Egypt Media Roundup – Feb26, 2014

02/26/2014 . By TIMEP

TOP STORIES

Legal & Political Institutions

Egyptian Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim Mahlab reappointed several ministers on Wednesday in his new government, including Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, and Defense Minister Sisi. [TIME, WSJ, Aswat Masriya, Al Jazeera, Trust, Aswat MasriyaRead More..

Gender & Sexuality

Women are the main breadwinners in as many as 30 percent of Egyptian households, a role frowned on by conservative Egyptian society but increasingly important in a country plunged into dire economic straits by the turbulent politics of the post-Mubarak era. Many of them are poor, illiterate and lacking experience of formal employment, and are forced into menial work in the informal economy, doing poorly paid jobs with no insurance or pension and involving exposure to the public gaze that attracts the disapproval of neighbours. [Egyptian Streets

Security Sector

An Egyptian court convicted 26 people Wednesday of forming a terrorist group to launch an attack on the country’s vital Suez Canal waterway, with almost all receiving death sentences in absentia. [Washington Post, France 24, Jeune Afrique-fr, Ahram, Al Jazeera, AP, Aswat MasriyaRead More..

Marginalized Groups

In a first joint effort, Egypt’s doctors, dentists and pharmacists began a partial strike on Wednesday to oppose a February presidential decree aiming to regulate the status of doctors employed in state hospitals and institutions. The doctors on strike are requiring an increase in their basic salaries rather than a bonus being added to their existing salaries, as ordered by the presidential decree. [AhramRead More..

Rights & Freedoms

Egypt’s armed forces must end the military trial of two journalists, release them immediately and unconditionally, and drop all charges against them, Amnesty International said. [AmnestyRead More..

Economy

Egyptian stocks are showing all the signs that investors favor a return to a military-backed rule to end three years of political turmoil and revive an economy stuck in its worst slump in two decades. [BloombergRead More.. 

Foreign Relations

US Chargé d’Affaires in Egypt Marc Sievers said on that there is no US plot against Egypt, stressing that the US administration and the Congress appreciate Egypt’s regional and international role. [Egypt SIS

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Legal & Political Institutions

According to Gilbert Achcar, Egypt needs a long-term, state-led investment program to reboot economy and settle crises

Guardian: Egypt looks set to lurch from crisis to crisis

Summary: Even now, three years into the current period of turmoil, it is difficult to identify any major political force in the country that is offering anything resembling a serious plan for the long-term development of the Egyptian economy. The neoliberal medicine of balancing the books by cutting subsidies (largely those upon which the population relies) while opening the country up to foreign investment appears superficial and entirely unpromising. What is required, as professor of development studies Gilbert Achcar argues in his recent book The People Want, is a long-term programme of state-led investment to develop the economy on a truly productive basis, and meet the challenge of providing good jobs for young Egyptians on a sustained basis into the future.

Until that happens, it seems likely that the country will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis as cabinets, presidents and even generals take it in turn to fall victim to the deep malaise in which Egypt’s political economy is mired.

Security Sector

Egyptian Court postponed verdict to rule Hamas terrorist organization

Egypt Independent: Court to rule on Hamas ‘terrorist’ tag in March

Summary: The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters postponed to 4 March its verdict to on a lawsuit pushing for the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas to be designated a terrorist organization. The court was supposed to issue the ruling today, but decided to pospone it for the third time. Egyptian law permits the court to postpone a verdict three times after the sessions and pleadings are finished. Lawyer Samir Sabry had filed a lawsuit to the interim president, prime minister and interior minister demanding the Hamas be labeled a terrorist organization.

Marginalized Groups

Exploring Egypt’s Buddhists–video interview

Mada Masr:[VIDEO] A secret peace: In Egypt Buddhists pray

Summary: Buddhism is not a common or widely accepted practice in Egypt. Those who seek to explore the religious, spiritual, meditative or other aspects of Buddhism struggle to find places for such practices, and in the case of some, may have to conceal their activities from their families and communities for fear of persecution or a lack of understanding.

Mada Masr speaks to three people who have incorporated different aspects of this ancient religion into their lives in Cairo.

Rights & Freedoms

Human Rights activist: “Who said that transitional periods, crises and problems require us to ignore or neglect human rights?”

Al Monitor: Activist: Human rights situation remains poor in Egypt  

Summary: In an interview, Naged Borai, formerly of the National Council on Human Rights, stated: “Who said that transitional periods, crises and problems require us to ignore or neglect human rights? It is pretty much the opposite. We are at a time when we need to project a good picture of the situation of human rights. We brought down a regime that had violated human rights. It is therefore normal that the next government seeks to improve the human rights situation and perform better. I was personally shocked at the performance of the government and that of the NCHR. The latter does not serve the human rights cause or even the government. Even if the NCHR’s role was to improve the image of the government, it is not doing so.”

HRW: “Journalists should not have to risk years in an Egyptian prison for doing their job”

Free Arabs: HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH:“GET IT TOGETHER, EGYPT”

Summary: Egyptian authorities in recent months have demonstrated almost zero tolerance for any form of dissent, arresting and prosecuting journalists, demonstrators, and academics for peacefully expressing their views.

Prosecutors on January 29, 2014, referred three Al Jazeera English journalists to trial on politicized charges such as disseminating “false information” and belonging to a “terrorist organization,” some of which carry prison sentences ranging from five to 15 years. At least 17 other journalists and opposition figures face similar charges in the same case, with the trial scheduled to begin on February 20. On January 19, prosecutors referred 25 people to trial on charges of “insulting the judiciary,” including Amr Hamzawy, an academic and former member of parliament.

“Journalists should not have to risk years in an Egyptian prison for doing their job,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The prosecution of these journalists for speaking with Muslim Brotherhood members, coming after the prosecution of protesters and academics, shows how fast the space for dissent in Egypt is evaporating.”

Economy

Egypt’s start-ups struggle to get quality support in times of political instability

Mashable: For Egypt’s Startups, Unstable Government Is the Least of Their Worries

Summary: Egypt’s revolving government over the past three years has made investors less willing to dole out cash to new businesses, especially when many new CEOs are better at discussing fanciful company ideas than turning those ideas into a staff, office space and money. And the stnartup community is small and experiencing growing pains, because tech scenes feed off new people who bring new ideas, which are hard to come by when it’s difficult for anyone to see past the political violence to startup success.

Yet by many accounts, many startup founders have pressed ahead with their dreams. Startup fever has slowly spread from Cairo, the country’s capital, into Alexandria and upper Egypt, and plenty of people believe the country’s tech community as a whole has big potential. Transforming that into a thriving culture, though, is something founders should know is easy to say and trickier to do. “One thing that entrepreneurs struggle with in Egypt is to get quality support,” said Hossam Allam, founder of Cairo Angels, a company that invests in startups.

Caretaker PM’s former position within NDP and as Housing Minister may be used as leverage for investment and international real estate development in Egypt

Mada Masr: Mahlab represents common ground with stakeholders

Summary: At a press conference at the presidential palace Tuesday afternoon, Mahlab, the former housing minister, said he would continue the work of the current government, but played down his ability to make significant progress.

“We need to understand that our resources are limited,” he said in a somewhat avuncular tone. Mahlab falls under the ambiguous category of technocrats, which have dominated most discussions of government. Although most of Egypt’s crises over the past few years have tended to be political in nature, public figures have elevated technocrats, often interpreted as experienced politicians and businessmen. This narrow group of people most often have ties to the NDP.

Mahlab falls under this category. Before serving on the policies committee of the NDP, he gained most of his managerial experience as the head of the state-owned Arab Contractors, the largest construction firm in Egypt. The ring road, Sharm el-Sheikh Airport, and the Supreme Constitutional Court are among its most prominent projects.

He left that position to head the Housing Ministry. Yahia Shawkat, a housing researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told Mada Masr that his tenure there was rather unremarkable.

“He has made himself look like he has been doing a lot, he has visited sites and projects for the Housing Ministry,” Shawkat said, adding that there was a lack of strategies, whether long or short-term, under his leadership.

“He put a lot of effort into boosting the real estate market himself, and the real estate market is on the opposite spectrum of what he should be doing. He continued in the same paradigm of housing commoditization,” he explained.

A former housing minister is a curious choice for a technocrat able to solve Egypt’s economic woes. The answer could lie more in international considerations, considering foreign real estate development and Mahlab’s involvement with land pricing and development.