Wednesday’s papers: ‘Unprecedented freedom,’ sidewalk birthday party

Al-Ahram starts off today’s news with a headline declaring “Egypt witnesses strong political activism and unprecedented freedom of opinion.” The claim—taken from a quote by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif during his meeting yesterday with editors-in-chief of state-owned papers—was made in relation to changes that the PM assures the country will undergo in the near future.
Nazif reportedly informed the meeting’s attendees—an audience which also included ministers and various cabinet members—that the government’s policies are currently focused on increasing economic development, which he said was the key to “solving Egypt’s problems.” Nazif further elaborated by explaining how an increase in economic development would inevitably lead to the creation of new jobs, which would, in turn, result in a “better standard of living for citizens.”
As evidence of the effectiveness of the government’s policies, Nazif said that “in countries like India and China, the percentage of poverty-stricken members of the population is as high as 70 percent, while in Egypt, it’s stable at 20 percent.” Nazif also rejected widely circulating complaints of wages being virtually worthless in the face of sudden price increases, dismissing the claims as “unfounded, and with no truth to them.” The PM also made a statement concerning the controversial Nile basin negotiations, declaring that “Egypt is not in any danger, and its share of the water remains 100 percent.”
Beyond Nazif’s private press conference, state-owned papers also cover President Mubarak’s meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday with Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki. The two leaders reportedly discussed the latest developments in the region, particularly within the Horn of Africa. The issues of piracy and the recent Sudanese elections were also raised, according to Al-Ahram, while Al-Gomhurriya focuses on plans for potential cultural and technological exchanges between the two nations laid down by Mubarak and Afewerki.
Al-Shorouq, on the other hand, seems more excited about Mubarak’s return from Sharm el-Sheikh. “Mubarak in Cairo after two-month absence,” reads the paper’s lead headline. According to Al-Shorouq, the president had originally planned to return to Cairo by Tuesday evening, but will instead be arriving sometime Wednesday morning, when he will be receiving Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in his home, which the paper reports has undergone extensive renovations and cleaning during his absence.
Al-Shorouq also reports that on Thursday, Mubarak is scheduled to “participate in belated Labor Day celebrations…during which he will supposedly deliver some pleasant news to Egyptian workers,” according to an unnamed “reliable source.” Mubarak will also be “personally reviewing” a file compiled by his cabinet members on the Nile Basin negotiations and Egypt’s “historical right” to Nile water.
The price of automobiles shot up last month with an increase of 33.8 percent over March of 2009, according to a report issued by the Automotive Marketing Information Council (AMIC), summarized in Al-Shorouq. Apparently, the price increase did little to discourage citizens from purchasing automobiles, with approximately 20,000 cars and trucks sold in the past month alone. The paper also reports analysts’ predictions that the increase in sales is likely to continue through the coming months.
Al-Wafd reports on the initial stages of an investigation into the recent murder of an Egyptian citizen in Lebanon. Mohamed Salim Massalem, 38, was found murdered and mutilated last Thursday in the Lebanese village of Katramaya. Lebanese police forces suspected Massalem of a quadruple homicide. Massalem was being transported to Katramaya by the police for an investigation into the four murders when a mob of angry villagers managed to snatch him from the police guard and stab him. Later, the mob stormed the hospital where Massalem was taken to recover, and murdered him. His body was then skinned and hung up from a lamp post.
In its lead story, Al-Wafd reports that Attorney General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud has ordered an autopsy on the body, which arrived from Lebanon yesterday. Mahmoud also demanded a medical report detailing the autopsy’s findings, as well as constant updates on any progress made by Lebanese authorities in their corresponding investigations. Massalem’s mother is currently working with her own lawyer, preparing to “present a request to the authorities for the immediate arrest of those involved in the murder,” while at the same time maintaining her son’s innocence, claiming he was “framed,” and describing the quadruple homicide as “a set up.”  
Meanwhile, residents of el-Gamaleya, where Massalem lived before leaving the country for Lebanon, were reportedly outraged at local authorities because they took Massalem’s body for autopsy instead of delivering it back to his family to resume traditional burial rituals. Al-Wafd reports that an angry group of Massalem’s neighbors and family friends gathered around the neighborhood mosque where his funeral was to be held, demanding that authorities return the body “regardless of any protocol pertaining to the investigation.”
Finally, Al-Wafd reports on an impromptu celebration held by residents of Touson who had been camping on the sidewalks outside the Ministry of Agriculture, who they claim is responsible for their being kicked out of their homes weeks ago. Taking a day off from chants and protests, the Touson demonstrators instead celebrated President Mubarak’s 82nd birthday. According to Al-Wafd, the homeless Alexandrians purchased “cakes, candles, party hats, and balloons with their own money,” before staging a performance in honor of the President, during which they sang “Happy Birthday to you/ Don’t leave us on the street.”

Egypt’s newspapers:
: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef:
Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
Daily, privately owned
Daily, privately owned
Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma:
Weekly, privately owned

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