Friday, February 24, 2012

State-owned press pursues foreign funding issue

State-owned press pursues foreign funding issue
Noha El-Hennawy Tue, 14/02/2012 - 12:34
Egypt’s state-owned press on Tuesday pursues its anti-American campaign with incendiary headlines about the testimony of Fayza Abouelnaga, the planning and international cooperation minister in the infamous case of US-funded civil society organizations.


Al-Ahram state-run daily leads with the headline, “The American funding aims at spreading chaos in Egypt,” while state daily Al-Akhbar’s top headline reads, “Abouelnaga: US interfered indirectly to abort the January revolution.” The reporting in both papers is quite similar — they quote a former diplomat as saying that the 25 January revolution took the US administration by surprise, so the Americans exerted all possible effort and directed all resources to steer the revolution in a direction that would serve both American and Israeli interests.

The US and Israel realized that the revolution could lead to Egypt’s renaissance, a development that both countries would never hope for, Al-Akhbar quoted Abouelnaga, who is seen by Western media as the architect of the recent crackdown on civil society groups, as saying.

Abouelnaga is also the subject of a half-page report in Al-Nour, the weekly mouthpiece of the Salafi-oriented Nour Party. The report dubs Abouelnaga “the iron woman” for the curious fact that she has managed to survive three cabinet shuffles since the 25 January revolution began. The paper raises the question as to how the former diplomat, who served in Mubarak’s cabinet for nearly 10 years, managed to survive the revolution.

The Salafi outlet also wonders why Abouelnaga has been further empowered under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The report accuses her of contributing to “corrupting political life” by directing foreign aid to organizations affiliated with the disbanded National Democratic Party and presenting inaccurate feasibility studies that have wasted billions of US dollars in aid and loans. Yet the paper holds no grudge against Abouelnaga for her current role in spearheading the anti-American campaign and promoting a conspiracy theory about US-funded NGOs.

Freedom and Justice, the mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party of the same name, reports that judicial investigators found that the civil society organization established by Hosni Mubarak’s son Alaa received LE290 million from two Gulf countries after the revolution to instigate chaos in Egypt. The paper quotes FJP leader Essam al-Erian as warning that the peace treaty with Israel might be revisited if the US decides to cut its aid to Egypt and goes on to explain that the US had threatened to cut aid in the wake of the referral of US nationals to criminal court last week in the recent probe into civil society organizations’ funding.

Apart from the ongoing Egypt-US spat, Al-Ahram newspaper once again highlights the failure of calls for a general strike. The paper says school attendance is at 90 percent and air and railroad traffic is normal. The Egyptian Trade Union Federation is set to launch a campaign to enhance productivity next Sunday, it adds, though it does not provide details.

Liberal opposition paper Al-Wafd leads with a moving story about protesters digging their own graves in Tahrir Square. The paper’s front page reads, “Mass graves for protesters in Tahrir Square: Protesters keep digging 50 graves and threaten to commit collective suicide if the military does not hand power over [to civilians].” In the meantime, the paper quotes demonstrators as saying, “This is an escalatory step that has nothing to do with [the call] for civil disobedience made by some groups over the last few days.” They expressed their opposition to the general strike, arguing that it threatens the economy, Al-Wafd says.

Al-Shorouk newspaper highlights on its front page a recent statement by the Muslim Brotherhood affirming the group’s commitment to forming a coalition government. The report says the Nour Party has welcomed the recent shift in the Brothers’ position. Yet the ultra-conservative Jama’a al-Islamiya opposes any call to sack the incumbent cabinet and form a new one before the transitional period is over, according to Al-Shorouk.

Jama'a al-Islamiya issued a statement warning that a new cabinet reshuffle would not contribute to political and economy stability. Until last week, the Brotherhood also opposed proposals to form a coalition cabinet to replace the military-appointed one. It insisted that no new cabinet should be formed until the transitional period ends at the end of June. But last Wednesday, Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater dropped a bombshell on Al Jazeera satellite channel by announcing that his group is not satisfied with the performance of the current cabinet and is ready to form a new one immediately.

Al-Shorouk also stresses the controversy that marred Parliament’s session over the preliminary report of the fact-finding commission that investigated the football violence in Port Said earlier this month. The paper says lawmakers representing different parties complained about the report, arguing it fell short of containing the anger of martyrs’ families or identifying the culprits.

Hussein Ibrahim, the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party’s parliamentary bloc, demanded that intelligence officials testify before Parliament and disclose any information they might have about the incident, which left at least 74 people dead and hundreds injured, according to the privately owned paper. In the meantime, Egyptian Social Democratic Party MP Ziad al-Elaimy is quoted as saying, “Thank God this is a provisional report,” implying his dissatisfaction and voicing hopes that the final report might be sharper.

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-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Youm7: Daily, privately owned
Al-Tahrir: 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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