CAIRO: With follow-up stories regarding Al-Wafd’s continuing ban gradually shifting out of the public eye, Egypt’s tragic ferry accident, where more than 1,000 are feared to have perished, has dominated the headlines.
The Red Sea ferry, returning from Saudi Arabia, sunk early Friday, killing most of its passengers. The ferry had been carrying around 1,400 Egyptian citizens and crew, along with more than 200 cars.
The crisis was a result of a fire that broke out on board and got out of control within a few minutes. Reportedly, the ferry sent several distress signals to nearby Egyptian ports and was ignored. Survivors claim that the crew was the first to leave the ship, and that there were very few lifeboats.
Hundreds of bodies were recovered and survivors were moved to the nearby port of Safaga, where families awaited. Riots and protests broke out as security police tried to force families away from the site. Clashes between the police and civilians resulted in injuries on both sides.
Coverage of the incident has been varied throughout media outlets and different newspapers have shed light on different sides of the same story. The difference in coverage was plainly evident from the headlines alone. While one Al-Ahram headline read: “379 survivors, the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm headline read: “1039 dead and missing.
National newspapers focused on efforts made to help survivors and families of the victims. The state-directed daily Al-Ahram reports that the latter have received more than LE 45 million over the course of the past 24 hours.
The independent and opposition press, on the other hand, has been more concerned with what they call “the corruption behind the accident, adding that “the failure of the Egyptian emergency and rescue forces contributed to the tragedy. The papers have also accused the government of “intentionally covering up for the owner of the navigation company, who has political immunity and is a member of the Shura Council. Some opposition voices have even called for international intervention during the investigation of the accident and demanded full transparency.
On the international front, around six weeks have passed since the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed surfaced, and news of protests, Arab reactions and foreign apologies have not waned.
Initially the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, refused to apologize. However, after angry Muslim outbreaks, a boycott of Danish products around the Arab world and several death threats from Islamic extremists, both the Danish government and the newspaper issued official apologies.
In the latest development, national and independent newspapers report that Patriarch Shenouda, pope of Alexandria, joined by chiefs of Middle East Christian assemblies had criticized the Danish paper’s conduct in handling a sacred Muslim symbol. The high priests reportedly deemed the cartoons a “shameful desecration of Islam.
The newspapers also report several fuming protests in Cairo, Alexandria and Assiout, where many Muslims have insisted on upholding an “economic boycott of Denmark in spite of apologies. Pictures show young and old Egyptians carrying orange flags and banners reading: “Boycott Danish Products.
Meanwhile, expectations run high for today’s football semi-final match between Egypt and Senegal.
Al-Ahram reports that Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is personally attending the national team’s training in an effort to boost morale. Hassan Shehatah, the team’s principal coach, reportedly said, “People’s cheering goes hand in hand with victory.
Last in line is news of Al-Wafd, where reportedly Safwat Al-Sherif, chairman of the High Committee of Journalists and head of the Shura Council, has decided to appoint two chief editors for the paper, saying that the presence of two editors should assure the newspaper’s “neutrality and objectiveness. Al-Sherif said that the position of managing director will remain vacant until conflicts between Noaman Gomaa, overthrown chairman of the party and former managing director, and his rivals are over.
The publishing of the party newspaper stopped more than 10 days ago as the in-fighting between the party’s political opponents escalated. Gomaa, after being refused the title of managing director, halted the publication, dismissing both the editor-in-chief and managing editor “for taking sides during the conflicts.
Following the ban on the newspaper, a “victim of the inner conflicts between two generations of Al-Wafd, the journalists and their syndicate protested and filed complaints in an attempt to restore the newspaper. Meanwhile, two court cases that are both filed by Gomaa, are expected to resolve the Al-Wafd crisis and decide the newspaper’s fate.