The sacking of maverick newspaperman Ibrahim Eissa is only the tip of a vast iceberg. The broader project is to discredit and intimidate independent media outlets and those who run them, ahead of the 2010 parliamentary elections and the 2011 presidential selection. The regime's goal is clear: to control the flow of political information at an exceptionally sensitive time, limiting the public's exposure to alternative constructions of political reality. Here's the true import of Ibrahim Eissa as a media maverick.
. . .Eissa has been removed because he’s a newspaperman with a vision and a superior communicator. When al-Dostor went daily in 2007, the paper’s diverse opinion pages were supplemented with solid news reporting that illuminated key spheres of Egyptian society. Eissa cultivated beat reporters who began systematically covering the universities, the courts, protests and demonstrations, and the Coptic Church. He continued to pack the newspaper’s opinion pages with the widest range of political viewpoints of any Egyptian broadsheet. And he managed to keep on writing his own daily column of hard-hitting socio-political commentary, all while also hosting a television show that showcased his skills as a communicator. In one clip, Eissa broke down weighty matters of political economy into an accessible, digestible, humorous module for public edification.
As Egypt heads toward parliamentary and presidential elections, a time when the free flow of political information takes on heightened significance, the government is intent on controlling all sources of alternative knowledge. Newspapers like al-Dostor that pose the greatest threat are effectively shut down, via an elaborate scheme using al-Sayed al-Badawi as the agent and poor management as the pretext. For other independent dailies such as al-Masry al-Youm andal-Shurouq, they are deterred with veiled threats, inducing them to self-censor and scale back their news coverage during election season. Witness the recent series of openly threatening editorials in the government daily Ruz al-Yusuf, warning the editors and owners of all independent dailies and even threatening them with disappearance by 2012.