Egyptian press review: Blood, massacres and terrorism

Mary Mourad, Tuesday 20 Aug 2013

Most Egyptian newspapers lead with the killings of 25 police conscripts in Sinai on Tuesday

Egyptian newspapers
A selection of Egyptian newspaper headlines on Tuesday (Photo: Mary Mourad)

In the wake of several days of deadly violence around Egypt, much of the Egyptian press focuses on Tuesday on the dangers threatened by "terrorism," highlighting a recent incident in Sinai in which 25 conscripts were killed.

All newspapers, whether state-owned, privately-owned, or partisan, featured photos of corpses on their front pages.

Most newspapers led with the news that 25 police conscripts had been killed on Monday in a terrorsit attack near Rafah in north Sinai.

A second incident widely covered in the papers was the death of 37 detainees on Sunday while on their way to Abu Zaabal prison north of Cairo. Official accounts attributed the deaths to suffocation by teargas, fired to combat an escape attempt.

Al-Akhbar and Al-Ahram, Egypt's two state-owned giants, both led with the killings of the police conscripts. Al-Akhbar called it a "Brotherhood massacre" while Al-Ahram highlighted "popular anger" at the incident, enlarging a photo of the dead conscripts lying on the ground. Both papers used the term "terrorists" to describe the assailants responsible for the killings.

The later edition of Al-Akhbar newspaper also highlighted the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie on Tuesday morning.

The rest of the headlines in Al-Ahram focused on recent moves by the cabinet to address Egypt's faltering economy and to restore security after the week's turmoil, as well as various international reactions to events in Egypt.

The story of the detainees' deaths on the way to Abu Zaabal came on the third page, with a report that conveyed the official line that police had to use teargas in response to the detainees attempts' to break free and hold an officer hostage.

Al-Akhbar mentioned Abu Zaabal only on the seventh page, again reiterating the interior ministry's account.

The front page of Al-Masry Al-Youm, the most widely-read private newspaper, also led with the Sinai deaths, under a headline reading: "Terrorism defies Egypt, army warns."

The rest of the front page covered a variety of topics, including a recent statement by the king of Saudi Arabia that the Gulf state would provide Egypt with aid should western nations withdraw their assistance.

The recent extension of Mohamed Morsi's detention and the possibility of the release of Hosni Mubarak from custody took equal space at the bottom of the page, where a story on the "Abu Zaabal incident" is also published, featuring a forensic statement attesting that the detainee's deaths were due to suffocation.

Al-Watan, a recently-founded private newspaper, also covered the Sinai police killings in detail, printing personal photographs of the conscripts. It described the incident as a "brutal massacre."

Like Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al-Watan also highlighted international reactions to Egyptian events, covering Europe's "continued war on Egypt" and Saudi Arabia's offer of support. A small headline at the very bottom of the page mentioned Mubarak's release.

Privately-owned Al-Youm Al-Sabea also led with the Sinai story, under the headline: "Terrorism continues [its] treachery." Half the page was dedicated to the Saudi king's support for Egypt, with pictures of King Abdullah and the Saudi foreign minister. The Abu Zaabal deaths and Mubarak's potential release are covered in small headlines at the bottom of the page.

Al-Tahrir, a private daily run by media figure Ibrahim Eissa, features a front page with photographs of the Sinai killings, presenting the points of view of the local residents, legal experts, politicians and security officials, all of whom condemned the incident.

The paper also features a small notice of Mubarak's release order, while the Abu Zaabal deaths are mentioned in the context of the beginning of prosecutors' investigations into the incident.

Unlike other privately-owned newspapers, Al-Shorouk dedicated equal space to the "terrorist massacre in Sinai" and the Abu Zaabal killings, which it covered under the headline: "Interior ministry accuses officers in the incident of the death of 38 Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Abu Zaabal."

Al-Shorouk is the only newspaper that carries news of the arrest orders for a number of Brotherhood leaders, or updates on the work of the committee amending Egypt's constitution. International reactions to Egypt's current crisis were also highlighted, including pressure from the EU and Britain.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice newspaper highlighted what it called the "[prison] transport vehicle Holocaust" and wrote that human rights organisations allegedly saw "marks of torture on the corpses of the martyrs" at Abu Zaabal.

The coverage in the paper rejected statements by what it called the "coup cabinet" and rejected the idea that the killings occurred in the context of a failed escape attempt. Instead, the paper highlighted signs of "torture and burns" reportedly found on the bodies, and accused the police of murder.

The paper also mentioned the "Rafah killings" at the bottom of its front page, highlighting "conflicting stories" about the police conscripts' deaths and suggested the possibility of a conspiracy. A leader from the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Brotherhood, was quoted "condemning" the incident.

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