THE BLOG

Government critic fired from leading opposition newspaper ahead of Egypt elections

Ibrahim Eissa, a leading critic of the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt, was last night sacked from his post as editor-in-chief of prominent independent newspaper al-Dostor, sparking claims that the government is leading a crackdown on the media ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections.

During his tenure as editor-in-chief, and after founding the newspaper, the outspoken Eissa became well-known for his sharp criticism of the government, even spending two months in jail in 2008 on charges for insulting the president.

In an interview with Al Jazeera today, Eissa claimed that the new owner of the newspaper and leader of the Wafd opposition party, Sayed el-Badawi, had fired him over his refusal to delay publication of an article written by leading reformist campaigner Dr Mohammed ElBaradei, but suggested that higher powers were at work. El-Badawi has refuted Eissa's claims and cites economic reasons behind the decision.

In response to the news of Eissa's dismissal, journalists from al-Dostor arranged a sit-in in solidarity, and posted on the website announcing they were maintaining control of al-Dostor online:

The electronic version of the newspaper continues to publish news on a regular basis under the supervision of our colleague and editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa.

صحفيو الدستور يكتبون علي موقع الجريدة الالكتروني "ويستمر موقع الدستور في نشر الأخبار بصفة دورية تحت رئاسة تحرير الزميل إبراهيم عيسى.

In apparent defiance of the newspapers owners, the journalists published the article written by ElBaradei that had led to Eissa's removal as editor-in-chief, in which the Nobel prize-winning former head of the IAEA argues that Egypt should rediscover some of the values it benefited from during the six-day war with Israel in 1973, the anniversary of which falls on October 6. ElBaradei's pro-reform campaign later also published the article, in a show of solidarity with Eissa.

Reports of the crisis at al-Dostor spread quickly via Facebook and Twitter, where many people voiced support for Eissa:

@shokeir: Within 2 hours the Facebook page "There's no Dostor without Eissa" has over 2000 members" http://goo.gl/y1JJ

صفحة (لا دستور بدون إبراهيم عيسى يا بدوى) تتعدى الألفين مشترك في ساعتين http://goo.gl/y1JJ

@JessAladdin: Al Dostor died today!

اليوم ماتت جريدة الدستور إكلينيكيا !

@aanawar: I'm sad that Eissa's been fired. I thought el-Badawi was better than this. I regret having ever wanted to join al-Wafd

حزين اليوم أولاً لإقالة ابراهيم عيسى ثانياً كنت أظن ان الدكتور السيد البدوى غير هذا ندمت على ان تمنيت الانضمام للوفد

For other observers, meanwhile, a worrying pattern seemed to be emerging: Several weeks ago Eissa was dismissed from his TV show on satellite channel OnTV, and last week another popular political talk show - "Cairo Today" hosted by Amr Adeeb on satellite channel Orbit - was also shutdown. Twitter user @M7abib asked:

Am I the only one who sees a link between the shutdown of Orbit and Amr Adeeb, the firing of Eissa, and the upcoming elections?

هل أنا لوحدي اللي شايف رابط ما بين وقف أوربت وبالتالي عمرو أديب، وبين إقالة إبراهيم عيسى.. وبين الإنتخابات؟

@2insana: Taking pictures at trials is banned, Ibrahim Eissa is banned, Alaa Sadeq is banned, Amr Adeeb is banned, Alaa Al Aswani is banned. Sir, sir, can we...??

تصوير المحاكمات ممنوع، إبراهيم عيسى ممنوع، علاء صادق ممنوع، عمرو أديب ممنوع، علاء الأسواني ممنوع .. عمو عمو ، ممكن...

As journalists continue their sit in this evening, and while Ibrahim Eissa lobbies the printhouse to remove his name from the morning's edition, the future for al-Dostor, and for Eissa, is far from clear.

For further links and comment on Ibrahim Eissa's dismissal, go to Meedan.net.

Thanks to Ahmed, Shaimaa, Rania and Rebecca for their contributions and translations. The views in this post are taken from diverse sources and should not be taken as the views of Meedan.