Thursday’s papers: Fighting over a journalist’s death

Newspapers on Thursday focus their coverage on the death of Al-Fagr photojournalist Al-Husseini Abu Deif and the referendum on the draft constitution.

Abu Deif died Wednesday of birdshot injuries he sustained to the head on 5 December while covering protests outside the presidential palace.

“Martyr of journalism and revolution: Al-Husseini Abu Deif passes away,” reads a headline in the independent Al-Shorouk. This paper mentions that Deif was bestowed the “Freedom fighter against corruption” award by a local watchdog group in recognition of his journalistic work 48 hours before he passed away.

Independent newspaper Al-Watan mentions that Abu Deif’s death brings the death toll of protesters killed outside the presidential palace to 11, while independent Al-Tahrir cites 10 fatalities and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice newspaper says nine were killed. Well over 700 protesters were reportedly injured in these bloody clashes between President Mohamed Morsy's Islamist supporters and the opposition.

The Brotherhood’s paper claims that Abu Deif was covering the clashes “on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood and was thus shot by the bullet of treachery.”

According to Al-Fagr newspaper, where Abu Deif was employed, the deceased journalist's family denies claims he was standing among Morsy supporters when he was shot. Both his family members and eyewitnesses say he was standing among opposition protesters when he was hit at close range with a shotgun cartridge fired from the pro-Morsy side. Al-Fagr alleges the Brotherhood and Information Minister Salah Abdel Maqsoud were “lying and attempting to defend those who killed Abu Deif.” Al-Fagr Editor-in-Chief Adel Hamouda writes a column titled “Abu Deif’s generation will prevail over fascist authoritarianism.”

Commemoratory events and rallies in support of Abu Deif were staged at the Journalists Syndicate Wednesday, and more memorial rallies are planned for the weekend.

Far away from the unrest, Egyptian expatriates began voting on the draft constitution abroad Wednesday.

The main headline in Freedom and Justice reads, “Voting on the constitution has begun: Large turnout for Egyptians abroad.” The paper trumpets the draft constitution, which was largely formulated by the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies, as “the constitution of the revolution” and “of freedoms” as well as “the first constitution to be drafted by a committee which was elected by the Egyptian populace.” The last claim is perplexing given that the members of the Constituent Assembly were appointed, not elected to the drafting body.

Although it describes the draft as being “the constitution of freedoms,” the Brotherhood paper fails to mention that the charter enshrines both forced labor and child labor within its provisions — granted that these forms of labor are to be regulated by laws — although they are indeed violations of international human rights standards and conventions to which Egypt is party.

The Brotherhood’s paper mentions that 51 million eligible voters will cast their ballots over the two days of the referendum (15 and 22 December). State-owned Al-Ahram runs a nearly identical headline. Unlike Al-Ahram, however, the Brotherhood paper does not mention that Morsy decreed that the referendum take place over days instead of one as originally planned owing to the lack of judges monitoring the voting process.

Thousands of judges are boycotting the referendum due to perceived infringements on the independence of the judiciary – via Morsy’s constitutional declarations, and due to the provisions of the draft constitution itself.

Al-Ahram runs a headline announcing “Judges: Voting in two rounds is a normal process in light of current circumstances.” The vague article that follows does not mention which “judges” made this statement. Al-Tahrir contradicts that account with the headline “Judges Clubs: Referendum in two stages is a violation of the electoral law, and a violation of article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration."

Freedom and Justice makes no mention of vote rigging, ballot buying or other election violations in the referendum vote abroad. However, Al-Tahrir reports that “46 Brotherhood leaders in Kuwait provide buses to transport voters to embassy polling station, and pay 20 dinars for each ‘yes’ vote.”

Al-Watan runs an article claiming that “Referendum violations have commenced and been reported in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” This article alleges that Brotherhood members in Saudi Arabia obtained referendum ballots and distributed them outside the Egyptian Embassy in Riyadh. The Brotherhood is reportedly campaigning near the Embassy, telling voters to say "yes" to the constitution.

Egypt’s papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Al-Sabah: Daily, privately owned

Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party


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