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Egypt Replaces Chiefs of Top Newspapers

July 4, 2005

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ The government replaced the top editors of its biggest newspapers Monday, responding to pressure from younger journalists who wanted new blood.

The newly appointed editors supplant an older generation, some of whom have been in their posts for more than a quarter of a century.

Two outgoing editors-in-chief _ Ibrahim Nafie, 74, of Al-Ahram, and Ibrahim Saada, 68, of Akhbar al-Yom _ were appointed by the late President Anwar Sadat in 1979 and 1978 respectively. Both had faced lawsuits for remaining in their posts beyond the retirement age of 60.

Some predicted the replacements may mean tougher criticism of the opposition to President Hosni Mubarak in the state-linked newspapers.

``The old generation used to attack the opposition, but were reserved in their tone. I believe the new leadership will not be as reserved,″ said Adel Hamouda, a strong critic of Mubarak’s government and editor of an independent weekly newspaper, Al-Fagr.

``The appointees will put their utmost effort in managing the presidential battle in the interest of Hosni Mubarak,″ said Nabil Abdel-Fatah, political analyst from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a think-tank that is part of the Al-Ahram media conglomerate.

Whether they stay in their new posts, in fact, ``will depend on how successful they are in quashing the opposition and promoting the inheritance of power to the president’s son,″ Abdel-Fatah told The Associated Press, referring to Gamal Mubarak, who many believe is being groomed to replace his father.

``The next phase will involve eliminating or oppressing all critics of the government in the (state-linked) media,″ he said

Mubarak’s government has faced unprecedented criticism at home as Egypt approaches presidential elections in September. Reform groups have held a series of protests demanding Mubarak step down, and opposition newspapers have closely covered the demonstrations and echoed the condemnations of his 29-year hold on power.

In contrast, the state-linked papers have largely ignored or trivialized the opposition and dependably portray the government in a positive light, with pictures and headlines on Mubarak’s accomplishments splashed across their front pages.

Replacing Nafie as head of Al-Ahram _ Egypt’s largest daily _ is Osama Saraya, former editor of the magazine al-Ahram al-Arabi. Momtaz el-Qot, once was Akhbar al-Yom’s correspondent at the Cabinet, will take over as that paper’s editor-in-chief. Al-Gomhoriyah will be headed by Muhammad Ali Ibrahim.

Also named was a new chief of the state news agency, the Middle East News Agency _ Abdullah Abdel-Fatah.

The Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, approved the replacements.

Egyptian journalism’s past is deep-rooted,″ Nafie wrote in a farewell editorial, ``and its future is broad and blossoming, if we shake off the dust of the past and if the breeze of freedom whose perfume we smell all around us continues.″