Egypt: Firing Eissa, or Firing Free Press

Al-Dostour – one of the leading Egyptian independent newspapers – new owners have fired the paper's editor-in-chief and founder Ibrahim Eissa, sparking a discussion on blogs on the incident as well as Egypt's media scene.

Al-Dustour (also Al-Dostour and Al-Dostor, meaning “The Constitution”) was founded in December 1995. What started as a weekly newspaper published every Wednesday soon turned into both a daily and weekly newspaper. In August 2010, prominent businessman and president of the liberal opposition Al-Wafd party Sayed El-Badawy acquired the newspaper, along with other businessmen, among them the Coptic businessman Reda Edward.

Another Egyptian newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, commented on the deal then saying:

Some also believe the new deal might result in a less critical paper, voicing concerns that El-Badawy might try to tone down the paper’s radical stance as part of a backroom deal with the regime.

News of Eissa's sacking has been discussed by bloggers in Egypt, who also took the opportunity to analyse what is going on in the Egyptian media scene.

Issandr El Amrani wrote about the firing of Ibrahim Eissa on his own blog, Arabist. He also commented on the unconfirmed news then that stated that Eissa might have been fired for insisting to publish an Op-Ed written by Egyptian presidential hopeful Mohammed ElBaradie, and the speculations that the new owners of the paper were against publishing it.

The big news in Egypt this morning is that Ibrahim Eissa, the founding editor of al-Destour newspaper, has been fired by its new owner, Wafd Party leader al-Sayyid Badawi. It's not clear why this happened, but some allege it's because Eissa wanted to publish a critical article by Mohamed ElBaradei on the 6 October war

Zeinobia then commented on ElBaradie's Op-Ed, and how she believes this is not the real reason for firing Eissa.

I have read it and I do not know what can make Badawy so furious about it!!??

After reading the Op-ed , I am convinced that this is not the real reason , Badawy waited for something to justify his act and he found a golden opportunity for his unfortunate luck in that Op-ed , why I say unfortunate luck , well because the popularity of both ElBaradei and Eissa have been doubled.

Mohamed El-Etr then tried to guess the real reasons behind Eissa's firing.

الآن من وجهة نظري للقرار ثلاثة احتمالات تقبع كأسباب وراء الإقالة :
الأول: البدوي يقرر بشكل سري أن يكون خط الجريدة هو نفسه خط حزب الوفد ، وخط تأييد لحزبه في وقت الانتخابات فيه على الأبواب ، او تكاد تدخل.
الثاني: النظام يتفق مع البدوي على ذلك ، في هذه الحالة النظام سيرتاح من الدستور وتغطيتها بما سيحدث في الانتخابات ، وسيرتاح من عيسى ، وهو أساساً لا يضع في الاعتبار حزب الوفد ، هذا إلى جانب أن هناك بعض الأصوات التي أكدت وجود صفقة بين النظام وحزب الوفد في الانتخابات القادمة ، إذا ففي كل الأحوال النظام كسبان وإن صارت الجريدة في صف حزب الوفد ، وذلك بناءاً على الصفقة فيما بينه وبين الحزب.
الثالث: رغبة البدوي والنظام في خفت صوت البرادعي . يعني من غير المعقول البرادعي كل يوم ينشر مقال أو ينشر له مقال ، فيعلو صوته ، ويزداد تأييد الناس له ، وهذا ما لا يريده النظام ، وفي نفس الوقت البدوي الذي يريد أن يتقدم صفوف المعارضة ، وأن يصبح زعيمها ، ومن غير المعقول أن ينشر مقال لمنافسه على كرسي الرئاسة .
هكذا نستطيع أن نفهم أسباب الحادثة – حادثة الإقالة – ، وكيف أن البدوي بيظبط مع النظام ، كما تؤكد كل الأدلة والإيحاءات .
And now, in my own point of view, there are three reasons behind his firing.

  • The first one: El Badawy had a secret plan to make the newspaper's editorial policy echo his party's ideologies – and to make use of it in order to back his party's campaign in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
  • The second one: There is an agreement between the regime and Badawy, whereby the regime will get rid of Al-Dostour as well as Ibrahim Eissa and their coverage of the elections especially that the Al Wafd is not causing any threat to the ruling party, and what happened might just be a part of an deal between Al Wafd and the ruling party.
  • The third one: El-Badawy wants to silence the voice of El-Baradie, since at the end of the day they both are competing on becoming the leaders of the opposition, and by publishing El-Baradie's article he is helping in increasing his voice, and in this he shares the same goals with the regime.

Thus we can understand the reasons behind Eissa's firing, and how the evidence has proved that El-Badawy is having a deal with the regime.

On a macroscopic level, other similar issues has been taking place in Egypt recently. A few days ago, Eissa himself has suffered from stopping his TV shows, “Baladna Bel Masry” on ON-TV. Zeinobia wrote here how the show might have been stopped after the channel – which is owned by another Egyptian businessman, Naguib Sawiris – received orders from the regime to do so.

Well I have got bad news to you , there will be no new episodes because simply according to anonymous several sources in the channel Eissa is no longer welcomed to speak on air , it seems that the channel has received some order from the regime to stop his show.

Ahmed El-Masry also wrote in his blog a list of incidents that happened recently such as stopping Amr Adib's show, Al-Qahera El Youm (Cairo Today) on Orbit satellite channel, and the fear of the owner of Dream-TV satellite channel that their leading talk-show might get stopped, as well as many other incidents.

أؤمن أن الصدفه بريئه تماما من ما يحدث الأن فى مصر
منع إستضافة محمد البرادعى فى اى قناه
الحمله الإعلاميه الكوميديه لحزب الوفد
وقف برنامج عمرو أديب على قناة أوربيت
منع ظهور إبراهيم عيسى على تلفزيون أون
تصريح أحمد بهجت أنه يتوقع و “خائف” من وقف برنامج العاشره مساء
وقف مقالات حمدى قنديل و علاء الأسوانى فى جريدة الشروق
I believe that coincidence has nothing to do with what is going on in Egypt nowadays.
El-Baradie is forbidden from appearing on any TV channel.
Al-Wafd party's campaign is a farce.
Stopping Amr Adib's TV show on Orbit.
Stopping Ibrahim Eissa's show on ON-TV
Ahmed Bahgat's – the owner of DreamTV – statement that he is expecting and afraid that the talk show, El-Ashera Masa'an (10pm), might get stopped.
Stopping Hamdi Kandil and Alaa El-Aswany's articles in the Shorouk newspaper

Although some of the above incidents might have a non-political background such Amr Adib's show, at least this is what has been claimed, and some others may be just speculations and uncertain news like that of El-Baradie, Alaa El Aswany [Ar], and Ahmed Bahgat, yet no one can deny El-Masry's right to wonder if all these incident have happened by coincidence, and he has all the right to be afraid of the future.

أعتقد ان الفتره القادمه سوف تشهد مدابح إعلاميه و حجب للمدونات و محاكمة نشطاء , و من لم يستطيعوا عزله سيشوهون سمعته
I believe that in the upcoming period we will experience the slaughtering of media outlets, censoring of blogs, trials for activists, and those who cannot be stopped will be defamed.

Egyptian bloggers might be pessimistic, as some of incidents stated above – including the firing of Ibrahim Eissa from Al-Dostour – might be really due to non-political reasons, and some of the expectations might not be very certain, yet at the end of the day, the independent and opposing media outlets are falling one after the other. And people are wondering if there are hidden hands playing a certain role in taking those outlets down or not.

Finally, the below status update written by Ahmed Shokeir on his Twitter account should summarize how the bloggers here see what is going on in the media scene now:

زوجتى على الفيس بوك: انا مش عارفة حاودي وشي فين من بياع الجرايد من كام شهر قلتله اني قاطعت المصري اليوم .. من بكرة حاقوله اني قاطعت الدستور
My wife wrote on Facebook: I am very ashamed of the paperboy now. A few months ago I told him I'd stopped buying Al-Masry Al-Youm, and tomorrow I am going to tell him I'll stop buying Al-Dostour


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