Egyptian media's vigorous emergency debate
- 28 January 2013
- From the section Middle East
A fierce debate about President Mohammed Morsi's handling of four days of street violence is consuming the Egyptian media.
From television talk shows and newspaper columns to the internet, politicians and members of the public have been commenting on the president's decision to declare a curfew and state of emergency in three regions flanking the Suez Canal and his call on opposition parties to join him in a "national dialogue".
Revolution or Counter-Revolution?
Popular television talk shows and news programmes have hosted a wide variety of opinions, with criticism of the government predominating on both state-owned and private channels.
The morning show on state-owned Nile News TV interviewed Majdi Yasin of the Egyptian Association for Human Rights, who condemned the state of emergency as a "tool used by the old regime reflecting a weak ruler and government".
The evening programme, Here is the Capital, on private CBC TV spoke to several opposition figures, almost all of whom blamed the government for the violence and dismissed talk of dialogue. Former MP Al-Badri al-Farghali said the emergency law "opens the way to detention camps".
Ahmad al-Rawy, an MP of the hardline Islamist Nour Party, alone praised the government, saying people in Suez received the news of the curfew "with great happiness" as a challenge to the "victory of the thugs".
The private, liberal Dream 2 channel's 10 PM talk show also interviewed a range of people, none of whom saw the curfew as helpful. Islam Misadaq, of the Suez Youth Bloc, said President Morsi had lost his legitimacy and "could not impose these dictatorial decisions on the great people of Suez".
There was support for the government on the governing Muslim Brotherhood's Misr 25 TV. Academic Tariq Fahmi said President Morsi's decisions would "protect the revolution and its goals". Professor Fahmi said "counter-revolutionary forces are attempting to undermine the state", and that the "security solution is more important that the political solution for the time being".
The "Good Morning, Egypt" show on state-owned Channel 1 also interviewed a sympathetic academic, Professor of International Law Ayman Salamah, who said the emergency would "protect the people of those cities from chaos and sabotage".
He assured viewers that anyone arrested would not be tried before a military court, and called on opposition parties to "affirm their readiness for serious dialogue to reach reconciliation and permanent stability".
The state-owned press promoted a message of reconciliation, but without necessarily sparing the government. Attiyah Abu-Zeid, in Al-Ahram daily, said: "Everybody shares the responsibility, the majority and the opposition. None can reach out to the other, hence the importance of a true national dialogue in which each side works towards the other."
His colleague, Ibrahim Arafat, agreed, calling on the presidency to end the "Brotherhooding" of society and the opposition to halt demonstrations.
An editorial in Al-Gomhuriya said all political forces must change their objectives to meet the people's demands for honest government.
The opposition press, on the other hand, firmly blamed the government. Wajdi Zeinaddin of the Al-Wafd nationalist daily urged the Muslim Brotherhood to step down. "The departure of this group from power has become a necessity in response to the demands of the Egyptian masses and after this devastation on the ground. Victims keep falling, killing has become the norm, and crimes are committed as everybody looks on."
Ala Oreibi of Al-Wafd warned the Brotherhood that winning an election was no guarantee of staying in power. "Do not think that Morsi's rise to the presidency through the ballot box immunises him from being ousted; President Mubarak was ousted before he could complete the only presidential term during which he ruled through the ballot box."
'Waste of time'
On Facebook, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party page carried posts supporting President Morsi. Najih Ibrahim, a leading member of the Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya former armed group, commented: "Morsi's decisions will save the blood that others did not care about."
Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader of the National Salvation Front, dismissed Mr Morsi's invitation for dialogue in a tweet: "Without the president taking responsibility for the bloody incidents, promising to form a national salvation government and a balanced committee to amend the constitution, dialogue will just be a waste of time".
There was a claim of responsibility for some of the violence on a Facebook page called "Black Bloc Egypt", apparently run by the Black Bloc anarchist group. It also posted a defiant message to the president. "From Black Bloc Egypt to Morsi: we received your threatening message; await our response."
Ayman Nour, leader of the liberal Ghad al-Thawrah Party, tweeted an accusation that the presidency was too narrowly based to create consensus. "The creation of a presidency from one [political] trend alone is what has led to the shaky performance of the presidential institution, when decrees are issued and then cancelled."
The 6 April Youth Movement asks its 421,000 Facebook members to comment on President Morsi's speech. The 1,476 replies posted by mid-morning span the spectrum of approval and discontent, from the state of emergency being "long overdue " to its "having no meaning; in fact, it pours oil on the fire". One weary comment concludes: "What I liked was the suit he wore".