CAIRO: The economic repercussions of bird flu still dominate the news. President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to the Arabian Gulf and Libya has also received a considerable share of coverage, especially since some of the president’s announcements during the tour struck many chords at home.
While Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Tuesday that the ban on selling live poultry in shops would be removed, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif confirmed that the ban will continue. The last announcement was reported in all local newspapers. According to Al-Akhbar, the government will facilitate LE 25 million worth of loans to poultry farm owners.
While national papers ignored the demonstrations by poultry traders demanding the removal of the ban and compensation from the government for their losses, opposition newspaper Al-Wafd focused on more sensational coverage. On Tuesday, the paper reported that meat and fish, being the two alternatives to chicken, come from polluted areas, asserting that the Nile and lakes are polluted and the majority of slaughterhouses don’t follow hygienic measures. The paper claimed the information comes from a government-sponsored research barred from circulation.
The next day, the paper reported a 15 percent increase in meat prices under the headline of The repercussions of the bird flu disaster. “Can we calmly discuss now how we dealt with this disaster? wrote Abbas El Tarabeily in his editorial in the same paper. “What were the gains and also what were the losses of this method?
El Tarabeily referred to the losses of those who depend upon domestic poultry and other small traders due to a scare that he claims the government has helped ignite by blowing the stakes out of proportion.
The next day the paper reported that a lawsuit was filed against the government for mishandling the crisis. Dr. Hamed Sedik, researcher at the National Research Center who filed the case, accused the government of importing infected animal feed from China which allegedly led to the spread of bird flu and instigated a scare among citizens.
On the same note, Hassan Mohamed Wagih wrote in Al-Akhbar that crisis management is a science that all should refer to. Mohamed Wagdy Qandil and Galad Dowidar also stressed in the same newspaper that there was unnecessary panic. Qandil added that making up the losses in poultry would take years.
But throughout the week, national newspapers were more concerned with Mubarak’s tour, publishing updates every day. The president’s announcement that “We won’t change the constitution . National newspapers won’t be privatized, made headlines and provided material for several editorials, especially since journalists at independent and opposition newspapers are currently working to reverse the jail sentence against a reporter.
Referring to the national papers’ announcement, Soliman Gouda said the consequences will be severe. In his column in Al-Masry Al-Youm, Gouda said the national papers are continuously facing financial losses, they mainly address the president and aim to please him and they are gradually losing credibility with the bloom of independent media.
Magdy Mehanna was more concerned with the statement regarding the constitution. Quoting Mubarak in saying, “We work for the future . We don’t change the constitution or issue new laws, Mehanna said the sentence is contradictory. “Working for the future requires changing the constitution, wrote Mehanna.
Meanwhile, news about the sunken ferry receded, except for the official announcement that the government will use donations to pay compensation for the victims. “I don’t know what are the reasons that would make the government [confuse] donations to the family of the victims of the ferry with its commitment to those victims, wrote Makram Mohamed Makram in Al-Ahram.
“If we stress the importance of the participation of civil society with donations to ease the burden of disasters, there should be transparent procedures to ensure that the money went in the right direction, Makram added.
At the same time, other news surfaced at the end of the week with Al-Masry Al-Youm reporting on Thursday that five fundamentalist groups, whose members are serving prison sentences, have made changes to their ideologies, putting them on the more moderate side.