Almost all Arab media outlets lead off with coverage of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s imminent release from federal prison. Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for over 30 years but served the past 28 months in prison on an array of corruption and murder charges, is expected to return home today, where he will be placed under house arrest indefinitely.
An analysis of Mubarak’s legal situation by the Dubai-based media channel Al-Arabiya states that while Egypt’s former strongman was sentenced to life in prison last year for the killing of protesters during the 2011 Egyptian uprising, his successful appeal calls for a retrial.
Since he has now served the maximum amount of pre-trial detention permitted under Egyptian law, the court had no choice but to release him.
The ruling came following a hearing on charges that Mubarak received illegal gifts from the state-run publisher Al-Ahram. The court’s decision became final when the state prosecutor decided not to appeal the decision.
According to the Doha-based media network Al-Jazeera, Mubarak’s release may be permanent. A retrial may still happen. Since Egypt is now being ruled by the nascent military government according to emergency law, Mubarak will be placed under a complete travel ban as well.
Regardless, Western governments and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood alike are viewing the imminent release as a reminder that Egypt’s government is reverting back to a Mubarak-style military dictatorship under Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reports that although the Muslim Brotherhood has put a halt on mass protests over the past few days as their leaders get rounded up and arrested, Mubarak’s release may be a trigger for a violent Islamist reaction.
As a result, the Egyptian government is trying to downplay the significance in any way possible. The Cairo-based Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, a government-run daily that is hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, did not publish any stories on Thursday about Mubarak’s release from prison. This was most likely a decision that came from above that was designed to avoid inflaming the masses.
The degree of censorship of journalists and the intimidation of opponents to the current Egyptian government is staggering. Former Egyptian vice president Mohammed ElBaradei, a major proponent of former president Mohammed Morsi’s ouster, who resigned following the military’s assault and killing of Muslim Brotherhood protesters over the past few weeks, remains in Europe due to fears that he may be jailed for political reasons if he returns.
Al-Masry Al-Youm does feature headline stories accusing ElBaradei of “being on an official mission to divide Egypt.” An op-ed bashes Al-Jazeera for biased reporting in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood and calls for all Al-Jazeera journalists to be stripped of their credentials.
One newspaper that routinely expresses its disgust with the conduct of the new administration is the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi. In an editorial entitled “The coup was a coup!” the paper decries that “while we expected the military to repress the people, we did not imagine that it would reach the degree of brutality that it has.”
“Now after having implemented this coup, the massacres occurring now in Egypt are unprecedented in the history of nations. The media machine affiliated with the Mubarak regime is lying to the world and has been working for the past two years to demonize the moderate Muslim Brotherhood.”
Not surprisingly, op-ed writers in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a publication owned by Saudi Arabia, the main backer of Egypt’s military government, disagree entirely with that assessment. In a piece called “What happens in Egypt decides the fate of the Arab world,” Huda al-Husseini emphasizes that the Muslim Brotherhood brought total catastrophe on Egypt and anyone who thinks Islamists stand for democratic values are living in a dream world.
“When the army overthrew Muslim Brotherhood rule, Egypt was on the brink of famine,” she asserts. “The majority of the poor were barely living and the supply of bread was in danger. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait pumped in enough money to spare Egypt a humanitarian catastrophe while Washington was preoccupied with a way to save the Morsi government.”
“Members of the Muslim Brotherhood are not moderate at all. They burn Coptic churches and property in an effort to turn this conflict into a sectarian issue. Morsi’s government marginalized all minorities, young people, and the secular. Washington’s version of democracy in the hands of the Brotherhood was turning Egypt into a totally disassembled state. A majority of Egyptians are appreciative that the army took over and is rooting terrorist filth from the country.”