Sunday’s papers: The rebirth of a great nation

Once Hosni Mubarak became former president of the country, Egyptians spontaneously started chanting "Raise your head, you are Egyptian!“celebrating the rebirth of the great nation. The slogan echoed a famous address by late President Gamal Abdel Nasser in which he called on Egyptians to raise their heads as the era of colonization had ended.

No wonder the Nasserist weekly Al-Arabi made the newly invented slogan its main headline to express its joy at the ouster of Mubarak.

Mubarak stepped down on Thursday night after a 49-second, two-sentence statement to state television by Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's long time right hand.

In the early 2000s, Al-Arabi–with its then editor-in-chief Abdel-Halim Qandil–was the first Egyptian paper to systematically attack the former president and his strategies bequeath the presidency to his son. Criticizing the president was taboo in the press until Al-Arabi paved the way for other critics to publicly condemn the policies of the former regime.

Mohamed Aboulghar, a leading member of the political reform movement, highlighted on the front page that “Al-Arabi placed the corner stone of the unprecedented wave of Egyptian anger” that lead to the biggest popular uprising in the modern history of the Arab world.

One should salute Al-Arabi for its uncompromising approach in looking at the policies of the former president–unlike state run newspapers which have changed their editorial policies dramatically after the ousting of Mubarak.

Sunday’s Al-Arabi invested a lot of space to criticism of the former regime, labeling it a corrupt and despotic political system.

Its coverage also extended to tackle topics such as imagined scenarios for the post-Mubarak era, the rule of the armed forces as well as the various dynamics of the revolution.

The former regime’s flagship newspaper Al-Ahram ran the headline "Cleaning Egypt," as young protesters in Tahrir Square started to clean the area that had been home to the revolutionaries.

The headline was centered above a big photo of a female painting the road with the caption “A smile characterizes a new dawn in Egypt."

During the days of protests, Tahrir Square was the focal point of the demonstrations, drawing crowds of several hundred thousand people that eventually led to Mubarak’s resignation. On Sunday, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers shoved pro-democracy protesters aside to force a path for the flow of traffic through the central Cairo square for the first time in more than two weeks.

The word "cleaning," used by Al-Ahram, referred simultaneously to the process of getting rid of the political class that was responsible for the deterioration of the nation.

The paper displayed five photographs of characters that should be cleaned from the country, as Attorney General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud banned certain members of the previously ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) from travel.

The list includes Safwat al-Sherif, the NDP’s Secretary-General; Ahmed Nazif, former prime minister; Mufid Shehab, minister of state for legal and parliamentary affairs; Anas al-Fiqqi, minister of information; Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the minister of foreign affairs; Mamdouh Marei, minister of justice; Abdel Salam al-Mahgoub, minister of local development; Hatem al-Gabaly, minister of health; and Mohamed Nasr Eddin Allam, minister of water resources and irrigation.

The liberal Al-Wafd daily paper said tight security measures have been taken at Cairo International Airport in order to monitor private flights made by businesspersons who might be involved in corruption cases.

The role of the army:

All the papers shed the light on Saturday's announcement by the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Force–Egypt's new rulers–that they were committed to civilian rule and democracy. They added that they would respect all treaties, a move to reassure Israel and Washington.

Privately owned Al-Shorouk described the army’s announcement as a victory for the revolution, considering its commitment to a civil political system. Apart from this news, Sunday’s coverage is ambiguous about the ways in which the new rulers will run the nation in the transitional period.

Portraying future scenarios, Al-Shorouk said that the military is determined to make two parallel moves in the same time.

One aim is to restore public order as soon as possible and get all government institutions back to their daily routine. In parallel to this, the new military rulers are convinced that both houses of Parliament should be dissolved as they do not have popular support, according to the paper.

Other strategies are being discussed within Egypt’s military council. The first one is to consult legal experts concerning possible moves by the council to reduce the militarization of the transitional period.

Most importantly, the council is concerned with providing a timetable for all the measures that should be taken, such as dissolving Parliament as well as handing authority to a civilian government. The third strategy is to ensure the public that the military is not going to suppress or violate the rights of people. In this context, the army is thinking of releasing political prisoners and the recently detained activists.

Moreover, there is a feeling within the council, according to the paper, that accelerating the establishment of investigation committees which investigate the reason behind the killing of numerous protestors.

The success of the revolution:

Various columnists and commentators praising the revolution highlighted the ways in which Egyptian came together to write the history of their nation.

“The awakening of the giant,” was the title of an article by prominent philosophy professor Hassan Hanafi in Al-Arabi weekly. “The people broke the barrier of fear. They jumped forward along the historical path.” He added that the revolution was an unprecedented example for the masses in the streets asking for democracy.

Commentator Abdel Alem Mohammed wrote an article entitled “The way to the revolution,” in Al-Ahram. He said that the “revolutionaries were inspired by all the demands made previously by workers, clerics, teachers.” Integrating those demands in their agenda, the protestors managed to gain remarkable popular support.

Journalist Amr Abedlsamee wrote in state run Al-Akhbar–second to Al-Ahram in institutional size–an article called “Egypt was born when you were born,“ in reference to the young man and women who marched the streets calling for the removal of Mubarak.

Abedlsamee highlighted the hypocrisy of certain prominent editors in the state run newspaper, one of whom congratulated Mubarak on his birthday by saying that “Egypt was born when you (Mubarak) were born.”

Other significant news:

Some papers run exclusive news. Al-Akhbar, for example, revealed a fight between Mubarak's two sons Alaa and Gamal over the humiliating removal of Mubarak as a president.

The paper said that Alaa, Mubarak's older son, was about to clash physically with Gamal, accusing him of causing Mubarak's disastrous fate. “You ruined the country when you opened the way for your friends. Here is the result–instead of honoring your father, they forced him to leave the office,” Alaa told Gamal according to the paper.

State daily Rose al-Youssef, a long standing advocate of Gamal Mubarak, revealed that Egypt has suggested Mufid Shehab, minister of state for legal and parliamentary affairs, be the next secretary-general of the Arab League after Amr Moussa.

Egypt has historically claimed the post since the establishment of the pan-Arab institution in 1945 apart from a few years when it was expelled from the league after signing the Camp David peace treaty with Israel.

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