x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Taking stock in Egypt and Tunisia

Authorities in Egypt and Tunisia must change the way they deal with the opposition, writes an Arabic language columnist in today's roundup of regional opinion. Other topics: the development of news media, and prospects for foreign intervention in Syria.

Authorities in Egypt and Tunisia must change the way they deal with the opposition

A review of the situations in Egypt and Tunisia from the perspective of the outcomes of their respective revolutions calls for inspection of the political behaviour at the level of authority in both countries, said the Syrian columnist Fayez Sarah in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The questionable behaviour of authorities in Cairo and Tunis doesn't stop at their approach to the political and civil opposition. It extends to their aggressive conduct with the community and any protests that may break out in it.

In Egypt's case, the new regime's reaction was condescending. Popular protests and demands were ignored and marginalised. The response to Tunisia's popular protests, however, was more brutal. Security forces used every anti-protest weapon at its disposal, including live ammunition that resulted in killing a number of protesters.

"In both cases, authorities threatened to go beyond these practices to silence its political and civil detractors or to quell protest movements," said the writer.

The objections that are being expressed, whether political or civil, represent a discrepancy in positions and a divergence of opinions regarding policies and practices of the ruling authorities, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their brethren Ennahda in Tunisia.

"Contention points are numerous, but most significant among them is the authorities' vengeful aspect of rule and their attempt to overtake all positions of power to eventually serve the interests of the head of the regime," he added.

Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi, and Tunisian prime minister, Hamadi Al Jabali, both sought to protect themselves and their Islamic parties against their critics on one hand and against society on the other hand. President Morsi's recent constitutional declaration is a clear example of that.

"Differences of opinion between political and civil factions are normal. It is also normal for any authority to have conflicts with its challengers, which applies in Tunisia and Egypt.

What is not normal is for the powers-to-be in both countries to resort to a series of policies and practices based on the perception that the rules of the games have changed following the revolution," he went on to say.

The post-revolution authorities in both countries have yet to acquire a sufficient level of political and popular legitimacy. In Egypt, the president, although democratically elected, has weak popular representation. In Tunisia, the premiership is the result of political balances and partnerships that control the country today.

The continuous escalation of political conflict with the opposition would eventually deepen the schism across both countries and push both countries back into a pre-revolution situation, opined the writer.


Enjoy reading papers in print while you can

"You're lucky, dear reader, for you stand witness to a historic moment every time you see those fresh morning bundles of newspapers stacked on the street corner," wrote Saeed Hamdan, an Emirati columnist, in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based Al Ittihad newspaper.

It is highly probable that, in a generation, those bundles will be a thing of the past, he said.

"You sit in the coffee shop and the papers are there to greet you. You go to work, and there they are, sitting on the desk. They're with you at home, in the car, in the plane … everywhere. And you're lucky, because you may well belong to the last generation that lived in the age of print."

Not too long ago, press journalists were excited about digital platforms and thought they would be great advertising tools for their print products, he added.

"We wondered: should we include ads in the e-paper? Should we charge the client for it? … Looking back at the various theories that were put forward during those meetings, one can't help but laugh."

The fact that print newspapers are still alive today is attributable to the slow shift in the psychology of advertisers, who still see in hard copy a solid platform, the writer argued.

When that generation of traditional advertisers and readers disappear, you can kiss paper goodbye.


Foreign intervention in Syria may come soon

"A few days ago, the European Union pledged to offer financial and political assistance to the Syrian opposition. It said that it would look into providing rebels with military equipment at a later date.

"But this date came sooner," said the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. "The British publication The Independent reported earlier this week that an international coalition is developing a plan to provide military training for the Free Syrian Army," he explained.

This would be the first western military intervention in Syria following the rebels' success in establishing the required command system to fight the regime forces in Damascus.

The war has reached a point where support for the rebels would enable them to achieve substantial advancement. It seems that western powers have reached a conviction that military intervention is a must if they were to have a saying in shaping Syria's political future.

Meanwhile, the fear remains that such indirect western intervention would further corner Bashar Al Assad and push the Syrian president to use chemical weapons to deter the rebels.

In any case, these new developments indicate that the Syrian war is close to a substantial transformation in the coming weeks.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk