CAIRO: The trial of former president Hosni Mubarak received full coverage from TV channels Saturday, while current President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, returning from the UN General Assembly in New York, hogged most of the Egyptians newspapers’ coverage.
TV channels were covering the Mubarak affair starting early in the morning, as private satellite channels like ONTV Live and CBC provided live coverage from different locations surrounding the trial, including the front of the Police Academy where the trial was to be held, and the military hospital from which Mubarak was set to depart from to attend the trial. This was in addition to expert opinions and discussions on their expected outcomes.
Sada El-Balad channel, owned by business tycoon Mohamed Abu el-Enein, had exclusive coverage of the trial, as it was the only channel which applied to get coverage after the judge set conditions to broadcast the trial. The conditions stated that the channel must cover the entire trial.
“State-owned and private satellite TV channels cannot afford to waste hours of their time, and prefer to run excerpts of the trial as more time is needed for on-air programs and advertising,” explained Ahmed Sultan, a former member of the channel’s production team, in statements to The Cairo Post Saturday.
However, that coverage has been a source of controversy.
The judge announced the court would run a short documentary reviewing documents concerning the case, and many in the public were surprised by the access given to the media to enter a room where sensitive documents of the case were kept. There were 160,000 papers relating to the case, according to Cairo Criminal Court President Mohamed Kamal al-Rashidi.
The video was criticized by lawyers and political activists, who considered it “illegal and alarming,” as some have interpreted it as “paving the way for acquitting Mubarak” of the charges leveled against him, Aswat Masriya reported Saturday.
“We have been providing live updates on every trial session,” stated Hend el-Nassany, the reporter who did the video. “However, we have not had a chance to have a closer examination of the case file, as the information is classified.”
The trial is considered among the most important trials of post-revolutionary Egypt, as Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and his aides are facing charges of killing protesters during the January 25 Revolution in 2011. The case is also controversial because it is a retrial after an initial verdict sentenced the defendants to life in prison.
However, the case formerly referred to by newspapers as the “trial of the century” did not make top headlines in Saturday’s newspapers.
No mention of the trial appeared on the front page of State-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, except for a brief title at the bottom of the page announcing an inside spread for the court coverage. However, it was not featured until page 18.
Al-Ahram basically reflected the views of Mubarak’s lawyers, summarizing the three-year trial sessions and reporting on the testimonies and the alleged crimes of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas during the revolution.
In comparison, on Aug. 3, 2011 during the first trial session of Mubarak, Al-Ahram had stated in a heavy red headline “The historic day: Egyptians put their president on trial for the first time in history.” Different angles of the story were also reported on the front page of that issue, such as families of martyrs and the case’s influences on the stock market and public opinion.
Another government newspaper, Al-Akhbar, Saturday also focused on Sisi’s statements and activities in its weekly edition. Akhbar Al-Youm did not feature a word about the trial, but the extended edition had a timeline of the trial in one of the inside pages. After the trial, the online edition had a follow-up item on a legal article mentioned by the judge on the trial of some deceased suspects.
Other print newspapers with high circulation treated the news about Mubarak as a second or even third-tier story and focused instead on Sisi’s visit to New York, his meeting with Barack Obama and upcoming projects in Egypt.
Youm7 did a short news story titled “The world holds its breath as it waits for Mubarak’s verdict.” Al-Wafd newspaper did the same, but had a headline in red on the front page.
Al-Shorouq newspaper had a short story run on the left side of the front page on the security measures undertaken for the trial, including the deployment of as many as 3,000 security personnel. The paper then dedicated a page to wrap-up coverage of the case, emphasizing the point of view of the families and relatives of martyrs and their lawyers. Al-Shorouq even said that trials of Muslim Brotherhood figures took over the attention from the “trial of the century.”