General strike calls face counter-propaganda before action begins

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Saturday 11 Feb 2012

Military council, religious authorities and dominant political forces denounce calls for a general strike as tantamount to sabotage on eve of scheduled industrial action

Protesters following the news in Tahrir Square days before Mubarak stepped down last February. Despite the launched campaign against civil disobedience calls, it remains premature to judge its effectiveness and scope from day one. (Photo: Reuters)

As the scheduled day for a general strike began, state media coverage contained strong denunciations, and allegations of a "conspiracy" behind the strike call.

On Friday night, the ruling military council released a statement on the eve of the scheduled strike and occasion of the first anniversary of Mubarak's stepping down from power. The statement condemned calls for a strike, describing them as aimed at undermining the country's institutions and "bringing down the state itself in order for chaos and ruin to prevail."

The statement could also be interpreted as a warning to those calling for strikes, stating: "We will not succumb to threats, we will not give in to pressure, will not accept any diktat."

Egypt's largest state newspaper, Al-Ahram, said in a heavily bolded title in its Saturday edition, "The people refuse disobedience." The paper opening its story saying, "All political forces have agreed on refusing calls for civil disobedience," without clarifying who the groups specifically are.

While the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Salafist Al-Nour Party, along with Al-Wafd and other parties announced their rejection of the strike call, a number of political groups have publicly announced their endorsement of the strike initiated by several public and private student unions over the last week.

Independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm noted statements made last week by Al-Azhar's Grand Imam and the Coptic Pope denouncing civil disobedience on the grounds that it contradicts with God's teachings.

Independent newspaper Al-Dostor allocated its main headlines to conspiracies Egypt is allegedly facing, such as the "millions of dollars entering Egypt for politically-directed civil society organisations." One headline read: "America aims at dividing Egypt and Israel looks forward to seizing Taba and Ras Mohamed in Sinai."

There was no mention of civil disobedience on the newspaper's front page.

Independent liberal newspaper Al-Shorouk described Friday's march on the Ministry of Defence as the "calm before the civil disobedience storm," highlighting that Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd leaders have rejected strike calls on the grounds that they threaten the country's interests.

With an illustrated picture saying "No to Civil Disobedience," the Muslim Brotherhood's website spoke in its main story of "increasing public rejection of civil disobedience," published hours into the start of the day. According to the story, workers in sugar industry plants in Qena and Giza announced they will be working extra hours Saturday and donating their wages to the revolution's injured protesters.

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