President's intervention greeted with mixed reactions

Sarah El Sirgany
7 Min Read

Violence escalates between Israel, Palestine and Lebanon; rebel priest provokes censure

CAIRO: The local media has provided different takes on the president s intervention in amending the new press law; some applauded while others were skeptical. Meanwhile, escalation of violence between Israeli, Palestine and Lebanon has been making continuous headlines. Receiving less coverage, but still a topic of discussion, is a priest wanting to form his own church in Egypt.

Writers in newspapers of various affiliations hailed the president s intervention to eliminate the prison sentence in one of the newly introduced articles to the press law. Parliament approved the president s contribution and passed the law this week.

Thank you was the title of many articles that glorified the intervention. Mohamed Abu El Hadid described it in El-Gomhuria as a president-made victory for press freedom. Abu El Hadid said it s time for the press to review its mistakes and its relations with some members of society who harbor hostility toward it.

In Al-Wafd, Abbas El Tarabeily said the president has succeeded where parliament and the government that wanted to include the prison sentence in the article have failed. El Tarabeily called on the press syndicate to compile a code of ethics to silence the press’s enemies.

In Al Ahram, Ibrahim El Bahrawi said that his unrelenting confidence in the reform that the president s electoral program would bring assured him that the president would eventually intervene.

I guess it is the duty of all journalists to thank the president for his initiative, wrote Makram Mohamed Ahmed in the same newspaper. On the same day, Khairy Ramadan entitled his article in Al-Masry Al-Youm: Thanks Mubarak.

But the picture was different in other Al-Masry Al-Youm articles. Amr Khafagy said that even the press couldn t ensure its rights through legal and parliamentary routes but had to rely instead upon a presidential decision. He tied the press law to various state promises of political and economic reform: free elections with judiciary supervision, changes in the leadership of state-run newspapers, the government and the National Democratic Party.

But they were dreams, he added. Last summer s dreams are still this summer s dreams and spring hasn t reached Egypt yet.

Khafagy adds, To think that the state is the one responsible for our advancement and flourishing and that we have to just wait for what the state grants, this is the destiny of those who don t know, who don t work and those who just wait.

The critical tone was even more evident in Magdy Mehanna s and Soliman Gouda s articles in Al-Masry Al-Youm and Ibrahim Eissa’s in Al-Destour.

Mehanna noted that the president only eliminated the imprisonment sentence, while the demand had been to remove the law article altogether, since it limits a journalist s ability to expose corruption. He said the imposed fine is too high and journalists would eventually end up in prison because of their inability to pay the fine.

He tied the law to the recent feud between MPs Talaat El Sadat and Ahmed Ezz, in which the former questioned the origins of the latter s fortune. If journalists expressed the same inquiries, Mehanna continued, would they be subject to a fine?

Mehanna said the new law leaves many questions unanswered. He asked what the verdict would be if journalists reported what the foreign press writes about the fortunes of Arab and Egyptian businessmen and politicians. What if a journalist wrote about one of the reports of the state monitoring authorities incriminating citizens? Would the journalist be required to prove the information in these reports?

In Egypt there is a president of the republic and there is no one beside him, wrote Solimant Gouda in Al-Masry Al-Youm, The president controls everything and there is nothing any other official can do. This is not a state by any means.

In Al-Destour, Eissa expressed the same views, saying that the president s intervention shows that this country has no relations whatsoever with democracy.

Eissa said that the president was the one who eliminated the prison sentence from this law article, then logically he is the one who kept the prison sentence in other articles … The president who forgives and intervenes is the one who jails people and puts them in prison.

Although debates regarding the press law dominated the news this week, editorials about the Israeli raids on the Gaza strip and the dissident Egyptian priest found space.

An Al Ahram editorial said the Israeli military operations and the economic siege Israel has imposed on the Hamas government is in violation of all international treaties. The world is required to defend not only Palestine, but its general system, the law that governs it and the basic principles that guard the essential human rights, read the editorial.

The story of priest Maximus I, who wants to establish his own church apart from the local Coptic Orthodox Church, has drawn criticism from Egyptian writers.

In Al-Wafd, Gamal Badawy said the priest is part of American plans to destroy the unity that has kept the country from disintegrating. Badawy said that what is happening now is part of a devious plan to separate Egypt s Muslims into Sunni and Shiite and its Copts into Orthodox and heretics.

Maximus slapped the church on its right cheek, said Hamdy Rizk in Al-Masry Al-Youm. The Church can t do anything else but to slap him on his left cheek, not turn its left cheek to him.

Rizk indirectly called for the pope to take actions, saying the Ministry of Interior can’t do anything unless he does.

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