President Hosni Mubarak’s meeting with his cabinet dominated the front pages of state-run newspapers, with headlines reading “Mubarak gives a new push for patriotic work” and “a new push for patriotic work in all sectors” from Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar respectively. Both papers reported on the president’s request to the cabinet to immediately implement the components of his electoral program. This entails creating up to 4.5 million new jobs, catering to farmers’ needs, associating pensions with prices, promoting decentralization, and improving education, public transportation and rural health units. Mubarak also requested, as reported by both government mouthpieces, preparing for the upcoming parliamentary elections in an atmosphere of “fairness, transparency, and utmost participation by people.”
The opposition Al-Wafd paper situated Mubarak’s meeting within intensive presidential activities, highlighting the second meeting with the cabinet in a week in their headline. Rather than reporting about the meeting proper, a hair of which was mentioned in the article, especially with regards to the president’s discussions of water and electricity problems, Al-Wafd delved in a series of “source”-based speculations. The paper referred to a meeting between Mubarak and Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, in the absence of Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif, in what could be read as a potential nomination of the former to the latter’s job within an impending cabinet shuffle. The paper added that such change could be imminent considering Nazif’s failure to deal with pressing infrastructural challenges, especially with regards to electricity cuts and water shortage.
The independent Al-Dostour followed the same line of reporting, adding that the meeting was a “surprise” gathering, whereby “sources” told the paper that the president expressed his dissatisfaction to Nazif about the cabinet’s response to ongoing electricity and water crises. The paper also suggested that a cabinet shuffle is looming and that, nevertheless, Nazif is working towards reclaiming the government’s trust.
The Van Gogh painting theft from Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil museum continues to make headlines, with varying directions. Al-Shorouk’s close coverage of the issue extended today to include provocative comments by the main official blamed in the scam, Culture Ministry Undersecretary Muhsin Shaalan. Shaalan’s comments to Al-Shorouk revealed institutional conflicts in the cultural establishment, with his criticism of Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni. “[The minister of culture] knows how to pick the best silk ties from international fashion houses. This is his style. Showing off superficially before television and newspapers cameras.” Shaalan, who is detained, added to Al-Shorouk, in a written letter transferred by his lawyer, that Hosni manages the ministry through his personal interests in an extremely centralized process.
Al-Wafd followed up on the issue with a story on the investigations, in which Shaalan told the prosecutors that Hosni should be blamed for the theft, especially since he claimed to have written to Hosni several times warning about the weak security standards at the museum.
Hosni’s response to Shaalan’s allegations only appeared in Al-Akhbar, which ran a headline reading, “Shaalan is trying to heat up public opinion.” Hosni responded to Shaalan’s allegations on his personalized management style, which asserted that Hosni's own interests direct his decisions. Shaalan had said that the public funds spent on Hosni’s campaign to run for the UNESCO head post would have been better allocated and sufficient to upgrade the Mahmoud Khalil museum. Hosni said that those statements are attempts to conceal Shaalan’s own failures.
Almost all papers wrote about plans to form committees that would study the state of each museum and its security standards across the nation. But Shalaan, according to Al-Wafd, used this very move to argue that the negligence is on a higher level, manifest in an overall hindered state of security in Egyptian museums.
In a satirical representation of the painting theft, Al-Shorouk ran a cartoon with a map of Egypt pasted within the empty Van Gogh frame. The caption reads, “Warning: danger, danger, danger. There are people in Egypt who know very well how to steal. They would steal it and leave forever after. And you wouldn’t know.”
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouq: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Youm7: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned