CAIRO: Ending the week featuring almost identical front pages, with the same news, pictures and layout: Al Ahram and Al-Akhbar reported the same dominating news of bird flu and Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the country. The many demonstrations, however, were only reported in the independent newspapers.
“Because the government has always been a liar, people don’t believe it, although it is totally honest in what it is saying about bird flu. The first discovery was really last Thursday and not months ago as rumors said, wrote Ahmed Ragab in Al-Akhbar last Tuesday. “While the government is presenting all the facts to citizens second by second, it will surely go back to lying after the end of the dismal conditions that have forced it to be honest.
But what Ragab has called “dismal conditions, Magdy El-Gallad, Al-Masry Al-Youm’s editor, described as the “beautiful virus. On Wednesday, El-Gallad wrote that the virus has united the nation, including leading government and media figures. The editor referred to a meeting between the editors of all local newspapers and the ministers of communication and information technology, health and population and agriculture; in which all agreed to take a unified stand, in spite of ideological differences, and combat rumors.
Nonetheless, some questions need to be answered. “How did the disease spread throughout many governorates in the republic and moved from one governorate to the other in just four days? wrote Magdy Mehanna in Al-Masry Al-Youm, saying that the disease must have surfaced months or weeks ago, claiming that the government either knew of it and didn’t announce it or it didn’t know and announced it as soon as it discovered it.
He said the government has to answer this question if it wants people to believe it and respond to its instructions.
According to Mohamed El-Barghouthy’s column in the same paper, the government and major poultry traders discovered the disease two months ago and cooperated in keeping it a secret. El-Barghouthy cited many reports of dead birds either raised domestically or within industrial projects.
Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the region and particularly to Egypt also sparked many headlines and more editorials. “Condoleezza Rice, the American secretary of state, feels disappointed by the postponement of the Egyptian local elections but she is now disappointed with the gruesome torture of Iraqis at the hands of the American forces, wrote Tarek Hassan in Al Ahram on Tuesday.
The same references to torture were also made in Salama Ahmed Salama’s column on the same day. Referring to how Muslim anger over the Danish cartoons decreased after the worldwide demonstrations, Salama opined that the once-raging Muslims should be excused because of the current depressing world; the Danish cartoon issue was concurrent with the exposure of the new evidence of Abu Gharib Prison torture.
Meanwhile, news about the sunken ferry has noticeably declined – apart from raising the ferry’s black box.
The Kefaya student demonstration in front of Cairo University was reported only in independent papers. While it was on the front page of Al-Masry Al-Youm, it found no place in national newspapers. The same treatment was given to chicken seller protests in front of the Abdeen Palace; they were only reported in independent and opposition newspapers.
Other news made it into all the papers but on a relatively smaller scale, the most prominent of which was the arrest of singers Tamer Hosny and Haytham Shaker for forging documents indicating they had finished their mandatory military service.
The internal disputes in the El-Wafd political party and its newspaper of the same name was the topic of Amr Khafagy’s article in Al-Masry Al-Youm. He said that both Noaman Gomaa, the former party head, and Abbas El-Tarabeily, the paper’s editors, have made their mistakes, contradicting their past. The lovable Gomaa turned into a dictator, Khafagy wrote, while El-Tarabeily who had always supported him against “reformists is now turning against him as if it had been his stance all along.
The article cited Gomaa’s and El-Tarabeily’s deliberate violations of the paper’s journalistic credibility, calling upon El-Tarabeily to honor the profession of journalism while the paper is switching sides. “Egyptian liberalism is bigger than El-Wafd. And El-Wafd is bigger than Dr. Noaman and El-Tarabeily.