Bani Mazar and train accidents illustrate government inefficiency

Sarah El Sirgany
7 Min Read

Local press argues over right to criticize president and censures U.S. war on terrorism on the fifth anniversary of 9/11

CAIRO: While writers were busy reporting and analyzing the recent onslaught of train accidents and the acquittal of the defendant in the gruesome Bani Mazar mass murder, they also found the time and space to elaborate on the ongoing dispute between the state-run press on one side and the independent and opposition press on the other. The fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States also provided rich grounds for commentary.

Being the most recent, the Bani Mazar news took the spotlight. Writers, however, tied it to the numerous train accidents in an effort to demonstrate the government’s continuous inefficiency.

“Everyday there is a new disaster and we wake up to the sound of a bang, wrote Magdy Mehanna in Al-Masry Al-Youm. Mehanna listed the recent train accidents, collapsing buildings, police torture and killing of suspects and fabricating cases against citizens, along with the numerous corruption cases.

In Al-Wafd, Mohamed Amin wrote that government officials keep accusing people who are unrelated to the incidents in question, whether in the case of the train accidents or the Bani Mazar murder. “Now we are required to find the real perpetrators [of the murder], he added. “If I was in charge, I would have ordered the immediate investigation of those who presented the [implicating] evidence [in the Bani Mazar murder] . We have to deal with our people in Upper Egypt as humans.

In the same newspaper, Mohamed Mostafa Shardy had a different suggestion regarding future cases. He wrote that security forces should be equipped with the latest forensic technology, so they won’t depend solely on their wits to solve crime mysteries.

In his article, Mehanna used the collapsing building analogy to describe the state of Egypt and how the building owner is desperately resorting to violence to keep the residents from objecting to deteriorating living conditions.

Talaat Meghawry wrote in Al-Wafd that the state is distracting people from thinking about their general state of affairs by making basic foods, namely bread, a rare commodity.

During this strong wave of criticism directed at the government, a dispute continued to grow between journalists of differing affiliations. The long dispute surfaced during a satellite TV show, in which two journalists bad mouthed each other while discussing whether the press should be allowed to criticize the president or not.

Independent and opposition writers stressed that no one is above criticism, including the president, while writers affiliated with state-run newspapers insisted that the president shouldn’t be criticized. Other writers from both sides called for a resolution of this dispute and revision of local journalism ethics.

“This civil war between [journalists] needs to stop, wrote Amin in Al-Wafd. He explained that this dispute has old roots. He added that the two sides would never agree for no other reason than that “we’ve lost the sense of the journalism field.

Amin found excuses for the journalists who might be considered to be crossing the line. He wrote that the state has adopted a policy of ignoring their writings and this has led these journalists to lash out at the government without constraint.

On the other hand, in Rose El-Youssef, Tarek Hassan criticized the call by Nassarists in favor of criticizing the president. Without directly stating his stance regarding the issue in general, he wrote that those affiliated with the Nassarist party or ideology have no right to make such demands, since it was their leader, late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who put the presidency on a glorified pedestal.

In Akhbar Al-Youm, the state affiliated stance was much clearer. Iman Anwar openly criticized independent newspapers, saying they are losing credibility because they do nothing but slander and libel. She said these writers have reached the point where they criticize the president, who has made press freedom possible.

In Al-Masry Al-Youm, Refaat Rashad wrote that a group of journalists is trying to disturb the unity of journalism professionals. He said some of these writers are claiming to be defendants of freedom of the press, while they have never written about it. Some, he added, have hidden behind the President-Mubarak-defense-banner, confronting the papers that “bad mouth the president.

On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001, local writers lashed out at the United States for its post 9/11 policies, namely its infamous war on terrorism. The state-run press didn’t shy away from directly criticizing American foreign policies.

An Al Ahram editorial stated that the anniversary should be an opportunity for the American administration, especially the new conservatives, to reconsider the country’s policies in dealing with terrorism. The editorial explained that U.S. dependence on military force as its sole means to fight terrorism accompanied by the concept of preemptive strikes have created disturbances in the world, marginalized the United Nations and violated international laws.

The paper added that the United States should realize that confronting terrorism requires a “holistic vision, based on addressing the original reasons behind terrorism. This includes solving long running international conflicts, especially in the Palestinian case, in a fair way, avoiding double standards, eliminating poverty and achieving harmony between cultures.

The same opinion was echoed in other newspapers. In Al-Akhbar, Mohamed Barakat criticized the American war on terrorism and U.S. President George W. Bush’s announcement that it would continue. He said the war has had no positive effect, but instead “the world has become more violent, less secure, less stable and less safe than it was five years ago.

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