Egypt’s authorities suspended Monday’s issue of the privately owned Al-Bawaba newspaper after it published a front-page editorial blaming the Interior Ministry for the two Palm Sunday bombings targeting churches in Tanta and Alexandria, the newspaper announced on Sunday.
The deadly blasts at the St. Mark Church in Alexandria and St. George Church in Tanta are reported to have killed 45 people, including security personnel, and left over 120 injured.
“We have never given up on our national responsibility to preserve the safety and security of our country. It is from this point of view that we adopted our position on what happened today at the St. George and St. Mark churches in Tanta and Alexandria,” the newspaper wrote.
“We said frankly, and this is our opinion, that there was a clear security failure that necessitates holding those responsible accountable, and changing the current counter-terrorism strategy.”
Al-Bawaba is a staunchly pro-state newspaper, founded by Editor-in-Chief Abdel Rehim Ali, who is known for his connections to Egypt’s security apparatuses. Ali used to present a daily show, “The Black Box,” aired on the private satellite channel Al-Qahera wal Nas. He previously aired the private phone conversations of a number of oppositional figures, and his show was suspended after he leaked business tycoon Naguib Sawiris’ phone calls in 2014.
Al-Bawaba’s statement followed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s televised speech on Sunday evening in which he announced a three-month nationwide state of emergency, granting Sisi the right to issue written or oral directives related to monitoring and intercepting all forms of communication and correspondence, imposing censorship prior to publication and confiscating extant publications, imposing a curfew or ordering the closure of commercial establishments and the sequestration of private property.
Sisi also ordered the formation of a Supreme Council to Combat Terrorism and Extremism, the constitution and reach of which remain unclear. He asserted that the council would be granted the necessary powers to counter terrorism on all fronts, including in the media. He criticized the coverage of Sunday’s attacks in local media, particularly the publishing of graphic images of the victims and urged media outlets to act with responsibility.
“Media discourse should not hurt the people,” Sisi said. “It is not possible to see this incident repeatedly, aired on all our channels throughout the day. You forget that this hurts the feelings of Egyptians,” he added.
Shortly before the president’s statement, the privately owned Extra News channel stopped airing footage of the church bombings, reportedly out of respect for the families of the victims. Immediately after Sisi’s speech, the videos disappeared from all private channels.
Extra News reiterated its position on Monday during its morning show, when Anchor Asmaa Mostafa affirmed that the channel’s administration decided to stop airing footage deemed offensive to its viewers.
“Our aim is not to profit out of people’s suffering,” she said. We decided we will not use this [the footage] in a way that harms the people, just as the president said.”