Monday’s papers: Mubarak’s speech, truckers strike

As expected, state-owned papers dedicate their front pages to President Hosni Mubarak's speech in front of the new parliament yesterday. Al-Akhbar's front page features a big picture of the president waving to parliamentarians who stand to applaud him. In large red and black fonts, government-owned papers highlight the main points of Mubarak’s talk, including his announcement that a bid will be held within weeks to select the company to construct Egypt’s first nuclear station, the need to counter “terrorism and extremism,” and promises to support the underprivileged.

“What we say in public is what we say behind closed doors,” Al-Akhbar quotes the president as saying, in reference to US cables dealing with Egypt’s diplomacy recently leaked by the whistle blower Wikileaks. The full transcript of Mubarak's speech is devoted at least one full inside page in all government-run papers.

The coverage by the opposition Al-Wafd newspaper has a completely different take on the same speech. Less than one quarter of the paper’s front page is dedicated to the story, and no photo is included. Besides the less generous layout, the paper chooses to highlight the speech's more contentious content, writing “The president criticizes the idea of the parallel parliament and comments: ‘Let them entertain themselves’.”

The parallel or shadow parliament is an initiative announced last week by a number of former parliamentarians who failed to keep their seats in the parliamentary poll earlier this month. Citing vote rigging, these former MPs contended that the new parliament was void. Al-Wafd leads with the headline: “Today, the Wafd party begins its legal efforts to oust the fake parliament,” in reference to a round table discussion that the party is set to hold today in order to compile a list of the violations that marred the poll, and eventually contest the final results in court.

While state-owned papers' coverage portrays a promising political environment, Al-Wafd’s front page offers a gloomy outlook. It highlights a story published recently by American daily the Los Angeles Times in which the writer anticipates the eruption of a social revolution in Egypt due to deteriorating economic conditions and the absence of fair and free elections.

Privately-owned Al-Dostour offers similar coverage of Mubarak’s speech. The paper leads with a headline highlighting the president’s call to develop a strict law to regulate sales of state-owned land, and considers whether such a law could be applied to Mohamed Abul Enein, an NDP leader and prominent businessman, “who received millions of meters at low prices.” The paper alleges that Abul Enein was given 2,100,000 meters on Egypt’s north coast at a price of LE120 million, while the true value of the land is estimated at LE17 billion.

Aside from the president’s speech, the privately owned Al-Shorouk daily highlights on its front page a story about the latest development in the truckers strike. The headline reads: “Negotiations between the government and truck owners fail.” The paper quotes an anonymous government source as saying: “We could not reach fundamental solutions to the truck owners' demands so they could halt their strike.”

The truck owners went on strike last week to protest new taxation measures. They are set to hold a protest today in Cairo as parliament will be discussing their case. 

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-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: 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 al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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