Secretary General of the National Democratic Party Safwat el-Sherif dominates today’s state-owned papers, as seen by his quote at the top of Al-Ahram’s front page. “We reject the shooting of any Egyptian citizen,” el-Sherif announced during yesterday’s NDP General Assembly session. The statement comes as a response to party member Nashat el-Qassas’s suggestion that security forces should be less lenient when dealing with protesters. “Instead of using water hoses to disperse them [the protesters], the police ought to shoot them,” the MP had recommended during last Sunday’s meeting of national security and human rights committees.
While el-Sherif expressed the party’s appreciation of “the efforts made by security forces handling the situation, especially in regards to judgment and self-control,” the secretary general went on to emphasize that the NDP “respects freedom of expression, and protects the Egyptian youths’ right to peacefully voice their opinions—without consideration of their political persuasion—as long as their expression is within the boundaries of the law,” according to Al-Ahram.
“Although the party understands the people’s right to express their opinions, it will not tolerate invitations to chaos, and will not accept any individual or minority claiming to speak on the people’s behalf,” el-Sherif elaborated.
Meanwhile, People’s Assembly Speaker Fathi Sorour has called for an examination of transcripts from last Sunday’s human rights council meeting, during which MP el-Qassas allegedly made his controversial suggestion. Sorour stated his plans to read the transcripts and send copies to the appropriate committees in an attempt to “find out the truth” of what was said during the meeting. For his part, el-Qassas maintained that he was only “requesting that the law be enforced against those who break it, and that the police exercise their legal right for self-defense,” adding that “the use of firearms is a form of self-defense recognized by all,” and that “this country does not need to see an increase in police martyrs.”
El-Qassas’s comments seemed to do little to discourage protesters from provoking the police, as can be seen in a photo in Al-Gomhorriya, in which a crowd of young activists can be seen holding up signs consisting of a bullseye under the message “Shot Us” [sic]. Despite the typo, the message was clear, at least to Al-Gomhorriya, which, in its headline, described the protester’s actions as “exceeding the limits of decency.” Led by Ghad party founder Ayman Nour, the group of approximately 50 demonstrators gathered in front of the People’s Assembly, chanting “shoot us with bullets, our bodies are already cursed.” Several protesters withdrew from the crowd, however, as soon as the chants began to “slander the president,” Al-Gomhorriya reports before commending security forces on displaying “extreme self control in the face of direct provocation.”
Beyond its coverage of the general assembly, Al-Akhbar reports on LE5 billion allotted by the Ministry of Finance for the purchase of wheat from farmers. The government will begin collecting the wheat starting 1 May at a rate of LE270 per ardab. Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaza explained the high price being paid for wheat as “a way to support farmers and encourage them to continue growing basic produce.”
All three state-owned papers report on the “end of the airline crisis” caused by last week’s Icelandic volcano eruption. Following the reopening of several airports across the European continent, Egypt Air cleared 12 flights for takeoff yesterday. Al-Gomhorriya reports the airline’s total losses during the last six days as being LE15 million.
Inevitably, independent papers focus heavily on the growing controversy generated by MP el-Qassas’s comments. Despite attributing the inflammatory suggestion to MP Ragab Hilal Hemeida, Al-Wafd reported on the “anxious” and “angry” reactions since expressed by groups of demonstrators. According to the paper, residents of Alexandria’s Touson district, who had been staging a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Agriculture for the past three weeks, have begin to construct a barrier of sandbags around themselves, with several members of the group going so far as to wear “steel buckets” on their heads for protection. The Touson residents have been protesting the demolition of their homes, a situation they claim “only benefits certain businessmen,” and which has not been blocked despite a direct court order.
Al-Shorouq also reports on the Touson protesters, with an accompanying photograph depicting group members holding up signs reading “ready to be shot, as per the suggestions of MPs.”
Both papers also include coverage of yesterday’s “tragic events within the Pharmacists Union,” according to Al-Wafd. Recently deposed union leader Mohamed Abdel Maksoud allegedly broke into the union’s headquarters yesterday morning with the help of a team of his “followers.” The former union leader proceeded to raid the headquarters’ offices, “stealing rubber stamps and replacing locks, and throwing employees out,” the paper reports.
According to Al-Shorouq, Abdel Maksoud’s “followers” prevented members of the union from entering the headquarters, resulting in an all-out brawl in the building’s entrance. Inside the building, pharmacists from the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly managed to “liberate” the second floor from intruders.
Finally, comfort can be found in a report from the Egyptian Astronomical Society, the findings of which are summarized on Al-Wafd’s front page. According to center director Dr. Salah Mohamed Mahmoud, “Egypt lies at a safe distance from the planet’s regions of volcanic activity, and is under no immediate threat from volcanoes.”
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