Press round-up: News centers around intellectual freedom

Sarah El Sirgany
6 Min Read

New judiciary law and Ibrahim Eissa s imprisonment dominate news

CAIRO: The new judiciary law, the year-long jail sentence Al-Destour editor Ibrahim Eissa received for insulting the president, and the coverage of Pope Shenouda s illness showed a widening gap between independent, opposition and state-run press.

This gap was topic for discussion in several editorials. In Al-Masry Al-Youm, Magdy Mehanna pointed to the difference in coverage of the judiciary law between Al-Ahram and Al-Masry Al-Youm. While the latter reported the Judges Club s disappointment with the new law, Al Ahram said the club members were satisfied with the legislation since it covers many of their demands.

Without passing judgment on the authenticity of the coverage of each paper, Mehanna said it s important to respect the readers and their right to acquire accurate and honest information. After this, he continued, the paper has the right to interpret or comment on the news in the way that best serves its policies and goals.

Following on the same theme, Nahed Farid wrote in Sabah El Kheir that the national press tries to draw a beautiful picture, saying that the Higher Judiciary Council now controls everything. At the same time, she continues, everyone knows that positions in the council are only acquired by appointment, not selection or election.

Since the 1952 revolution, Farid adds, the council hasn t assumed its role in monitoring the government and hasn t objected once to any decision made by the minister of justice. Now do you know why they insist on making the council by appointment? she adds.

In the state-run news magazine Akher Saa, the coverage of the new law did not mention anything about judicial dismay and stressed the judiciary independence the legislation would bring. The magazine quoted MP Mohamed El Daqroury, saying that some banned political factions had fabricated the judges crisis to achieve their own demands.

Fahmy Houeidy, however, was among the few writers in state-run newspapers that said that the new judiciary law didn t meet the demands of the Judges Club. He wrote in Al-Ahram that the judges crisis had both gains and drawbacks. The judges managed to stir up public opinion, acquire support and put their demands on the national agenda. On the other hand, the issue highlighted the unhealthy dominance of the executive powers over the legislative and judiciary. It also highlighted the weakness of the society and its foundations in effectively pushing for the judges demands.

In the same newspaper, Salah Montasser showed support for the new law but admitted it didn t answer all the judges demands. Not everything the [Judges] Club representatives say is sacred . There are things that require [revision], Montasser explained.

Parallel to the new judiciary law is the jail sentence Eissa, editor of Al-Destour, received after the court found him guilty of insulting the president. The main headline on it s front page called it the first ruling against a journalist for insulting the president. Is the president afraid of Al-Destour and press freedom?

Out on bail and pending appeal, Eissa submitted his regular article to the weekly paper. He dedicated the article to describing how different Arab presidents have stayed in power for too long. He pointed to constitutional changes Arab presidents have made to allow themselves to stay longer than previously permitted with more than one hint at the Egyptian president.

At the same time, Akher Saa editor Mohamed El Shamaa dedicated two pages in the magazine to describing President Hosni Mubarak s achievements following his reelection last year. He said there is a commitment within the National Democratic Party and the government to follow and implement Mubarak s electoral program.

Throughout the week, the news of a 15-year-old high school student who was punished and was under investigation for writing an essay criticizing American policies and the passivity of the Egyptian government, was published side by side with and tied to news of the judiciary and Eissa.

The security mentality that rules Egypt in everything is the real danger [threatening] real development, wrote Khairy Ramadan in Al-Masry Al-Youm, There is no difference between El Bayyaa [the teacher that first reported the student s essay to his superiors], who felt the essay was a threat to Egypt, and Fathy Sorour who sees that the opposition pollutes the thoughts of Egypt s judges.

Tying the two issues to Eissa s sentence, he said I don t think a ruling like this or the existence of people like El Bayyaa among us could scare Eissa.

Even in the state-run press, the government’s reaction to the student s essay found many critics. In El-Mesaa, Shawqy El Sharqawy said that Minister of Education Yousry El Gamal s decision to allow the student a second chance at the exam is respectable but it only affirms intellectual oppression.

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