Sunday’s papers: Fire (and drama) in Cairo

With dramatic headlines, today’s newspapers agonized over the fires and violence that spread throughout Cairo and beyond following the verdict pronounced on the Port Said football massacre.

The massacre, where 72 Ahly Club fans were killed in a match between their team and Port Said’s Al-Masry Club, resulted in 73 people being put on trial. Of them, 21 were sentenced to death, five received life sentences and 28 were acquitted, with the rest receiving various sentences. Only two out of nine policemen accused in the case were given sentences, while the rest was acquitted, to the fury of some Ahly football fans.

“Burning Egypt” is the privately-owned Al-Shorouk’s headline of choice. “The second Cairo fire” was the privately-owned Al-Sabah’s headline, reminding readers of the first Cairo fire of 1952, which destroyed several state institutions in the midst of heightened anti-British occupation sentiments. Both papers’ coverage is more descriptive than prescriptive, saying only that the ultras’ anger has spread in Cairo and Port Said following a verdict that was less than satisfactory for both sides.

But tidbits of politics show in the coverage, albeit subtly. Al-Shorouk’s lead reads, “The anger of the ultras leads to the burning of public institutions in Cairo, while the anger of Port Said threatens the Suez Canal. The policemen continue their strikes in the meantime and the Brothers look into forming a ‘private sector’ police.”

In fact, Al-Shorouk is the only one to make a reference to Saber Abouel Fotouh, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, and his statement about a possible law to be passed by the Shura Council to allow private security companies to replace the striking policemen in filling the security gap. Abouel Fotouh said that although the Armed Forces have some powers of arrest approved by the Parliament, “We don’t want to keep them busy with domestic issues.

Another headline in the same newspaper reads, “Crowds of ultras invade Cairo and the army puts out the fire.” The mention of the army refers to the fact that the Armed Forces did sent helicopters to put down the fire that erupted in the Egyptian Football Association and the Police Club, both near the Ahly Club, where crowds congregated ahead of the verdict. But the reference figuratively brings up scattered talk about a military takeover to put an end to the Brotherhood’s ruling failures, a possibility deemed desirable for a few and yet remote for many.  

Less subtle is the coverage of partisan papers like that of the daily Al-Wafd, the mouthpiece of the veteran liberal party. “Where is Morsy?” figures in bigger Arabic red letters on top of its front page, in reference to President Mohamed Morsy.

And for the daily privately-owned Al-Watan, it’s even personal. “Hatred burns Egypt and the regime is content with praying.” For Al-Watan, it’s personal because the newspaper’s premises were attacked on Saturday by unknown assailants, who set fire to the first floor and destroyed the second. The story figures on top of today’s front page, whereby Al-Watan claims that the attack was organized by Morsy’s regime. The paper said that when its journalists asked Presidential Spokesperson Ihab Fahmy about the attack, the latter responded by asking, “Is this a question to be addressed to the presidency, and is the presidency expected to have an answer?”

But life is good for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice daily. Justice is served and all problems are/will be solved, according to the paper. The newspaper’s front page details the verdict focusing on those convicted (21 death sentences, five life sentences, 15 years for the head of the Security Directorate), while failing to mention the 28 found innocent. Meanwhile, and ahead of the Port Said news, the paper reports about a map of gas stations that will be focal points for natural gas 24 hours a day, in response to mounting disenchantment with the missing gas across the nation. The front page also makes space for other positive news, such as the youth of the Brotherhood organizing volunteers-based illiteracy classes and Freedom and Justice daily celebrating its 500th edition.

Less nonchalant coverage is found in the state-run Al-Ahram daily, whose editor, Abdel Nasser Salama, runs a front page interview with Muslim Brotherhood leader and Shura Council Speaker Ahmad Fahmy. In a self-defensive statement, Fahmy tells Salama that “no political party on its own can handle the responsibility in Egypt. The Freedom and Justice Party is a not a ruling party and it didn’t take its chance up until now.”

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-Watan: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Al-Sabah: 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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