Wednesday’s papers: Suleiman statements, reform committees, state employees protest

Wednesday’s state-owned papers focus on Vice President Omar Suleiman’s meeting with the board chairmen and chief editors of state-owned and independent newspapers, giving little attention to the mass protests that swept Mahalla, Suez and Alexandria in solidarity with the millions who stayed in Tahrir Square on the second day of the “week of steadfastness.”

Al-Ahram dedicates almost its entire front page to the regime’s efforts to control the unprecedented growing anger of Egyptians. The state-owned paper writes that President Hosni Mubarak issued a decree to form reform committees in accordance with agreements reached between Suleiman and representatives of various opposition movements last Sunday.

Despite the 15-day protest, President Hosni Mubarak has been carrying out his full presidential functions while turning a blind eye to the protesters who flood daily to Tahrir Square demanding his resignation.

According to the report, the first committee will study and implement the required constitutional amendments as well as other legislative changes that impose presidential-term limits. The amendments constitute the government’s first effective step to introduce “real” reform aiming to overcome the country’s escalating crisis.

It is believed that the government’s amendments to Article 76 in 2007 were a manipulation tactic to strengthen the power of the ruling National Democratic Party and impose more obstacles in the path of independent candidates in the upcoming presidential elections.

The regime will also set a committee headed by Sirry Mahmoud Siam, head of the Court of Cassation and Chairman of the Higher Judicial Council to ascertain the implementation of all agreed demands, says the paper.

It is also reported that a third committee will be created to investigate the violent clashes that broke out on 2 February between supporters and opponents of Mubarak.

Suleiman’s statements in yesterday’s meeting dominate Al-Ahram’s top headlines, which read “Egypt is between two choices: Dialogue or coup.”

The paper quotes Sulemian as saying: “The regime did not and will not collapse,” and “The government has no problem in fulfilling all popular demands.” 

In his statement, Suleiman categorically denied widespread allegations about Mubarak’s departure to Germany, saying that the president remains in Egypt and will put into practice the reform measures by the end of his term. He pointed out that the word “departure” which has been reiterated by protesters contradicts with the ethics of the Egyptians.

On different front, Al-Dostour starts off today’s news with a report on the important developments that occurred yesterday in the “Revolution of Anger.” The paper writes that tens of thousands moved from Tahrir Square to the Shura Council and People’s Assembly, calling for the dissolution of both. The demonstration extended to the Ministers’ Council where protesters chanted against the newly appointed Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and demanded his resignation.

The independent paper adds that hundreds of Ministry of Health employees joined the demonstrators calling for pay rises, better working conditions and the dismissal of former Minister of Health Hatem al-Baltagi’s advisers. The newly appointed Minister of Health, however, disappointed the masses by refusing to leave his office to respond to their complaints.

In related news, the liberal opposition party paper Al-Wafd writes that hundreds of journalists and employees of Egypt’s state-owned newspapers, including Al-Ahram, Rose al-Youssef and Al-Gomhorriya, provoked demonstrations against their chairmen and chief editors.

According to the report, protesters prevented Rose al-Youssef’s chairman Karam Gabr and chief editor Abdalah Kamal from entering the institution’s building. The same action was taken against Ali Ibrahim, chief cditor of Al-Gomhorriya paper.

Al-Ahram workers, for their part, protested the editorial policy of the paper and their deteriorating financial conditions.   

Al-Wafd also states that the 25 January youth have announced their intention to march to the presidential palace in Heliopolis if Mubarak insists on staying in power. The report also adds that the preacher Safwat Hagazy threatens to call for an indefinite nationwide strike in the next week if the government continues to ignore their demands. 

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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