope: “honest media”. While again assuring us of its commitment to freedom of opinion and expression, it appeals to “honest media” types to be objective and check what they write. In recent times, many of that breed – Reem Maged, Hossam Hamalawy and Rasha Azab to name a few – have been called into the military prosecutor’s office in Nasr City for a sit-down with army officials over things they have written or said.

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

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

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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