CAIRO: A panel of media experts shared their views with foreign journalists on Sunday regarding what could happen on the first anniversary of the Jan. 25 uprising, which toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, especially its commemoration by the military and protesters.
Believing that nothing serious will happen on Jan. 25 were Hesham Kassem prominent Egyptian political analyst and founder of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, and former Al-Jazeera correspondent and bureau chief, Amr El-Kahky, who is also one of founders of El-Nahar TV.
On the other side, Dina Samak, the Egypt editor for Ahram online, and AUC professor and socialist activist Hatim Talimah thought otherwise, that at least something notable would happen on that day.
Samak said she couldn’t tell what it can be, but that she “learned from her lesson” from 2011, when she opted to vacation instead because she had low expectations at the time.
She also noted how very easy it was for the media to generalize and abstract, “creating frames and identifying forces,” which wasn’t necessarily the case for Egypt, as it required more digging.
She cited for example how the media ignored the labor movements which later proved to be instrumental in the uprising. Similarly, Kassem had also noted how he had miscalculated the Salafis getting only 10 seats in the People’s Assembly.
Samak remarked about how the game was changed with the breakthrough of citizen journalism and the social media (such as Twitter and Facebook). “When something catches fire [online], the silence is broken and journalists start digging after what the bloggers and see what they wrote.”
El-Kahky meanwhile noted that around 8 million people had gathered and pressed their demands until Feb. 11, but afterwards most of them went home and never came again, especially as the political process began and now that elections have happened.
However, he warned of the unpredictability of events, giving as an example the sighting of a masked man (à la Guy Fawkes) appearing at a Zamalek football game, and noted how the “Ultras” played a previously unforecasted role during the 2011 uprising. “I don’t know if the masked man would give an indication.”
El-Kahky also said that he had unconfirmed reports that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis might secure and occupy the squares early on Jan. 25 to prevent any provocation or clashes between the military and protesters. But “you [still] can’t tell,” he said.
Along the same lines, Kassem believed that there are three mindsets that hinder the country nowadays, the first of which he described as the older generation, suffering from what he termed “prolonged opposition trauma.”
According to Kassem, the other two were the “opportunists” who created crises in hopes of getting into office or getting credentials, and the revolutionaries, who believe in “instant leadership,” which he forecasted would be “burnt” within the year after new representatives were elected.
What was important from his point of view was restoring stability, as all talk about human rights and dignity was bound to happen through the reopened political participation process. This he emphasized will happen by moving on with the political plan outlined by the military, to end their involvement.
“The military school of management is the least equipped to run a country,” Kassem said, and that it was not capable of political management, giving the example of the IMF loan and its handling by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which he described as a “real crime in a country with poverty exceeding 40 percent.”
On her part, Samak said that equally important was reforming and restructuring the Ministry of Interior, which she sadly didn’t see on any of the electoral programs.
Regarding the intentions of the military, Kassem said that they deployed on Jan. 28 in order to save the Mubarak regime, but a week later they discovered that “it cannot be saved, and that there was no leader.”
At that point, he said, there was no intention to stay indefinitely, and that they will relinquish power, to which El-Kahky also agreed.
However, Kassem maintained that SCAF will still have a say in two matters: declaration of war, and foreign policy, in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Talima, on the other hand, disagreed as he saw that the regime which was the object of the 2011 protests was still intact, and which he divided into three parts.
The core, according to Talima, was the military dictatorship ruling for 60 years. The second was the businessmen who adopted neo-liberal policies, and “corrupt laws that empower them to drain all the resources” and “systematically impoverish” the people.
Last, he thought, were the conservative and reactionary forces that abused poverty to their advantage. “These three parts were the regime that the people revolted against,” he said, and “only one of them fell.”
Talima’s views were expounded by the unmet economic demands, such as minimum and maximum wages, and progressive taxes policies on capital revenues that were not levied, warning that the former was promised by Jan. 2011 and if unmet would foment further labor strikes.
Regarding former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei’s decision to withdraw from the presidential bid, Kassem believed his votes to be scattered than directly transferred to another candidate. “ElBaradei is an ethical man … but he has no political savvy,” he remarked.
When asked about Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh, Kassem said that he would get a portion of the Baradei-voting bloc, but never the support of the “seculars.” –Additional reporting by Nadeen Shaker.