Mondays papers: The‘Social Insurance Umbrella’ and the Khaled Saeed case

Al-Ahram leads with news of a government sponsored social relief package, the result of President Hosni Mubarak’s Sunday meeting with his cabinet. The slightly lyrical headline reads, “Mubarak orders the government to spread the social insurance umbrella and reduce the sting of poverty.”

According to the story, the government will commit an extra LE600 million to a multi-faceted relief package that includes increased benefits for retirees, and a delay on payments for gas canisters until after Ramadan.

Elsewhere on the front page, Al-Ahram brings us news of a brewing confrontation between the People’s Assembly and Health Minister Hatem el-Gebally. According to the article, which is somewhat thin in information, an unspecified number of MPs are demanding a vote of no-confidence against Gebally—enough apparently to warrant Speaker of the House Fathi Sorour calling an emergency session to discuss the issue. Amazingly, the sudden anti-Gebally movement has nothing to do with his ministry’s much-criticized handling of the H1N1 (swine flu) crisis. Instead it’s about alleged budgetary and spending violations.

Al-Ahram’s sister government paper, Al-Gomhorriya, also plays up the el-Gebally storm, placing its story at the top of the front page under the dramatic headline: “For the first time in parliamentary history, a majority of the opposition is against the Health Ministry.”

One issue that didn’t manage to find space on Al-Ahram or Al-Gomhorriya’s front page is the widening controversy over Khaled Saeed, the 28-year-old Alexandrian who, according to witnesses, was publicly beaten to death by police on 6 June. The issue on the other hand gets front-page treatment in almost every non-government newspaper, including Al-Shorouq, Al-Wafd, Al-Dostour, and even the not-exactly-independent Rose Al Youssef.

Most of the coverage treads similar ground, with news that the case has been referred to the Alexandria prosecutor’s office for further investigation. Al-Dostour’s story brings details from the owner of the internet café where Saeed was sitting when he was dragged away by police officers.

The case has spawned a host of public protests, and demands for an independent investigation by local and international human rights watchdog groups. A protest Sunday outside the Interior Ministry was roughly suppressed by riot police, and the case seems to be building momentum as a rallying point for opponents of Egypt’s nearly three-decade-old de facto martial law.

Look for the independent press to continue focusing on the issue in the coming weeks, and the state media to continue burying the case.

Egypt’s newspapers:
Al-Ahram: 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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