Today’s papers: ElBaradei forms coalition, state press oblivious

All three state-owned dailies led with economic news on their Thursday front pages, anticipating the upcoming national budget. Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhorriya featured details from Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, with Al-Ahram’s article centering on Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s stated pledge to “preserve the current levels of support and social perogatives in the new budget.”

Further down the page, Al-Ahram reported on a government announcement of US$7.5 billion in foreign investments for the country’s petroleum and natural gas sectors this year. Al-Gomhorriya devoted front-page space to a cabinet decision which authorizes the opening of an Alexandria University branch in southern Sudan.

The three state papers also featured details of President Mubarak’s Wednesday meeting with Iraqi Vice-President Tarek El-Hashimi in the lead-up to Iraq’s upcoming round of parliamentary elections slated for early next month. In classic government newspaper-speak, the two leaders “discussed the latest developments in the Iraqi sphere” and touched on “Egypt’s efforts to support Iraq in different fields,” Al-Akhbar reported.

And for those of you keeping score, the government media continued its incredible weeklong streak of pretending Mohamed ElBaradei doesn’t exist. While the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief once again dominated the front pages of the independent media (see below), his name wasn’t mentioned once Thursday on the front pages of any government newspapers.

Independent dailies Al-Dostour and Al-Shorouq naturally placed ElBaradei’s accelerating reform campaign at the top of their front pages, with multiple pictures of ElBaradei meeting with various Egyptian political leaders. The meeting resulted in the formation of a “National Organization for Change” with ElBaradei as its leader.

Al-Dostour’s main article reported that the 30 leaders who gathered at ElBaradei’s home, “represented all the political and ideological currents in Egypt.” The lineup featured most Egyptian opposition parties, including a representative from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood as well as potential rivals to ElBaradei in a multi-candidate presidential election such as Karama Party chief Hamdeen Sabbahi. The article quoted Kefaya movement founder and hardcore ElBaradei enthusiast George Ishak as saying the new organization will seek to form local branches in every Egyptian governorate.

Egypt’s newspapers:

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 el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouq: 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 el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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