Ibrahim Eissa and the turn of the screw

What’s cooler than being cool? Eissa cold.

Ibrahim Eissa has been involved in 10 Egyptian newspapers that have been shut down by government censors. Have you? On Tuesday, he was fired from his post as editor of Al-Dostour, one of Egypt’s leading opposition newspapers. Journalists at Al-Dostour have retained control of the paper and continue to post content on its website. The indefatigable Zeinobia is on the case should you wish to check for updates.

The paper was recently purchased by Al-Sayed Al-Badawy, leader of Egypt’s Wafd party – a party nominally in opposition (heh) but increasingly widely regarded as an ally of the NDP, who tolerate them in order to preserve the semblance of a thriving democracy in Egypt. This latest move is seen as bringing them closer to the government and even possibly as election positioning. The Wafd have opposed Mohamed ElBaradei’s recent call for an opposition boycott of Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections, saying that they did not want to repeat the ‘mistakes’ of previous boycotts, in which they lost a large number of seats to the Muslim Brotherhood (who, incidentally, are showing signs of a boycott…because, you know, they’re Islamists who hate democracy, or something like that). The nominal reason for Eissa’s dismissal was his disagreement with Al-Badawy over an op-ed on the anniversary of the 6th October War (aka 1973, Yom Kippur War…) by none other than bespectacled controversy merchant ElBaradei himself. Yet this looks like somewhat of a pretext. In his penultimate column before he was fired, Eissa with a degree of prescience (and unfortunate dramatic irony) predicted a clampdown on media freedom in Egypt: as they cannot rig the elections, the Egyptian government will ‘put a stop to the talk about rigging’.

First they came for the chat shows. Several political talk shows have been cut from the TV schedules, and Eissa himself has left his talk show ‘Baladna Bel-Masri’ in a move that may or may not have been politically motivated, but probably was. The Al-Dostour firing is the next move in a chess game that the NDP is playing in the run up to November’s parliamentary elections, although chess is probably too intellectual an analogy for what is more like a game of whack-a-mole. Issandr El-Amrani in Al-Masry Al-Youm (ingliizii) this week writes of a ‘Cairo autumn’, dichotomous to the ‘Cairo spring’ that accompanied the 2005 elections, when all eyes were on Egypt and Bush was all up on democracy promotion like no-one had ever heard of Fallujah. But no-one is watching now (except the Carnegie Endowment with their graphs and generally excellent analysis). With Obama tied up in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and supposedly ‘in-depth and productive’ talks on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, he has little time to be hustling Mubarak, who has apparently free rein to repress the media, crack down on the opposition, and possibly lever his unprepossessing son into power. The screws are turning.


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