The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Protest Follow-up & Egyptian Press Review

There is a debate concerning the amount of people that participated in yesterday's protest. My colleagues and I that attended noted that there were approximately 200 people. We gathered this by guessing.

Reuters and BBC both said that this was the largest of the three anti-President protests with protesters reaching in the hundreds or over a thousand.

I spoke with one of the Kifaya organizers this morning and was told that two protests were taking place. The was the one outside Cairo Universities main gates (which is the one I photographed). The organizer did not speculate on how many people were outside. Reviewing the situation today with several foreign journalists that were there with me - the new number of outside protesters was as high as 250 (apparently after I departed, one correspondent says that around 60 Cairo U students joined. The same source said the protest went on until 3pm).

My organizing friend explained that she was inside the gates of the university. There, she claims, there were at least 1500 people demonstrating. The security clearly were not allowing the two protest groups to gather together. Amn Markazi (CSF) was also so dominant in its numbers that it was impossible for us, as observers, to see inside the gate. They were blocking our entry to the gate.

I don't know if this second number is right or is just what I hear. But if that was the case, then the major news organs were correct to say that this was the largest demonstration yet against the president. So that is that.
Now...How was this protest covered in the Egyptian press? Poorly to say the least. I did not bother scanning al-Ahram because I simply doubted anything significant being done on the Kifaya protest. Not that al-Hyatt is Egyptian, but there was nothing in its pages.

Al-Masri al-Youm's coverage was fairly weak. In today's edition, which is obsessed with the information ministerial change and personnel movement going on there, there was a small article re the demonstration on page three. Instead of headlining it as Kifaya movement protests at Cairo U, they opted for the safer and more downplayed headline - " 'Kifaya' criticizes the opposition parties' position in the national dialogue". Reading through the piece, it reports that there were some people protesting at Cairo University from the Egyptian movement for Change that criticized the parties decision to postpone talking about constitutional and political reform until after the presidential referendum. Hence, it was more or less a fait accompli that Mubarak will remain president (and his mandate will extend his reign to 30 years). The article also pointed out Kifaya is against the idea of American and foreign interference in Egyptian domestic political reform. Towards the end of the article, it finally mentions that the Kifaya protesters were against renewing the president's mandate and the inheritance of power in Egypt as they demanded constitutional amendments.

The Wafd had an even smaller piece in its paper. Nevertheless, it positioned the story in the top left corner with a picture. Its headline dare not mention that the protest was an anti-Mubarak affair, but it did play the numbers estimate game generously. The headline reads, "2000 intellectuals and students protest in front of Cairo U: Demands for speeding up the realization of political reform and warnings against the inheritance of power." The article mentions the heavy security presence, that 20,000 people remain political prisoners, and 7 million people are unemployed. The article also explains the protesters want constitutional amendments in a way that the president is selected. The protesters prefer for free and multi-candidacy direct elections. It mentions the protesters called for canceling the emergency laws for political reasons. The protesters also warned that postponing political reform was leads to a failing government.