In Focus – Daily News Egypt https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Fri, 28 Feb 2020 11:59:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Sudan celebrates Nile Day under theme of ‘joint investments on the river’ https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/02/27/sudan-celebrates-nile-day-under-theme-of-joint-investments-on-the-river/ Thu, 27 Feb 2020 13:15:23 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=723468 Khartoum hosts annual event for second time

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In Sudan, dozens of youth formed three groups wearing three different colour outfits, blue, white, and yellow. The blue and white groups went in intersection lines and the yellow one met them in the middle, representing the convergence of White and Blue Nile Rivers in Sudan to form the Nile flow to Egypt.  The show meant to celebrate the 14th Nile Day.

The Nile Day commemorates the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), and is celebrated annually on 22 February across the Nile Basin countries. It marks a major milestone in international relations and represents the first real cooperation between the NBI members. These countries are now able to come together and collectively take care and share the waters of the Nile, bringing about the equitable and shared enjoyment for generations to come.

This year’s celebration came under the theme of “Joint Investments on the Nile for Regional Transformation”. This is the second time Sudan hosted this event, the first was in 2015. The first Nile Day celebration was in 2007 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Nile Day was organised in partnership between the Sudanese Youth Parliament for Water (SYPW) and Environment Conservation Society.

The celebration witnessed participants from all the 10 NBI member countries: Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The marches started from the Sudan National Museum and Corinthia Hotel Khartoum on the meeting point of the Blue Nile and White Nile to the Friendship Hall where the main celebration was held. The walk took around 10 minutes, accompanied with a military band and African music bands. Some children joined the marches holding balloons.

African dancers performed on folk music in the presence of Nile Basin countries’ ministers of water and foreign affairs as well as ambassadors.

The celebration included official speeches, open-air and indoor arts and sports events, besides the main conference.

Sudan’s Water and Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas delivered the opening speech. He said his ministry counted on the conference outputs in planning the future of drinking water and irrigation projects in the Nile Basin.

“The water sector had suffered quite a lot under the former regime and it is now our responsibility to put a national water plan in collaboration with our partners in the water sector,” said Abbas.

Moreover, Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Asma Mohamad Abdalla said, “The event’s theme ‘Joint Investments on the Nile for Regional Transformation’ is one of the key elements that needs to be in place in order to achieve sustainable development goal no. 6 on clean water and sanitation.”

She added that without joint planning and investment, Nile Basin countries will miss out on opportunities of development, which benefit the Nile Basin people. She called upon development partners and the private sector to support the NBI in its efforts to realise regional investments.

Executive Director of NBI Secretariat Seifeldin Hamad Abdalla said the key objective of the event is to highlight some of the achievements made in terms of investment, with emphasising the need to accelerate implementation of the NBI-prepared investment projects, which are worth more than $6.5bn. These projects would support NBI member states in their quest to meet the growing demand for water, food, and energy.

Aside from celebrating the achievements of NBI, the Nile Day provides an opportunity for various stakeholders to celebrate the region’s cultures, arts, and traditional cuisines.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Representative Abdullah Fadl urged for “strong and effective cooperation between the partners and the Irrigation Ministry.” He also voiced the UNICEF’s “complete support to the Conference outputs.”

Deputy Director of the Water Resources Technical Organ in Sudan Hassan Abulbashar appreciated the participation of the NBI representatives in Sudan’s celebrations of the Nile Day.

He noted that 84 investment projects were launched by the initiative. They seek to boost food security, energy and water resources at an estimated total cost of $6.5bn. “The new Sudan is open towards regional cooperation and looks forward to gaining from these projects,” he added.

Abulbashar said some scientific means were also devised within the initiative. These means will be promoted in a manner that helps take decisions on the utilisation of common water resources.

The Nile Basin is one of the Globe’s strategic areas. It overlooks important waterways: the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. In addition, the Basin overlooks the banks of the River’s many tributaries and mainstreams. This permits the creation of hydroelectric and industrial projects. The area is also rich in underground and surface waters.

In addition, the region receives a lot of rainfall, which in addition, can help exploit vast expanses of fertile land for agriculture. The area is also endowed with a lot of livestock and fish resources.

However, the Nile Basin countries are facing spates of droughts and environment hazards that dictate upon them the need to work together and maintain the existing water agreements and advance them further.

They are also required to control pollution on the river banks to prevent waterborne diseases.

The Nile Day was organised in partnership with Sudanese Youth Water Parliament and Sudanese Environment Conservation Society.

Speaking about the role of youth, Mohamed Awad, SYPW representative, told Daily News Egypt that “today is an important event, and our presence is important because we are the future. Youth should be involved in all events related to water because one day we will be the decision makers.”

Regarding the water situation in Sudan, Awad said the future of water in Sudan is not good or bad, the situation is neutral, and the only concern is how this topic will be managed in the future.

“We as parliament want to have a role in all what is happening regarding water affairs in the country,’ he said noting that the situation of the water parliament is better now than before the Sudanese revolution as they suffered to obtain a license, but now the procedure is going on to be official.

“We have committees across the country. We have launched several projects since 2017, those related to awareness of the importance of water and how people can rationalise consumption. We also have educational projects, and other more about investigation as we go to visit some cities in Sudan to conduct surveys on water and health condition in surrounding areas, Awad added.

Elham Ahmed, SYPW executive manager, said: “We are members of the organising committee,” this is the first time, we were able to attend the Nile Day as an organiser, and this happened thanks to the decision of the minister of water and irrigation.

“We organised an expo where youth presented their handmade works inspired by African culture. The ceremony organisation was voluntary,” she added.

On the sidelines of the Nile Day, the NBI organised media training for journalists from Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan from 18 to 21 February on the security and management of dams.

About NBI

The NBI was established on 22 February 1999 by ministers of water affairs in the Nile Basin countries. The NBI is the only basin-wide institution mandated to facilitate the cooperative development and management of the shared Nile Basin water resources on behalf of the 10-member states, for win-win benefits and to promote regional peace and security.

The setup of NBI is comprised of the NBI Secretariat based in Entebbe, Uganda, and two Subsidiary Action Programmes Offices leveraging unique sub-basin potentials and mitigating unique sub-basin risks. There are also the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the Eastern Nile sub-basin and the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme Coordination Unit based in Kigali, Rwanda for the Nile Equatorial Lakes sub-basin.

The NBI’s programmes and projects are guided by its 10-Year Strategy (2017 – 2027), which outlines six goals, namely, water security, energy security, food security, environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation, and strengthening transboundary water governance.

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Mahraganat: controversy over barring Egyptian street popular music   https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/02/23/mahraganat-controversy-over-barring-egyptian-street-popular-music/ Sun, 23 Feb 2020 08:00:21 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=722889 "I will drink alcohol and smoke hashish,” is the lyrics of Mahragan Bent El Geran that outraged Musicians’ Syndicate 

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The Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate banned all the singers of Mahraganat – Egyptian street pop music literally meaning festivals – which raised controversy over the concept of barring itself and the right of freedom of artistic and literary creation.

Hany Shaker, the syndicate’s head and veteran singer, issued on 16 February a blacklist of Mahraganat singers, including Hassan Shakosh, Hamo Bika, Oka, and Ortega, as well as actor Mohamed Ramadan who often performs concerts.

Shaker called on all tourist facilities, ships, coffee shops, and nightclubs to not deal with the banned singers, adding that any establishment that violates the syndicate’s decree “will face legal procedures.”

However, the syndicate’s decision has not been welcomed widely. Adel Al-Masry, head of the Chamber of Tourism Establishments, said the decree is an “unacceptable interference.” Last week, he stressed that the decision is a “transgression on the authority concerned with the supervision of touristic activity, which is the Ministry of Tourism and its affiliated sectors.”

The syndicate said Mahraganat lyrics have corrupted society and is “loaded with sexual innuendo and offensive language.”

The decision followed a concert held at the International Cairo Stadium on Valentine’s Day this year in which Hassan Shakosh performed his latest hit Mahragan Bent El Geran (The girl next door).

“I will drink alcohol and smoke hashish” was the lyrics that enraged the syndicate and many Egyptians who reacted negatively on social media.

Mahraganat is a genre of “electro-shaabi” and became very popular among all social classes and now performed at weddings, cafes, and nightclubs. It burgeoned from impoverished Cairo neighbourhoods and has boomed in the last nine years. Mahraganat is also performed in films and television series.

There have been several attempts to document Mahraganat in the last few years, including “Underground/On the Surface,” a documentary by Salma El Tarzi that explores the local subculture and its effect on its listeners.

The Musicians’ Syndicate will send an official letter to online streaming giants YouTube and SoundCloud to takedown Mahraganat songs from their websites, according to syndicate spokesperson Tarek Mortada.

Bent El Geran had more than 120m views on YouTube until Saturday and was the second most played song on SoundCloud.

Following the outrage over his latest concert, Shakosh issued a video on Facebook and urged people to forgive him.

Parliamentary spokesperson Salah Hassaballah said the parliament “supports Hany Shaker’s decision to ban Mahraganat.”

Hany Shaker

“Some [people] try to falsify the awareness of the Egyptian people and youth through so-called art. It is a war!” Hassaballah said in televised statements on Ala Masoulity TV show last week.

“It has no right”  

 

Among the reactions over Mahraganat banning was a comment from Egyptian singer Mariam Saleh who also performs alternative pop music genre. Saleh is not a Mahraganat singer, but she was banned from singing last year according to her Facebook post last Thursday.

Saleh said Hany Shaker once listened to her singing at a concert in August 2019, and she immediately received a letter barring her from singing at any concert without any given reason. The syndicate has yet to release an official statement over Saleh or her banning.

Mahmoud Othman, a lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), told Daily News Egypt that the syndicates of artists, musicians, and cinema have no right to ban any artist from doing his job.

Othman said the role of the three syndicates, according to the law No 35 of 1978, is to take care of the interests of the artists and not ban them from doing their job, or compromise their freedom of artistic and literary creation guaranteed according to article No 67 of the Egyptian Constitution.

The article stipulates that “the state shall undertake to promote art and literature, sponsor creators and protect their creations, and provide the necessary means of encouragement to achieve this end.”

“No lawsuits may be initiated or filed to suspend or confiscate any artistic, literary, or intellectual work, or against their creators except through the public prosecution,” it added.

Meanwhile, the article noted that “no punishments of custodial sanction may be imposed for crimes committed because of the public nature of the artistic, literal, or intellectual product. The law shall specify the penalties for crimes related to the incitement of violence, discrimination between citizens, or impugning the honour of individuals.”

“The situation is depressing,” Othman said, adding that the recent ban resulted in a draft law that aims to amend the Penal Code and to amend the punishment for “outrage of modesty” to be the mandatory imprisonment of year to three years.

We should improve public taste

 

On social media, the issue was trending for several days. People divided into two groups, the first defended Shaker’s position, saying that such music “is spoiling the public taste and corrupting society.” This group disagrees with involving drugs, alcohol, and sexual insinuations in songs which they fear would affect the morals of their children.

Despite being played almost everywhere in Egypt, some people mainly refused the content presented in Mahraganat lyrics.

On the other hand, some believe that Mahraganat is a product of the changes the Egyptian society went through over the past nine years and reflects a segment of society that has the right to find a way to express itself.

“I am not a fan of Mahraganat, but I am not also against it. I do not believe that this music spoils the public taste or applauds decadence. It is a reflection of an existing culture,” Ahmed Rashad, a 29-year-old content writer told Daily News Egypt.

“If we do not like Mahraganat and its lyrics, we should improve the public taste instead of banning such music,” he added.

Ahmed Tarek, a 31-year-old physician who has an interest in rock, blues, jazz, and classical music genres, said: “banning any kind of art is a door to the authority to ban anything it wants.”

“This is a kind of guardianship and patriarchy,” Tarek told DNE. He added that the role of the Musicians’ Syndicate is not to exclude a singer, but to defend them and their freedom of expression.

Tarek pointed out that Mahraganat music is an art that flourished in Egyptian working class neighbourhoods and reflects its people. “Most who perform Mahraganat are ordinary young people, and this is the reason why their lyrics are honest and brave. Mahraganat is their way to deal with a society that ignores them.”

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Egypt concludes rotational chair of AU with good records https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/02/12/egypt-concludes-rotational-chair-of-au-with-good-records/ Wed, 12 Feb 2020 10:00:19 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=721915 Political pundits believe Egypt restores its position in Africa, enhances sustainable development 

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This week witnessed the end of Egypt’s one-year rotational chair of the African Union (AU). Several political pundits agreed that Egypt contributed, during that period, to reforming the continental body and enhancing coherence among its members in different fields.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Sunday travelled to Addis Ababa to participate in the 33rd AU Summit, where he handed over the AU presidency to South Africa.

In 2019, the Egyptian political leadership worked on several levels in the interest of the African peoples, and to promote cooperation between Egypt and African countries. It outlined six priority areas: economic and regional integration, bridging the gap between African nations, boosting cooperation with international partners, economic and social development, institutional and financial reform of the AU, and achieving peace and security.

The 2019 AU presidency was considered as a boost for Egyptian diplomacy and foreign policy, which came in line with Al-Sisi’s approach, since he came in power in June 2014, to establish strong relations with the African continent.

Mostafa Abu Zaid, director of the Egypt Center for Economic and Strategic Studies, said Egypt played a pioneering and pivotal role during its presidency of the AU, as it adopted economic strategies and initiatives to enhance cooperation with the neighbouring African countries.

Abu Zaid added that the government and the banking sector took several steps to support the bonds of cooperation with Africa, including the launch of The Sovereign Fund of Egypt to support human resources in the continent and the inauguration of several exhibitions and events to promote free trade in the continent through the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the African Export–Import Bank.

Several cooperation protocols were signed between the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones and some African countries including Tanzania to finance the building of Stiegler’s Gorge dam through loans from Egyptian banks, and to provide technical support in the field of renewable energy.

Egypt also addressed major political and economic challenges in the continent, which recovered the country’s diplomacy after long absence. Handing over the AU presidency to South Africa did not mean that Egypt would stop working for the interest of the continent, but its role would be actually more stronger.

Ikram Badr El-Din, a political science professor in the Cairo University, said Egypt, during its presidency of the AU, managed to attract the world’s attention to the continent, making great impact in different areas.

He added that Egypt carried out intensive and significant activities, including high-level meetings held by Al-Sisi with other countries and representing the continent in international events, such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and the German African Business Summit.

Egypt presented a positive image of African before the world and shed the light on the continent’s promising opportunities for investment and the possibility of joint cooperation to achieve development, Badr El-Din said. Egypt also supported African-African integration and with other countries around the world.

Additionally, Egypt launched an initiative to treat one million African HIV and Hepatitis patients and held a youth conference on how to respond to HIV-related stigma and discrimination. As for countering armed conflicts, Egypt contributed to the launch of Silencing Guns 2020 initiative, and won membership of the AU Peace and Security Council for 2020-2022.

Tarek Fahmy, a political science professor in the American University in Cairo, said Egypt successfully represented the African continent in world events, presenting clearer and more stable vision, which attracted major countries to launch development projects in Africa, such as the G20 Summit.

President Al-Sisi exerted great efforts to push forward joint African action and revive AU institutions. He also supported innovation and entrepreneurship.

Moreover, the State Information Service (SIS) said Al-Sisi was keen to attend different international forums to showcase concerns and hopes of the African nations, where he called on major businesspeople and international companies to invest in the continent.

In terms of economic integration, Al-Sisi helped development of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa’s trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa’s common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations. Egypt announced in May 2019 that the AfCFTA went into force after being ratified by 22 countries on the continent, and entered its operational phase following a summit in July 2019. Also, Egypt organised the Investment for Africa Forum and the Arab-African Investment Conference to stimulate investment in the continent.

In April 2014, Al-Sisi went on a tour in West Africa (Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Senegal) to enhance Egypt’s relations with these countries and discuss ways to increase economic cooperation in this region.

As for peace and security issues in Africa, Egypt brokered talks to solve the dispute over maritime territory in the Indian Ocean between Kenya and Somalia, contributed to launching Silencing Guns 2020, hosted political negotiations over the Sudanese crisis, and pushed for political settlement to the Libyan crisis. In December 2019, Egypt signed an agreement with the AU to host the African Union Center for Reconstruction and Development.

As for youth and education, in November 2018, at the closing ceremony of the World Youth Forum, Al-Sisi announced that Aswan would be the capital for African youth. In March 2019, the Association of African Universities launched its North Africa Regional Office at Al-Azhar University in Egypt in a move to decentralise the association’s activities and increase its visibility and impact in the region.

A committee for African affairs in Al-Azhar was formed, and relief and medical convoys were sent to different African countries in an attempt to boost cultural coexistence and tolerance. Al-Azhar University and its institutes annually receive students from 46 African countries, provide training for clerks on how to confront extremism and deal with controversial issues, and establish institutes and centers for teaching the Arabic language.

Al-Sisi issued directives to all Egyptian state agencies to enhance cooperation with their African counterparts in all fields, which resulted in many cooperation programmes.

In the field of energy, Egypt supported the efforts of African countries to produce energy from renewable resources, under the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, since its inception in 2015, which is set to achieve at least 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and mobilise the African potential to generate at least 300 GW by 2030.

In cooperation with the AU and China, Egypt launched an initiative to provide electricity to more than 600 million people in Africa.

In the field of transportation, Egypt launched the Cairo-Cape Town Highway and a project to link the navigation line from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea. The Ministry of Civil Aviation also started operating air flights to Douala (Cameroon), Kigali (Rwanda), and Abidjan (Ivory Coast).

In the agricultural field, Egypt established several model farms in continent. The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation organised training courses in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Malawi, on the latest modern irrigation systems, water management, agricultural wastewater treatment.

In addition to Al-Sis’s tours in Africa, several Egyptian political, economic, and other state institutions played major roles in the promotion of Egyptian-African relations.

Moreover, the parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal met with the heads and members of different African parliaments and discussed cooperation in legal and regulatory matters. Abdel Aal visited eight African countries: Burundi, Tanzania, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, and South Sudan.

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UN social campaigns in 2020: light at the end of the tunnel https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/02/08/un-social-campaigns-in-2020-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel/ Sat, 08 Feb 2020 13:32:04 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=721490 UNICEF, UNHCR succeed in raising people’s awareness of unspoken issues in Egypt

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Despite the government’s continuous effort in enhancing people’s living conditions, some social dilemmas remain untouched, leaving those less fortunate behind to suffer silently if not for the support and awareness of United Nation organisations in Egypt.

For the past two years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Egypt have been playing massive roles in raising the people’s awareness about the unknown struggles both children and refugees face in Egypt.

Through social campaigns, which have garnered great success in speaking the untold stories of refugees and children, the UN Commissioners have acted as hidden soldiers behind enhancing the lives of hundreds of children and refugees when it comes to social acceptance.

Social campaigns are one of the many things the UNHCR and UNICEF plan to focus on this year, due to the remarkable success both entities witnessed in recent years.

Speaking of children’s hidden lives

The year 2019 witnessed one of the largest campaigns tackling what is believed to be a taboo for children, bullying and domestic abuse.

Through the first ever multimedia campaign for this purpose, “Awladna” (Our Children), UNICEF addressed violence against children with a special focus on physical and emotional discipline, as well as domestic abuse against adolescence. The campaign gained momentum through the cooperation of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), and in its partnership with the Ministry of Education and Technical Education (MoETE), with additional funding from the European Union.

For the first time in the Egyptian modern history, a social campaign fought an unspoken battle against the ongoing crisis – school bullying – revealing shocking stories and statistics of children witnessing all sorts of violence.

The campaign has been running for three years, over three phases, each addressing a single topic.

“This year, we will address internet safety, female empowerment, and combating female genital mutilation (FGM),” Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Egypt told Daily News Egypt, “priority areas remain to be Ending Violence Against Children. This year, [The campaign] also addresses violence in schools, including sensitising teachers and caregivers on positive parenting.”

The campaign will also continue cooperating with NCCM and MoETE.

“UNICEF, with its partners, also plans to shed the light on internet safety, as globally, and in Egypt, more and more children and adolescents are gaining access to devices that connect them to the digital world, in turn exposing them to new vulnerabilities and threats that previous generations have not been much exposed to. Part of the campaign messages will highlight the effects of cyberbullying, and will provide tips for children and adolescents and their caregivers on how to stay safe in the digital world,” he highlighted.

In the campaign, which will launch this month, UNICEF will focus on teenagers, especially from the age of 10 to 12, as they are “likely to use the internet, as well as their parents and caregivers as a secondary focus.”

Maes further explained that UNICEF seeks to educate young parents on health, nutrition, social and cognitive development of children during these critical five years.

  

Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Egypt

Through identifying verbal and emotional violence, and providing tips on positive parenting, last year’s campaign witnessed a never before seen success: reaching 84 million social media users, and 1.9 million people offline.

Reporting to DNE, UNICEF revealed that the national Child Helpline (CHL), run by the NCCM, that the campaign aimed to promote has witnessed an increase in the number of filed cases during the campaign, reaching 2,754 in October 2019, compared to 2,509 filed cases in October 2018. About 64% of callers have heard about the CHL from its TV campaign, emphasising a rise in the demand for child protective services.

“The previous campaigns have succeeded in engaging people in discussions about positive parenting, how to deal with difficult parenting situations, and children in distress, whether online or on popular TV shows; people are now organically naming and refusing bullying using – thanks to the campaigning efforts – the now very common Arabic term ‘Tanamor’ [bullying],” Maes elaborated.

Spotlighting refugees’ social lives

While the UNICEF focuses on highlighting the struggles of Egyptian children, UNHCR Egypt focuses on exhibiting their activities within the context of Egyptian society. As of November 2019, Egypt hosts 254,140 registered refugees and asylum seekers of which 51% are from Syria.

While exerting maximum effort in maintaining a decent and dignified life for them, the commission also seeks to empower them socially and culturally.

Coming with the belief that social change is born through art, the organisation is also supporting registered refugees by providing s space to release their lives’ worries through their passion.

“Achieving social change through using different kinds of arts has always been one of UNHCR’s main concerns,” says the UNHCR Public Information Associate Radwa Saharaf.We believe in its vital role in bridging the gaps between refugees and their hosting communities. Our support to refugee artists and artisans will continue to grow, aiming at offering them the opportunity to be seen and heard, while promoting artworks that show their resilience and talents.”

Refugee empowerment will mostly be dedicated to women this year, as 2020 marks the commission’s 70th anniversary. The commission plans to support 40 refugees this year to start their own cooking project.

“The project aims to empower 40 refugee women through providing them with cooking workshops to improve their cooking skills and provide them with an equipped kitchen. It is in collaboration with the National Council of Women, and the Mumm company is moderating the kitchen and would present the meals cooked by refugees on their website so that anyone can order online,” Sharaf stated.

Last year, the commissioner highlighted the journey of refugees in Egypt, through ‘I Am a Refugee… And This Is My Story’, a docuseries presenting the story of six refugees in Egypt, which was showcased on the television channel OSN during the Holy month of Ramadan.

In Egypt, UNHCR also organised the Beyond Borders exhibition, an art platform displaying the work of “more than 70 hand painted pieces of 22 refugees from six different nationalities to promote for their excel artwork and get a chance to sell it.”

Sharaf revealed that in 2019, the UNHCR aimed at involving refugees with Egyptians’ environmental and athletic activities as we believe that it is the quickest way to make refugees and Egyptians mingle and get to know more about each other.

“For that reason, the UNHCR organised a marathon in Alexandria with Alex Marathon that was joined by more than 500 participants including 120 refugees and asylum seekers of all ages. Also, we mobilised volunteers from across different refugee communities in Egypt to participate in a Nile clean-up event organised by Very Nile,” she concluded. 

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Could the death sentence be a deterrent for terrorists in Egypt? https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/02/04/could-the-death-sentence-be-a-deterrent-for-terrorists-in-egypt/ Tue, 04 Feb 2020 17:50:13 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=721164 ‘Sentencing a terrorist to death will not eliminate crimes they committed,’ says Egyptian military expert 

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Two militants, who were convicted in dangerous and high-profile attacks against security forces in the last few years, were brought to justice in 2019. This has risen many questions on whether the death sentence could be a deterrent for terrorists in Egypt and contribute in the decrease of similar attacks.

On 27 November 2019, a Cairo military court sentenced the most wanted major militant in Egypt, Hisham Al-Ashmawy, a notorious jihadist, to death over several charges, including planning the Farafra checkpoint attack, near the Egyptian-Libyan border, which killed 22 soldiers in July 2014. It was one of the deadliest attacks against Egyptian security forces in recent years.

He is also convicted for the assassination attempt of former Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in September 2013, and for planning attacks targeting merchant ships in Suez Canal in mid-2013.

Ashmawy was apprehended in Derna by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces headed by eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, in October 2018. He was then extradited to Egyptian authorities in May 2019. Before his extradition, several Egyptian military courts sentenced him to death in absentia.

Retired Egyptian General and military expert Talaat Mesalam told Daily News Egypt that sentencing a terrorist to death will not eliminate the crimes they committed or the attacks that he carried out. “Even inside prison, Ashmawy could be a source of annoyance.”

Yet, Mesalam believes the death sentence of the jihadist will still have an impact, albeit limited.

He added that it is not easy to evaluate the significance of Ashmawy as a leading militant, especially since the court trials were not public. But he could conclude from the information provided on the charges he is convicted of that he is “a dangerous terrorist and his danger surpassed other terrorists.”

“The execution or imprisonment of terrorists cannot guarantee that the kinds of attacks they carried out or planned would not recur in the future,” Mesalam pointed out.

One of the elements that made Ashmawy dangerous is that he was among a small succession of former Egyptian army officers who joined militant groups. He was a special forces officer before he joined different militant groups in Egypt and Libya with the main target to attack the country’s army and police.

In 2011, Ashmawy was discharged from the Egyptian army after displaying radical tendencies. He joined in 2013 the Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis militant group, a Sinai-based group which emerged after the overthrow of former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi after mass protests.

Al-Ashmawy is believed to have gone to Libya in 2013 before defecting from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in November 2014 and changed its name to Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province).

“It’s not clear how Ashmawy’s death sentence can do more to protect Egyptian national security and its forces. The terrorist leader, while allegedly behind many of the largest atrocities against Egyptian security forces since 2013, was captured by the LAAF over a year ago,” Zack Gold, an analyst at CNA in Arlington, US told the Daily News Egypt.

Hrsaid, “While bringing Ashmawy to justice and serving him the ultimate sentence is important for the morale of Egypt’s military and police, political violence in the country — while diminished from its height — has moved on under the leadership of others.”

Gold said “it was easy to blame Ashmawy, who was both a skilled military tactician and was familiar with Egyptian army training, for attacks in which the army or police suffered significant casualties.”

Ashmawy appeared in a video in 2015 under the nom de guerre of Abu Omar al-Muhajir and claimed responsibility for the Farafra checkpoint attack. He also announced the formation of his Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Al-Murabitoon.

Al-Murabitoon may have connections to another Al-Qaeda affiliated group, which has a known presence in Egypt known as Ansar al-Islam, according to the Washington-based Tahrir Institute of Middle East Policy.

Ashmawy later in July 2015 called for a holy war against the Egyptian government in an audio message.

Alongside another army officer-turned-jihadist chief, Emad al-Din Abdel Hamid, Ashmawy is accused of conducting several attacks in the Western Desert and the Delta including the assassination attempt of interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

“Without Ashmawy, both IS and Al-Qaeda-linked groups have managed high-casualty attacks on both sides of Egypt. The Egyptian army, especially, has proved that when it takes the initiative it can keep the pressure on militants in Sinai,” Gold pointed out.

Abdel Hamid was one of the leaders of Ansar al-Islam, which claimed another deadly terrorist attack against security forces in Bahariya Oasis in the Western Desert, about 85 km southwest of Cairo, in October 2017. The attack, which is publicly known as the Al-Wahat shootout, killed 16 police officers and injured 13.

The Egyptian army, in coordination with security forces, launched airstrikes for weeks targeting the perpetrators of the attack and killed Abdel Hamid in Egypt’s Western Desert In November 2017.

A Libyan militant named Abdel Rahim Al-Mesmari was the main defendant in Al-Wahat attack, according to Egyptian prosecution investigations. Al-Mesmari, who was arrested in November 2017, was trained by Abdel Hamid.

Mesmari was handed a death sentence by an Egyptian military court on 17 November, only 10 days before the verdict against Ashmawy was issued. Other defendants in the case also received various prison sentences.

Retired Egyptian General and military expert Gamal Mazloum remarked DNE that bringing both Ashmawy and Mesmari to justice “will deter other terrorists who are operating in Egypt or outside the country.”

Mazloum praised the arrest of Ashmawy and the court verdict. “It is a major step for the Egyptian state to take against a terrorist who carried out attacks in Egypt and then fled to Libya to launch other aggressive attacks against security forces.”

Mazloum highlighted the army and police’s military offensive on terrorism, saying that it contributed to an “obvious decline in the number of terrorist attacks” in 2019.

Since February 2018, the Egyptian military and police launched a campaign dubbed “Sinai 2018” to confront militants in central and North Sinai, the Nile Delta region, and the Western Desert. The army regularly publishes statements on the updates of the military operations, including security raids on terrorists’ hideouts and killing of alleged terrorists.

Hundreds of police and army personnel were killed in terrorist attacks in the last six years.

In 27 September 2019, seven Egyptian soldiers and one civilian were killed while ten others, including soldiers and civilians, were wounded in a deadly ambush on an Egyptian military checkpoint in Bir Al-Abed, North Sinai. The attack was claimed by Wilayat Sinai.

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Calls inside parliament to cancel 2005 free trade agreement with Turkey https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/28/calls-inside-parliament-to-cancel-2005-free-trade-agreement-with-turkey/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:23:56 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=720402 ‘Agreement is supposed to be reassessed in 2020, but there is no intention to cancel it,’ says economic analyst

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Parliamentary committee of industry and trade, headed by Mohamed Farag Amer, called for the abolishment of the 2005 free trade agreement between Egypt and Turkey, only a few weeks after several MPs had presented a proposal to boycott Turkish products on the back of ongoing political divergence between the two countries.

Amer justified his call explaining that the agreement harmed Egyptian products, and contributed to flooding the local market with Turkish goods, which, in most cases, do not meet Egyptian standards. There was a clear deficiency in the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s handling of this file, he said, pointing out that the committee had previously asked to cancel the free trade agreement because it negatively affected local industry.

He claimed that Egyptian consumers were no longer interested in Turkish products after the escalating hostile attitudes of Ankara against Cairo.

“It seems like there is an intention for harming Egyptian products and causing broad lay-offs. Strict measures must be taken through the World Trade Organization regarding the spread of Turkish products in Egypt,” he continued.

It came during a meeting of the industry committee to discuss MP Mohamed Al-Ghoul’s inquest about the large presence of imported wood particles from Turkey and China in the Egyptian market.

Al-Ghoul explained that these imported woodchips might lead to the closure of granular wood factories in Edfu and Nag Hammadi towns due to the accumulation of large quantities of wood in stores, as well as the sales decline in the local market.

Loses of millions of pounds are expected as large quantities of wood piled up in warehouses in Nag Hammadi, Qena governorate, which is the largest of its kind in the production of wood (fiberboard) in Egypt and the Middle East. The factory is under threat of closure and laying off thousands of workers as it cannot market its products due to their high prices compared to the imports.

Al-Ghoul said the free trade agreement was signed in 2005 by former prime minister Ahmed Nazif and came into effect in 2007. The deal was activated in 2013 under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish exports to Egypt exceeded EGP 4.6bn, while Egyptian exports to Turkey were only EGP 1.1bn, so the trade agreement was skewed to benefit Turkish industry only.

“You [Ministry of Trade] did not try to protect the local industry,” he claimed, referring to America’s imposing of 10-25% fees on Chinese imports.

“Turkish products have been entering the Egyptian market with zero customs for two years in violation to the timeline of the agreement,” Al-Ghoul said, calling for a clear written clarification from the Ministry of Trade and Industry on this issue.

This should not be happening in light of the deteriorated relations with the Turkish state, he added, describing the situation as “collusion between Turkish factories and some Egyptian importers at the expense of the local industry.”

The agreement stipulates that if one side faced any difficulties in terms of its balance of payments, this state should take the necessary measures to adjust its situation in line with the provisions of the World Trade Organization.

Interestingly, relations between Egypt and Turkey have been strained since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, however, the trade exchange between the two countries has witnessed steady growth.

Official figures and statistics show an increase in the volume of exports and imports between Cairo and Ankara, year after year, in what appears to be an attempt to isolate political differences from trade relations.

Notably, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Egypt have been maintained at the level of Chargé d’affaires on both sides since 2013. When Morsi was ousted, Ankara offered refuge and protection for the Muslim Brotherhood leadership while waging a media campaign against the current regime.

In addition, the two countries support different sides in the Libyan conflict, as Turkey allies with the UN- recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), while Egypt, along with the UAE, backs the eastern-based Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) led by Khalifa Haftar.

This dispute intensified after Turkey had signed an agreement with the GNA last November, aiming to establish an exclusive economic zone that extends from Turkey’s southern coast on the Mediterranean to the north-eastern Libyan coast. The move alarmed several countries, including Egypt which allocated huge investments to prospect energy sources in the mentioned region, and may threaten its ability to export gas to Europe.

Ibrahim Al-Sajeni, head of the commercial remedies sector at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said that the commercial remedies sector will start taking the necessary measures and impose protection fees on Turkish wood as soon as the factory presents a completed complaint with documents proving the spread of Turkish wood.

On the other hand, Egyptian economic analyst Sabri Najeh said: “The agreement is supposed to be reassessed in 2020, and there is no intention to cancel it.”

“In the first nine months of 2019, the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and Turkey reached about $4.6bn, which was the same figure in the whole of 2018. This means that there is an increase in the trade exchange between the two countries,” he added.

“The two countries hoped the increase would be greater, but the escalation of political tension between them affected a lot of things in one way or another, despite the numbers of trade exchange rising year after year.”

“It is not in the interest of the Turkish government to cancel any free trade agreement with any country in light of the recent economic problems plaguing Ankara, and the same applies to Egypt, which has a programme for economic reform, and therefore aims to increase investments with any country, even if it is Turkey,” Najeh concluded.

Egypt’s imports from Turkey increased by 11% between January to September 2019, recording $2.39bn compared to $2.16bn in the same period of 2018, despite recent political tensions between the two countries.

According to a recent report issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Egyptian exports to Turkey declined by 22% from January to September 2019, recording $1.37bn compared to $1.73bn in the same period in 2018.

In the first nine months of 2019, Turkey came fourth in the list of countries importing from Egypt, with a value of $1.2bn, according to the statistics of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). 

Notably, the total value of Egyptian non-oil exports increased overall between January and November 2019 to $23.227bn compared to $22.187bn in the same period in 2018, a growth of 4%.

It is expected that this prosperity in economic relations between the two countries will continue in case of the renewal of the free trade agreement scheduled for this year.

In 2018, Ahmed Helmy, chairperson of the Chamber of Wood Products and Furniture, in the Federation of Egyptian Industries, called for the necessity of reviewing the pros and cons of the free trade agreement between the two countries, and taking measures that achieve the protection of the local furniture industry in a memorandum to former Minister of Industry Amr Nassar.

The decrease in Turkish lira’s value, larger exports to Egypt from Turkey, lifting customs on Turkish products, have all led to Egyptian products’ inability to compete with their Turkish competitors in the local market.

He went on to say, “The cost of a wooden product from an Egyptian company may reach EGP 70, while the Turkish product is now sold in Egypt at EGP 58. So many Egyptian companies could no longer operate, and 200 workers were laid off.”

Helmy warned that if the agreement is to continue without any control and with a lack of protection for Egyptian products, many countries like Morocco, Jordan, and others, will continue to push out Egyptian companies from the national market.

Several furniture factories submitted a memo to the Chamber demanding prompt interference to protect them from the harm caused as a result of the low price of the Turkish lira against US dollar. They also said that Turkish products threatens the closure of factories and displacement of labour, and they proposed in their memorandum the necessity of imposing fees on Turkish products that have a local equivalent.

This parliamentary move is considered a second attempt to slight Turkey after MPs called for the boycott of Turkish goods in response to Turkey’s blatant transgressions against the region, along with their attempts to plunder, spread chaos, and destabilise the Middle East.

Egypt’s Congress Party presented a request to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the necessity of severing economic and trade deals between Egypt and Turkey. 

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What is in store for Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, and Sudan?    https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/26/what-is-in-store-for-iraq-lebanon-algeria-and-sudan/ Sun, 26 Jan 2020 21:13:55 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=720247 These protests continue through 2020, affecting Egypt’s foreign policy, either directly or indirectly. In this article, Daily News Egypt views those protests, in addition to the impact of US-Iran escalation on the uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon.

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Last year ended with large-scale uprisings in Iraq, Lebanon, and Algeria, which witnessed an ongoing popular movement. Meanwhile, Sudanese protesters reached an agreement for a power-sharing government.

These protests continue through 2020, affecting Egypt’s foreign policy, either directly or indirectly. In this article, Daily News Egypt views those protests, in addition to the impact of US-Iran escalation on the uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon.

Iraq still on fire

The protests in Iraq did not exactly come as a surprise, as in 2018 a wave of protests had also washed over the country. Those protests were sparked when thousands of Iraqis fell ill from drinking contaminated water.

However, the main reasons behind the protesters anger in 2019 were corruption, unemployment, and Iran’s influence. Many of the protesters are educated, and idealistic young people, who are mostly urban and secular. But the largest group are working-class and poor Shiite Muslims, either from the southern part of the country or with origins there.

During the protests, the government was accused of using force against unarmed protesters, as it used bullets, snipers, hot water, hot pepper gas, and tear gas.

Protests main developments (2019-2020)

In 2019

On 1 October, the Iraqi Protests erupted in Baghdad over high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption.

The protests stopped on 8 October, and resumed on 25 October.

On 29 November, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced that he would resign.

On 28 October, a top security authority for Baghdad declared an open-ended curfew on the capital.

On 8 November, Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric, called on the government to respond to the protesters

On 29 November, the prime minister announced his resignation.

On 24 December, The Council of Representatives passed a series of electoral laws allowing voters to select individuals.

On 26 December, President Barham Salih submitted a letter of resignation

On 29 December, the US hit Kataib Hezbollah bases in Iraq killing 25 members, and injuring 51 others.

On 31 December, Hundreds of pro-Iran protesters demonstrated over the US air in front of the US embassy

During the ongoing demonstrations, many headquarters of political parties were burned down. The protesters had blocked Iraq’s main port Umm Qasr several times. Since the beginning, Iraqi forces used live bullets and tear gas in order to disperse the protesters, killing at least 511 people, while injuring more than 21,000.

However, the killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq by US strikes on the third day of the new year forced Iraq to be stuck in the middle of an US-Iran military escalation. The escalation had animated the pro-Iran militias, making domestic reform -the protesters’ main goal- more difficult.

Egypt asked all the parties to stop the mutual violence

The foreign Ministry announced that it follows with great concern the current escalation in the use of military force in Iraq, asking “all parties to refrain from spiraling into a cycle of mutual violence, and to assess the resulting dire consequences.”

The situation is worse in Lebanon

Entering 2020, the situation in Lebanon is as difficult as the situation in Iraq, and Soleimani’s killing also reanimated the pro-Iran group Hezbollah.

The protests erupted in Lebanon on the night of 17 October. Lebanon’s nationwide protests aimed at forcing a mass resignation of the whole political system in Lebanon.

The revolutionary wave continues to grow, including Lebanese nationals of different religions, sects, and political affiliations taking to the streets to demand for their rights.

The protests were motivated by the repercussions of the economic and monetary crisis in Lebanon, but the crisis is rooted in a structurally flawed economic system, wrong political practices, and corruption embraced by the successive governments for decades.

At the beginning, the protesters were triggered by new proposed taxes, they blocked important streets in Beirut, but later on, the protesters started to demand ending the sectarian rule, calling to establish a technocratic government, and condemning the stagnant economy, unemployment, endemic corruption in the public sector, and the government’s failures to provide basic services such as electricity, water, and sanitation.

Protests main developments (2019-2020)

In 2019

On 17 October, about one hundred civil activists start protesting against the new proposed taxes blocking important streets.

On 19 October, the first martyr of the revolution, Hussein Al-Attar, was shot while protesting

On 24 October, President Michel Aoun stated his willingness to hold a dialogue with the protesters

On 29 October, dozens of counter-demonstrators attacked protesters in Beirut, destroying tents, and tearing down banners.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a televised address..

On 11 November, the Lebanese Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees called for a general strike for its 11,000 members over concerns for safety

On 12 November, the second martyr of the revolution, Alaa Abou Fakher, was shot dead in the coastal town of Khalde, south of Beirut

On 3 December, Protesters gathered across the country in response to businessman Samir Khatib’s nomination as possible new prime minister.

, On 8 December Khatib withdrew as candidate for prime minister

On 19 December, the parliament designated Hassan Diab as the next Prime Minister succeeding Hariri.

In 2020

On 14 January, mass protests resumed across the country, as protesters, smashed the edifices of banks in Beirut.

The protests toppled the government of Hariri, with protesters refusing to leave the streets before seeing concrete measures such as the formation of a new government.

To make the situation even more complicated, the Lebanese political system is confessional, as the elected Members of Parliament and government positions allocated based on religious sect. While the President must be a Maronite Christian, only a Sunni Muslim can take the position of the Prime Minister, and the Speaker of Parliament is a Shiite.

With the resignation of the former prime minister, Lebanon will see a new government soon. However, that government is expected to be handpicked by Hezbollah and its allies.

Despite the economic collapse and contraction, the current escalations with US will likely lead the new government to focus on the security of the country’s institutions and supporting Iran.

Algeria remains in crisis

The mass-protests which swept Algerian streets on 3 January 2020, indicates that the county is still suffering.

The protesters demanded the release of detained activists, protest against the government’s control over associations and media, and calling for change in the political system. The protests were peaceful and led the military to insist on Bouteflika’s immediate resignation.

Leaving the new elected President Abdelmadjid Tebboune with only two choices in order to diminish the protest movement. The two choices are either to respond positively to the demands or by cracking down hard and deal with the resulting risks and consequences.

Protests main developments (2019-2020)

In 2019

On 22 February, about 800,000 protested against the government, after president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his candidacy for a fifth presidential term.

On 31 March, Bouteflika named a new government

On 2 April, Bouteflika announced his resignation

On 4 May, a significant number of power-brokers close to the deposed administration, including the former president’s younger brother Saïd, had been arrested,

On 12 December, the presidential election was held, despite wide popular opposition.

In 2020

On 2 January, the new president Abdelmadjid Tebboune realsed 76 detained activists, stating that he hopes to launch a serious dialogue with the protesters

Tebboune had also appointed Abdelaziz Djerad as prime minister and the rest of his cabinet mostly consisting of ministers of the previous government.

Without any change in the governmental figures, the new cabinet nominated a third of the ministers from previous governments, including the prime minister and key cabinet posts. The protest movement rejects dialogue without more gestures from the government.

Whether the protest movement can placate by reforming the constitution and election law is yet to be known. The new government should also relax the grip on civil and political activities, and expanding job creation to address a young population’s dissatisfaction as well.

On the other hand, Algeria’s economy needs urgent attention as growth has stagnated due to declining investment, in addition to the fact that budget deficits and inflation are rising.

The new year will show whether technocrats brought into the new cabinet have the vision and political backing to finally start serious liberalisation of an economy long dominated by the state’s energy industry -which already needs massive new investment.

Egypt supports the new elected President Tebboune

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Algeria. He also delivered a message to President Tebboune from Al-Sisi, congratulating the Algerian President on assuming his duties.

Sudan reached a power-sharing agreement

The unrest in Sudan can be traced back to December 2018, when then president Omar al-Bashir’s government imposed emergency austerity measures to try to stave off economic collapse.

Cuts to bread and fuel subsidies sparked demonstrations in the east over living standards, but the anger spread to the capital, Khartoum, demanding for the removal Bashir, who had been in charge for 30 years.

In 2018

On 19 December, street protests started in Sudan over tripling the price of bread

In 2019

On 22 February, Bashir declared a yearlong national state of emergency

0n 23 February Bashir  appointed his chosen successor, Mohamed Tahir Ayala, as Prime Minister

On 6 April, the movement reached a climax, when demonstrators occupied the square in front of the military’s headquarters.

On 11 April, al-Bashir was ousted from presidency and placed under house arrest by the military.

Between mid-April and June, the Transitional Military Council started negotiations with protesters who demanded civilian rule.

Between 3 and 11 June, remarked theKhartoum massacre,” when Sudanese armed forces storming a camp in addition to medical facilities and opening fire on protesters,

On 4 August, the different parties signed the Draft Constitutional Declaration which defines a Sovereignty Council of five civilians, five military, and a civilian to lead the council. In the end, it was a military figure that was elected.

The protests resume in 2020

On 2 January, 2,000 women marched to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s office and submitted a petition signed by 46 citizen’s groups and 13 political parties complaining that the  list of nominees for state governors, is a men-only list and calling for laws against female genital mutilation and child marriage.

Egypt supports the people’s will

Egypt announced its support for the “will of the Sudanese people,” as Egypt’s Foreign Ministry released a statement supporting the Sudanese people, backing the removal of Bashir.

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi valued a stable, pliable Sudan helping to fight Islamists. He also met the Chairman of the Transitional Military Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Cairo.

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Criticism to mental care law unfounded; electrotherapy used worldwide: MP https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/21/criticism-to-mental-care-law-unfounded-electrotherapy-used-worldwide-mp/ Tue, 21 Jan 2020 14:06:56 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=720400 Critics mainly rejected the use of electrotherapy sessions to regulate the rhythm of the brain, saying that this practice is “misleading,” medically wrong, and unethical

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Despite facing criticism, the parliamentary committee of Health Affairs insists on amendments for the mental health care law, despite rejections from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Federation for Mental Health, and the World Psychiatric Association.

Secretary of the Health Affairs Committee in Parliament, Samy Al-Mashd said to Daily News Egypt that the committee does not see criticism to the law as urgent, but unfounded, noting that as of now, there is no information on when parliament will discuss these amendments.

Al-Mashad strongly believes that the law guarantees the rights of mental illness patients, allowing, for the first time, for low–income citizens to be treated in any private hospital at the state’s expense and to be protected from health care providers’ exploitation. The law will set in place penalties for those that are practicing health care without a proper licence.

Last week, the committee approved an amendment to the law of 2009 and forwarded it to parliament’s administration to discuss during a plenary session. In November, the government presented a draft to amend some articles to the law and Parliament approved it in principle.

In late December, a number of prominent psychiatric professors such as the former director of the mental health programme at the WHO and the president of the World Psychiatric Association expressed their deep concern about these amendments, explaining their reasons in a letter addressed to the head of parliament’s health committee.

Coordinator of the Defence Front for the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital Ahmed Hussein said in press statement last Tuesday that the demanded amendments would set back years of mental health care policies in Egypt.

Hussein expressed his objection to the amendments of the law, saying “There are complete deficiencies in many provisions and the reason for this is that the health committee only meets with the government and then passes serious decisions that seriously harm psychiatric patients without hearing the perspective of the concerned entities.” He pointed out that none of the members of the health committee are psychiatrists, meaning that they don’t fully understand the implications of amendments like these.

Hussien said: “unfortunately these amendments give beneficiaries to famous psychiatrists to exploit patients and their families, and will harm Egypt’s reputation, as we received strong-worded letters by the international organisations on these illegal changes.”

The critics mainly rejected the usage of electrotherapy to regulate the rhythm of the brain, saying that this practice is “misleading, a wrong medical action, and unethical.” Al-Mashad commented that countries all over the world use this type of treatment and it is necessary to improve the conditions of patients.

One of the amendments’ biggest opponents is the Al-Abbasiya Defense Front, an independent group consisting of psychiatrists that defend the rights of doctors working in the Al-Abbisiya Mental Health Governmental Hospital, as well as protect proper health treatment for mental illness patients. The Front  rejected these amendments and prepared a petition to collect signatures to be presented to Parliament, the Doctor’s Syndicate, as well as other relevant authorities, to assume all responsibility for these amendments, and to call for its cancelation.

The Front said that the amendments’ approval will exacerbate mental illness in Egypt as more doctors will exploit their patients as well as parliamentary legislation in all forums.

It further requested changing the term electrotherapy to brain rhythm sessions, saying that that term did not have any scientific basis and did not express the nature of the treatment, which results in misleading patients and their families.

The amendments will allow doctors to administer two electrotherapy sessions even without the consent of the patient, which is already a violation of the law that stipulates that the patient must agree to services or an overruling decision based on the evaluation from National Council for Mental Health.

The Egyptian Human Rights Initiative said in a report on the amendments that “The most dangerous of these amendments is the article that regulates the rules of compulsory treatment, including electrotherapy, as it stipulates neglecting independent evaluation, and authorises when necessary, the patient to be given two sessions to regulate the rhythm of the brain, until the evaluation provided for them is carried out in accordance with the controls determined by the executive regulations of the law.”

Under the current law, it is not necessary to provide the psychiatric patient any type of treatment before conducting an independent evaluation within 24 hours to review the opinions of the treating physician. The law continues that the physician must be registered with the mental health council, while giving the patient emergency treatment until the evaluation’s completion in order to reduce the chances of error and to protect the doctor from suspicions of abuse of power.

Ragia Al-Garazawy, head of health affairs in EIPR, the largest hospital in Cairo that specialises in mental health, said the proposed law lacks proper protocol and severely against the interests of the patient and the recommendations of the WHO already state that any sort emergency treatment may not include “the use of electrotherapy.”

Electrotherapy, such as surgical intervention, is carried out under complete and simplified muscle anesthesia. Hospital records include many cases of complications and sometimes death when using it, she explained.

Al-Garazawy, who is also a doctor, said that proposed amendments used a term not agreed upon in the medical community, which is “controlling the rhythm of the brain” instead of electrotherapy or electric shock therapy, a term that experts described as false and therefore misleading.

She also added that it is unfortunate that the government is preoccupied with these methods and with proposing amendments that violate Egypt’s international norms, principles, and obligations, allowing the government to implement such obsolete provisions that are out of date and allow the misuse of influence. She suggested, instead, that the government should focus on projects that protect the rights of the mentally ill, upgrade mental health services, and improve the conditions of public hospitals that are already suffering from a severe shortage of doctors, nursing, financing, and equipment.

WHO regulations relating to human rights and legislation in mental health stipulate that “emergency treatment may not include the use of electrotherapy, or any of the therapies that cannot be reversed, such as psychological surgeries,” and that the decades-old medical tradition confirms restricting the use of compulsory electrotherapy to a minimum, and only after approval of an independent doctor.

The initiative said that hospital records include many cases of complications, and sometimes death, when using electroconvulsive therapy, and that electrotherapy is an intrusive treatment that is carried out under the influence of general anesthetic and extensor to muscles such as surgeries, and it is first to fortify controls that ensure the safety of its use with minimal risks, it is not the opening of loopholes that weaken these controls.

In their comments, the organisations also objected the absence of any representatives of patients and their families from the formation of the National Council for Mental Health, as well as the inclusion of a licence to practice therapy under the law.

About the amendments

Al-Mashad said that law aims to regulate the profession of psychological treatment, and penalise those who practice the profession without a licence, and it also aim at protecting the patient while under the supervision of non-specialists.

He referred that several individuals now are taking on the title of psychiatrist while not having a degree or licence, so the amendments determines controls for practicing and stipulates that whoever violates it will be subject to punishment.

The amendments include penalty of imprisonment for a period of up to two years maximum, and a fine of up to EGP 50,000. Before, it was only an EGP 5,000 fine to deter punishment, he added.

The draft law aims to bridge the gaps that resulted from the application of the current law, and emphasise the importance of academic and clinical specialisation in the practice of psychotherapy, Al-Mashad said, adding that it will also ensure holding an exam for psychiatric medical students, and the importance of continuing education, and confirms renewing the licence.

The draft law provides for more guarantees of the patient’s psychological rights by providing adequate protection for the patient against abuse and exploitation, and the draft law is also keen to provide clear legal mechanisms for legal accountability in case of violation.

The new amendments dictates the establishment of a National Mental Health Council, but after a decision from the Prime Minister. The council will include the health minister or his representative, the head of the Central Department of the Technical Secretariat of the National Mental Health Council, and the Ministry of Finance to determine what will be allocated to the fund from the state budget.

The health minister issues executive regulations for this law within three months from the date of its application. The ministry previously estimated 25% of Egyptians suffer from mental health disorders.

The law was issued in 2009 to replace the law that was called “Mental Illness Detention Law” issued in 1944, when mental illness was considered a permanent disorder.

This law has been enforced in Egypt for over 60 years now despite scientific revolution the world has experienced in the field of medicine in the previous century. Electric shock therapy has a dark history that has caused international organisations to call for the ending of its practice. It is important that governments continue to upgrade and enhance policies that ensure the safety and wellbeing of patients while allowing for the safe use of dangerous medical procedures.

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World leaders gear up for Berlin conference after Moscow failure  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/19/world-leaders-gear-up-for-berlin-conference-after-moscow-failure/ Sun, 19 Jan 2020 16:56:24 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=719595 Germany says Haftar agrees to abide by ongoing Libyan ceasefire

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Eyes across the world are on the Berlin international peace conference which is set for Sunday and aims to bring an end to the conflict in Libya, as well as foreign interference in the war-torn country. The conference comes after talks in Moscow last week failed to reach any agreement.

The German foreign ministry said that the Berlin Process “aims to support the efforts of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and his Special Representative Ghassan Salamé to end the conflict.”

“The objective was, in dialogue with international actors with an influence on the parties to the conflict, to create the framework conditions for an intra-Libyan political process under the auspices of the UN.”

Representatives from the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, Italy, the UAE, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, and the Congo will attend, the ministry added.

The United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and the Arab League have also been invited, as well as, the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and his rival, the eastern commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) General Khalifa Haftar.

Meanwhile, Haftar met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday in Benghazi, according to the German Foreign Ministry.

“I hope that the parties will take this opportunity to put the future of Libya back in Libyan hands. This now requires a readiness to agree on a genuine ceasefire and both parties’ participation in the dialogue formats proposed by the UN,” Maas said.

In the meantime, Maas added that “Haftar has signalled his readiness to contribute to the success of the Libya Conference in Berlin and is willing to participate. He has repeated his commitment to observe the existing ceasefire.”

Afterwards, Haftar headed to Athens on Friday to meet with Greek Minister of Foreign Defence Nikos Dendias, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The Libyan commander left Moscow last Tuesday without signing a ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Russia and Turkey. His rival, GNA Chairman of the presidential council and prime minister Fayez Al-Sarraj signed the draft.

The ceasefire, which was brokered by Turkey and Russia, took effect in Libya at midnight on January 12.

Moscow was accused of supporting Haftar with private security forces from the Wagner Group of Russia. Haftar is also backed by the UAE, Egypt, France, while Turkey is the GNA’s main supporter, in addition to Qatar.

Al Arabiya TV channel cited sources who said that Haftar refused to sign the agreement because “the Russian draft ignored some demands of the LAAF.” Haftar also refused any Turkish meditation and had reservations that the deals signed between Turkey and the GNA would not be paused.

On the other hand, Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte visited Algeria on Thursday to discuss the Libyan crisis. He met with the Algerian president and prime minister  as part of international efforts to peacefully maintain the ceasefire in the North African country.

Earlier, Conte visited Egypt and met with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The pair agreed on intensifying efforts to reach a political settlement to restore the stability of the North African country, and support national institutions.

‘Syrian mercenaries in Libya’

British newspaper the Guardian published an exclusive report on Wednesday reporting 2,000 Syrian fighters have been deployed from Turkey to Libya in support of the GNA.

“The Syrian men are expected to coalesce into a division named after Libyan resistance leader Omar al-Mukhtar,” the report said.

A source told the Guardian that the fighters signed six-month contracts directly with the GNA rather than with the Turkish military for $2,000 a month. All men have been also promised Turkish nationality, the newspaper said.

Earlier in December, The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian mercenaries loyal to Turkey are mobilising to Tripoli to support the GNA in exchange for money. The organisation said that Turkey offered fighters between $1800 to $2000 monthly, in addition to other benefits.

These Syrian mercenaries will go head to head against Russian mercenaries who are allegedly backing the LAAF.

There are also reports of 3,000 Sudanese mercenaries who are now fighting in Libya, according to another report by the Guardian which cited leaders of two different groups of Sudanese fighters active in Libya and fighting with the LAAF.

Earlier this month, the Turkish parliament approved a bill that allowed the government to deploy troops to the war-torn country in support of the GNA.

On 27 November, Turkey, and the GNA signed two memoranda of understanding for military and security cooperation. The accords escalated fighting in Libya and triggered tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

In response, Haftar ordered to advance toward the centre of Tripoli as part of the “final battle” to control the capital. The military campaign was launched back in April 2019.

The situation in Libya is getting more complicated as concerns rise over the North African country moving towards an all-out war between the two Libyan factions, and their international supporters.

Libya has been wracked by violence since the fall of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich country has been a stronghold for Islamist militants, and a focal point for migrants who hope to reach Europe.

Amnesty International said on Friday that EU countries attending the Berlin summit “must commit to ending involvement in interception and detention of Mediterranean migrants.”

“Justice for the victims of war crimes committed by both major parties to the conflict in Libya must be the cornerstone of any peace deal that may emerge from an UN-led summit in Berlin,” the organisation said.

At least 284 civilians were killed and more than 140,000 were displaced as a result of fighting in Libya last year, according to the UN.

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Last round in Washington: an end to GERD strife or a talk going no where? https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/13/last-round-in-washington-an-end-to-gerd-strife-or-a-talk-going-no-where/ Mon, 13 Jan 2020 19:27:52 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=719124 While the three countries’ foreign ministers are expected to convene in Washington to solve disputes, Ethiopia seeks South Africa as mediator

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In a surprise move in disputes between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Ethiopia has sought mediation from South Africa to interfere in negotiations. This move comes a day before the three ministers of irrigation from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan are to convene in Washington on Monday for the final round of US mediated meetings.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed asked South African President Cyril Ramafusa to intervene in the long dispute with Egypt.

Ahmed, who was already visiting South Africa this past weekend, justified this call, pointing to South Africa’s upcoming presidency of the African Union in February.

“Since Ramafusa is a close friend of both Ethiopia and Egypt, and also as the new president of the African Union, he can hold talks between the two parties to resolve the issue peacefully,” Abiy told a news conference in Pretoria, the political capital of South Africa.

“Ethiopia always believes in a win-win approach with Egypt and Sudan. We will follow the same track,” Abiy said. “Without having peace we can’t realise our vision of development and growth.”

South Africa’s public broadcaster SABC reported that Ramaphosa “has agreed to assist the Ethiopian government in solving its impasse with Egypt over the massive Nile dam project.”

“There must be a way in which a solution can be found. As for ourselves, we are willing to play a role in facilitating whatever agreement that can be crafted,” said the president

Washington is already a mediator to break the stalemate of negotiations over the Dam that Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.

In November, Washington, hosted negotiations, mediated by the World Bank and the US Treasury, between the three Nile Basin countries.

The call raised questions on whether is it possible to hire a second meditator when there is already another country supervising negotiations.

Experts have been speculating that Washington may use its power to push the three parties to make acceptable concessions in order to reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. They further expect that Washington will continue to pressure the concerned parties with the aim of maintaining a path of peaceful negotiation and not resort to force.

Other observers also point to the possibility of Washington pushing towards international arbitration institutions in order to reach a final peaceful solution to the crisis, in case of a lack of agreement on issues concerning the filling and operation of the dam, and to avoid damages and risks, BBC reported.

Commenting onEthiopia’s call for South Africa’s meditation, Diaa Al-Qousi, water expert and advisor to the former irrigation minister, said that South African interference to solve the GERD crisis will not benefit anything.

He also mentioned that any offer from the Egyptian camp during recent negotiations and discussions, cannot in anyway be rejected or contested by Addis Ababa.

The expert suggested in a televised interview on Sunday that the Ethiopian side is trying to run out the clock in order to push their own agenda, but he expects Egypt to have a backup plan to deal with that.

Egypt has repeatedly stressed the need for the Dam to be integrated into the Eastern Nile Basin as a new water source in order to combat current, and eventual, droughts, flooding, and other climate disasters.

Mohamed El Sebaei, spokesman for the Ministry of Irrigation, previously said that during the past period, Egypt was engaged in negotiations with Ethiopia based on goodwill to reach a fair and balanced agreement that could achieve the common interests of the three countries.

Abbas Al-Sharaki, Head of the Natural Resources Department at Cairo University, said that what Addis Ababa was doing over the past 9 years of long negotiations wasted the international community’s time and efforts. He added that Egypt made all concessions to bypass environmental studies in order to reach a fair and legitimate compromise.

He also pointed out that if no real agreement is reached, Ethiopia will be the only loser seeing that the Ethiopian people only receive 10% of the electricity produced by the Dam due to a lack of proper infrastructure to properly distribute electricity. Sharaki said that the Ethiopian population is more spread out throughout the countryside and outskirts of the country, unlike Egypt where about 96% of the population stays close to the Nile.

Regarding possible solutions, he pointed out that Egypt has many solutions, including recording Ethiopia’s violation of past international agreements recognised by the United Nations, submitting a complaint to the African Union, and working to issue an international decision to stop the Dam’s work.

Four rounds fail, tensions increase

Despite all three countries agreeing to the four rounds of negotiations, there has been no real breakthrough over the GERD, and all that has really come about is more tension between Egypt and Ethiopia.

The discussions revolved around points of contentions, and Egypt, through its participation in those rounds, has tried to bridge points of views for all three sides, by presenting proposals and studies that guarantee the continued and efficient production of electricity for Ethiopia during periods of severe drought.

However, the three countries have been unable to reach a consensus over the GERD due to different hydrological conditions that the Blue Nile experiences. This has also been coupled by a lack of clear and practical procedures the dam’s operation from Ethiopia, specifically in cases of prolonged drought.

During the first rounds of talks in Addis Ababa, the three countries were able to reach a breakthrough consensus on filling the dams’s reservoir; a fair and equitable 7 year period to fill it. The filling of the dam has been one of the more severe points of tension between Egypt and Ethiopia for the past few years.

Egypt has long requested for the filling period of the dam to be 5 to 7 years due to fears of the dam significantly reducing Egypt’ and Sudan’s shares of the Nile’s water. Meanwhile, Ethiopia has been pushing for a filling period of no more than 2 to 3 years.

During the second round of discussions in Cairo on 2-3 December, the three countries addressed the technical issues concerning the GERD and its operation in coordination with Egypt and Sudan. The three nations also reviewed the outcomes of the first meeting.

Tensions started to rise at the third meeting in Khartoum in late December, when Egypt and Ethiopia failed to reach a consensus on the amount of water to be released in the case of drought. Egypt requires about 40 bn cubic metres of water to reach its territory, and Ethiopia countered with 35bn cubic metres.

Egypt proposed the alternative of maybe linking both the GERD in Addis Ababa and the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt in the interest of all three parties.

However, it was at the fourth and final meeting where negotiations reached a dead end, Ethiopia and Egypt announced that they were unable to finalise an agreement  over the filling period of the dam.

Egypt said that fourth round “did not lead to tangible progress, due to Ethiopia’s intransigence and adopting excessive stances, revealing its intention to impose the fait accompli and extending its control over the Blue Nile, and to fill and operate the Renaissance Dam without the slightest consideration of water interests of the downstream countries.”

Ethiopian Minister of Irrigation Seleshi Bekele said that the three sides failed to reach an agreement on the filling of the dam because Egypt presented a new proposal requesting the filling period to be 12-21 years, saying that “This is not acceptable. We will start the filling of the dam by July.”

Meanwhile, Egypt said that it did not specify a number of years, and that the number of years were agreed among three countries over a year ago. Under this agreement, the filling of the dam would take place in stages, depending on the Blue Nile’s yearly flow.

It further clarified that the new proposal submitted by Egypt ensures highly efficient electricity production for Ethiopia during times of drought while at the same time securing Egypt’s water interests.

Egypt further condemned the allegations of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry that Egypt seeks to monopolise the waters of the Nile, as it accused Egypt of trying to reinforce “self-claimed sole ownership of the Nile waters”.

During Washington’s meeting the three countries are suppose to solve all disputed points before 15 January, as they previously have set a target to resolve their disagreements over the filling and operation of dam.  An international mediator will be appointed to help resolve the issue in case the three sides do not reach any agreement by 15 January, according to the deal the countries reached in Washington.

Egypt has previously described the idea of a mediator as proof of good intentions, stressing that Egypt tries to cooperate and resolve all issues through its diplomatic and peaceful channels.

Kifle Horo, the general manager of the GERD project said last December Ethiopia completed about 70% of the construction of the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, and the entire project is expected to be fully completed in 2023, according to the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).

ENA said that members of the Permanent Committee for Natural Resources, Irrigation, and Energy in the Ethiopian parliament visited the project and listened to explanations about the construction.

Horo stated that the committee in charge of turbine units nine and ten will be generating energy before finishing the entire project. The two turbines are planned to generate 750 megawatt (MW) of electricity by 2021.

Hero said that Ethiopia spent ETB 99 bn ($31bn) on the project, which still needs an additional ETB 40 bn to be completed.

For his part, the Ethiopian Water Minister, Selce Bickle, announced that the filling of the dam will start in July 2020, and the initial operation of the dam is to be completed by 2020.

About GERD

GERD which is set to be Africa’s largest hydro-electric dam, has already relations tensed between Egypt, and Ethiopia. Ethiopia is constructing the dam on the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region some 40 km from the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.

The dam measures 1.8 km long and 145 metres high, and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2020, and full operation by 2022.

The project started in 2011 with a cost estimated at $4bn and is expected to provide electricity for Ethiopia’s population of more than 100 million people.

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After initial denial, Iran admits ‘mistakenly’ downing Ukrainian airliner https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/12/after-initial-denial-iran-admits-mistakenly-downing-ukrainian-airliner/ Sun, 12 Jan 2020 11:30:46 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=718889 Ukrainian president expects a full admission of guilt and compensation

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Iran acknowledged that it “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed last week killing all 176 people on board, after initial denial.

The Iranian Army, known as AJA, said on Saturday that the plane flew near “a sensitive military base,” adding that the person responsible would face legal consequences.

Moreover, Iran President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter, “Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

An internal investigation by the military “concluded that missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane and the death of 176 innocent people,” Rouhani added. Investigations are underway “to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake.”

Iran initially denied downing the Ukrainian plane, saying “a mechanical error caused the crash.”

Last week, Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said that they advise the US government to wait for the investigation results, instead of “spreading lies and carrying out a psychological operation.”

In the meantime, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded to Tehran’s announcement, saying “his country expects a full admission of guilt and compensation [for the victims].”

“We expect from Iran assurances of their readiness for a full and open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, the return of the bodies of the dead, the payment of compensation, and official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Zelenskiy said.

Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said his country did not want to jump to conclusions about the cause of the crash. However, Oleksiy Danylov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, considered two possible causes for the crash; a missile or terror attack.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the Ukraine plane that crashed shortly after it took off from Iran last Wednesday was ‘likely shot down by an Iranian missile.”

During a news conference at the White House, Pompeo said the US and its allies have intelligence that confirms Iran shot down the plane, and probably by mistake.

“We’re going to let the investigation play out before we make a final determination. It’s important that we get to the bottom of it,” Pompeo said.

In the meantime, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last Thursday said: “Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile.”

Earlier, the US Treasury Department said that Washington plans “to issue sanction waivers to American companies who can help the investigation.”

The fatal crash happened amid tensions between Iran and the US. It happened hours after Iran launched missiles at two military bases in Iraq that host American forces. The strikes came in response to an American drone strike that killed Iran’s top military commander and the second influential man in Tehran, Qasem Soleimani.

Last Thursday, the American magazine Newsweek cited a Pentagon official, a senior US intelligence official, and an Iraqi intelligence official admitting Iran downed the Ukrainian plane.

The three officials told the magazine that the plane is “believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet.”

A video that was verified by the New York Times team appears to show the moment the Ukrainian plane was hit by a missile near Tehran.

The Boeing 737-800 took off from Imam Khomeini international airport at on Wednesday and was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and went down shortly after taking off.

Among the victims were 63 Canadian nationals, 82 from Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany, and the United Kingdom, according to Prystaiko.

Moreover, Head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg said the Iranian air defence systems may have taken down the Ukrainian plane.

The question now arises: why Iran did not close its main international airport and airspace while it was launching ballistic missile attacks on US bases in Iraq?

The killing of Soleimani marks the most significant escalation between the US and Iran since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018. Following this operation, Rouhani vowed to seek revenge.

Soleimani is a significant figure for Iran. He has been described as Iran’s spearhead in the Middle East after masterminding the Iran Shadow Wars, military actions, and state intelligence. As much as he was hated abroad, he was loved in Iran. He was viewed as a charismatic and brave commander.

Iran missile attacks in Iraq

Last Wednesday, Iran carried out ballistic missile attacks on two US bases in Erbil and Anbar that house American troops and the international coalition. Tehran authorities said the strikes were a retaliation for killing Soleimani.

The Iraqi government said Al-Assad airbase in Anbar was hit 17 times, while other missiles targeted the Erbil base.

Following the attacks, the Iranian president said the “final answer” to the US is to “kick out all US troops from Iraq,” while Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the attack was “a slap in the face for US.”

Moreover, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “we do not seek escalation or a war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

In response, US President Donald Trump said: “I am holding the Iranian regime responsible for attacks against United States personnel and interests by denying it substantial revenue that may be used to fund and support its nuclear program, missile development, terrorism and terrorist proxy networks, and malign regional influence.”

“I have issued an executive order authorising the imposition of sanctions against any individual or entity operating in the construction, manufacturing, textiles, or mining sectors of the Iranian economy or anyone assisting those who engage in this sanctioned conduct,” Trump added.

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Economy Plus poll forecasts currency appreciation, lower interest rates, price cuts across consumer goods https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/07/economy-plus-poll-forecasts-currency-appreciation-lower-interest-rates-price-cuts-across-consumer-goods/ Tue, 07 Jan 2020 09:00:58 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=718515 Appreciation of currency, lower interest rates, price cuts across consumer goods, and stability of fuel costs

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Followers of Economy Plus expect the exchange rates of the US dollar against the Egyptian pound to decrease during 2020, to trade between EGP 15.5 and EGP 16, with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) moving to reduce interest rates by up to 2% throughout the new year, while the prices of petroleum products stabilise at the same rates in the last quarter of 2019.

The first annual survey of Economy Plus on the Egyptian economy, in which the followers of Economy Plus on social media platforms and readers of its daily newsletter, showed that the majority of subscribers expects an appreciation of the national currency and lower prices of consumer goods. More than 240 respondents from business executive, analysts, and economy savvy people participated in the survey.

With a slight difference, the followers of Economy Plus favoured gold as the best investment pot in which citizens could invest their savings in 2020, while expectations varied widely about the future of real estate sales, and they were relatively nominated for activity revival, and a boom in real estate sales.

The majority of subscribers considered government regulations and red tape as the most important challenges facing businesses in Egypt, and they expected a greater share of the private sector in the Egyptian economy during the new year. They ruled out slowing production and new orders and the continued decline in the purchasing managers’ index for non-oil activities.

Economy Plus’s followers put geopolitical tensions in the Middle East at the forefront of international issues that will have the greatest impact on Egypt’s economy in 2020.

Fuel prices stabilized and consumer goods’ prices to decline in 2020

Economy Plus followers expected the stability of the prices of petroleum products in Egypt during the year 2020, supported by the expected decline in the exchange rates of the dollar against the pound. Some 59% of the respondents said that prices of petroleum products will tend to stabilise in the new year, while 27% of respondents believed that prices of petroleum products will decrease, compared to only 14% who expected prices to rise in 2020.

The expectations of the followers of Economy Plus come in conjunction with the decision of the automatic pricing committee for petroleum products, concerned with reviewing and setting the selling prices of some petroleum products on a quarterly basis. At its last meeting in December, they decided to  maintain the selling price of gasoline products in the local market at EGP 6.5 per litre of gasoline 80, and at EGP 7.75 per litre for gasoline 92, and at EGP 8.75 per litre for gasoline 95.

The committee also decided to keep the price of selling diesel at EGP 6.75 per litre and fix the selling price of fuel oil at EGP 4,250 pounds per tonne, in light of the fixed cost of selling and making those petroleum products available in the local market, due to the increased price of Brent per barrel in the global market from October to December 2019 compared to the previous quarter by 1.7%, which was offset by an increase in the value of the pound against the dollar, according to what was announced by the CBE during the same period by about 2%.

However, it appears that the escalating geopolitical tensions that the Middle East is going through will overshadow oil prices, which rose by 3% following the killing of the Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in a US raid in Iraq. This attack could fuel the conflict in the region at a time when the Eastern Mediterranean region is already witnessing skirmishes and disputes that could ignite the situation in Libya, a major oil-exporting country.

On the other hand, 45% of respondents said that consumer prices will continue to decline in the new year, while 35% expected the prices of consumer goods to remain stable, and only a suggested 20% price increase in the new year. The expectations of the followers of Economy Plus for the decrease in commodity prices come in light of the efforts of the government and the CBE to keep commodity prices down and to keep the inflation rate at a single digit, and directives to raise the percentage of consumer loan installments to 50% of customers’ monthly income.

It is noteworthy that the core inflation rate, issued by the CBE decreased to 2.1% on an annual basis last November from 2.7% in October 2019, which excludes highly volatile goods such as food, while the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics announced that the annual urban inflation of consumer prices rose to 3.6% in November instead of 3.1% in October, the first rise after 6 months of declines.

Pound gains will increase and interest rates will decline in 2020

Followers of Economic Plus expected that the strength of the pound will increase during 2019, to increase its gains against the US dollar, which reached 10.5% during 2019. About 47% of the respondents said that the pound exchange rate against the dollar will fluctuate during 2020 between EGP 15.51 and EGP 16, while the expectations of 30% of the participants went to increase the pound strength during the year that started several days ago, to push the dollar exchange rate to less than EGP 15.5 pounds. Thus, the percentage of those who expected the pound exchange rate to drop below EGP 16 reached 77% of participants, while 47% said the exchange rate will be EGP 15.5-16, and 30% said it will be below EGP 15. Meanwhile, 16% of respondents expected the exchange rate of the pound against the dollar to range between EGP 16.01 and EGP 16.5 during 2020 with only 4% expecting the exchange rate of the dollar to rise against the pound between EGP 16.5 and EGP 17. A few suggested a dollar’s appreciation to more than EGP 17.

The strong expectations for a rise in the exchange rate of the pound against foreign currencies in 2020, based on the strong performance of the local currency last year, came amid a noticeable increase in Egypt’s foreign exchange resources, especially tourism and remittances from workers abroad, higher exports and lower imports, and recently increased foreign direct investments (FDIs) flows.

Moreover, the expectations of the followers of Economy Plus regarding the interest rates on the pound favoured further cuts. About 81% of respondents expected the CBE to reduce interest rates during 2020, while 18% suggested stabilising interest rates, and only 1% of respondents expected interest rates to inch up.

Expectations for cutting interest rates on the pound in the new year come in light of the global downward trend in interest rates, and the trend taken by the CBE in 2019, during which interest rates were cut by 450 basis points (4.5%).

As for the expected cuts, 34.1% of the followers expected an interest rate reduction of only 1%, while 39.7% of the respondents said CBE would cut rates by 2%, and 20.7% of respondents said that the CBE will reduce the interest rate by 3%. About 5.6% said that the CBE will cut rates by 4%.

The first meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBE will take place on January 16th, which was postponed instead of December 26, when President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decision recently to form the new board of the CBE.

CBE initiatives will revive real estate and industry in 2020

Followers of Economy Plus who participated in its first annual survey on the economy of Egypt expected markets to witness great activity in the new year, supported by the initiatives put forward by the CBE to stimulate demand for real estate, consumer borrowing, and factory activity. About 47% of the respondents said that CBE’s initiatives will achieve an average impact on the markets, while 27% said that the impact of the initiatives, which exceed EGP 200bn, will be good on the markets. About 12% expected a strong positive impact of CBE’s initiatives on the markets and the movement of money in them.

Only 12% felt that the initiatives of the government and the CBE will have a slight effect, while 2% of the followers considered that they are useless.

It is noteworthy that the CBE launched several initiatives to revitalise the Egyptian economy, following the completion of most of the steps of the economic reform programme in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the remarkable improvement in most economic indicators.

The CBE proposed an initiative worth EGP 100bn granted by banks to factories at a 10% reducing interest rate, as well as an initiative for troubled factories to pay 50% of the debt in exchange for dropping the accumulated interest of EGP 31bn. The CBE also launched an initiative to revitalise the real estate sector, with a value of EGP 50bn from banks and real estate financing companies for middle-income citizens with a 10% diminishing interest rate and repayment periods of up to 20 years.

The CBE also issued instructions to banks to raise the proportion of consumer loan premiums from 35% of income to 50% in an effort to increase the credit limits of citizens and in order to stimulate demand for consumer loans, which include personal loans and car installments.

Meanwhile, 52% of respondents to the Economy Plus survey ruled out a boom in real estate sales in the new year, while 48% of them believed real estate sales to increase in 2020, in light of the general downward trend in interest rates, which is reflected positively on the movement of real estate sales in the country, in addition to the initiative put forth by the CBE for middle-income citizens to purchase real estate at prices not exceeding EGP 2.25m under 150 square-meters with real estate financing at 10% decreasing interest rates.

Greater opportunities for the private sector in 2020, red tape is the most important challenge

Regulations and government red tape were at the forefront of the challenges facing the business sector in Egypt during 2020, according to participants in the first annual survey of Economy Plus on the Egyptian economy, as 72% of respondents put it at the forefront of their concerns.

The results of the survey, which allowed participants to select multiple choices, revealed that the lack of skilled labour, which the country lost a large percentage of it since 2011, is the second most important challenge facing business owners followed by the interest rates that received 31% of the survey’s respondents, although interest rates decreased by 4.5% last year, the respondents demanded more until the cost of investment decreased.

The inflation rate and the rise in prices came as the third most important challenge, then the pound exchange rate against the dollar.

The exchange rate of the dollar against the pound is currently about EGP 16.15 for the dollar, after declining by 10.5% in 2019, due to the significant impact of the decline in the exchange rates of the dollar and other foreign currencies against the pound in reducing the prices of intermediate goods and imported production requirements, while fuel prices tailed the challenges that face business owners in the new year, by 19%.

Participants in the Economy Plus survey expressed their optimism with a greater participation of the private sector in the economy during the new year, as 68% of them voted in favour of increased contribution of private companies in the economy compared to only 32% who excluded that and saw that the government, and its subsidiary and state agencies, to continue leading the economic scene in Egypt.

This comes amid repeated calls by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to the Egyptian private sector to participate in major projects implemented by the country, and to increase the local component in manufacturing in order to reduce the use of imported goods and decrease the cost of importation.

The CBE approved an initiative worth EGP 100bn of funds granted by banks to Egyptian factories at a 10% falling interest rates to be directed to factories whose production is destined for export and thus increase the country’s foreign exchange resources, and factories that offer alternative products for import.

In addition, 57% of respondents to the Economic Plus survey ruled out the continued slowdown in production, and new orders to the Egyptian non-oil private sector in 2020, and they expected the PMI for non-oil activities to rise above the 50-point barrier.

About Economy Plus: An economic digital media platform that aims to reach a large base of users of social media and e-mail, through a simplified economic content that uses infographics and video to communicate the information to the reader. Our daily mailing list of up to 18,000 subscribers also works to provide customers and followers with an electronic newsletter every morning, including economic events and local, regional, and global news, in a concise, focused, and intensive manner, supported by illustrative forms.

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Qassim Soleimani: the construction worker who spearheaded Iran’s Middle East ‘shadow wars’ https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/05/qassim-soleimani-the-construction-worker-who-spearheaded-irans-middle-east-shadow-wars/ Sun, 05 Jan 2020 15:20:23 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=718353 Pentagon to deploy roughly 3,500 more troops to the Middle East after killing Quds Force commander 

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Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the second most powerful in Tehran, was killed by an overnight drone strike early on Friday near the Baghdad airport in an attack authorised by United States President Donald Trump.

The strike also killed Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close adviser to Soleimani. 

The deputy commander of the Quds Force, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, is to replace Soleimani. 

 

 The killing of Soleimani marks the most significant escalation in tensions between the US and Iran since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to seek revenge for the killing of the Iranian general.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, accused the US of “international terrorism”, adding that “the US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

As the fear of war rises in the Middle East, Trump said in a tweet on Friday that the US killed Soleimani “to stop the war.”

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump told reporters  at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. 

In the meantime, the Pentagon said it is deploying roughly 3,500 more troops from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East. 

“The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, and will assist in reconstituting the reserve,” the Pentagon said in a statement

On Friday, the White House said that the drone strike that killed Soleimani came at the direction of Trump. 

 

 “The US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation,” the White House stated.

 Trump also tweeted that Soleimani “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more but got caught.” 

Trump tweeted on Friday that “while Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country.” 

In the meantime, the Department of Defence said that “Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” 

“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.”

 

 The Department of Defence added that “General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad that took place this week. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Who is Soleimani?

Soleimani is the second most powerful figure in Iran. He has been described as Iran’s spearhead in the Middle East as he was the mastermind of the Iran shadow wars and military and intelligence actions in the region. As much as he was hated abroad, he was beloved in Iran, viewed as a hero and a charismatic and brave commander. 

 

 He was born in the city of Qom in March 1957 to a farming family and grew up in the village of Rabour. At the age of 13, he left his home in search of work. Having only a high school education, he worked as a construction worker before getting involved with the military. 

He joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in 1980 following the 1979 uprising where he had no real power in it.

 

 In 1998, he commanded Iran’s Quds Force, an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Quds Force is behind much of Iran’s overseas military and intelligence operations. It is classified as a terrorist group by the US and others. 

 

Soleimani commanded over wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. According to a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), “the Quds Force operations have sparked hundreds of Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Iranian-backed-group sites in Syria. Iran has also maintained small ground forces in Syria, Yemen, and sometimes Iraq.” 

In Yemen, Iran found a golden chance to “inflict damage on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and to extend Iran’s influence into the southern Red Sea. By 2019, Iran’s influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen expanded,” the IISS report said. 

 

 In Iraq, the Quds Force provided material and financial support to Shiite militias, which became the Popular Mobilisation Units. 

 

The mission of the Quds Force is to help Islamic movements and expand the Islamic Revolution in such countries as Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. 

“The Quds Force adopted a structure to enable operations in Afghanistan, Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Iraq, Lebanon, Latin America, and the Arabian Peninsula,” the IISS said, adding that it established nearly 20 militant training camps in Iran, and 18 camps in Lebanon, with plans to construct camps in Sudan.

Meanwhile, the Quds Force provided “a safe haven, funds, terrorist training, weapons, and ideological nourishment to a broad group of international militants, including Afghan Hazaras, Balkan Muslims, Gulf militants, Palestinians, and even al-Qaeda,” the IISS noted. 

In Syria, he is credited with helping President Bashar Al-Assad and orchestrating the offensive against his opposition.

He was accused of plotting to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Washington.

 

 “Think of the role General Qassem Soleimani had in building militias and a loyalist base in Iraq besides other operatives of course. That’s the kind of role needed for Iran in Syria, but he’s gone. They won’t be able to find a similar calibre to replicate that. No chance,” Hassan Hassan, a Middle East analyst and author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror tweeted. 

 

 Hassan said that it’s bad timing for Iran to lose Soleimani. “If Iran has a few more years to replicate the Iraq scenario, he would have been central to this project. Assad still has key areas to recapture, Turkey increasingly assertive, and Russia wants to control Syria.”

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Local Administration Committee supports local council draft law, suggests amendment https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/01/02/local-administration-committee-supports-local-council-draft-law-suggests-amendment/ Thu, 02 Jan 2020 13:28:17 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=718114 Heads of several parliamentary blocs rejected the law, believing that it includes constitutional flaws

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Despite the long wait, the local council law is still pending in parliament, leaving its future path vague, complicating the localities’ in Egypt, especially that the date of local council elections is expected to take place in February 2020.

Two weeks ago, Egypt’s parliament headed by Ali Abdel Aal rejected the draft law on local council, which was submitted by the government. Abdel Aal postponed the discussion of the law in general, justifying that the current time is not suitable.

“The local administration committee held extended sessions in discussing the draft law and listened to experts, specialists, governors, and others, noting that this committee includes associations and experts in the field of local work, who enriched these discussions,” said Abdel Aal.

He added that the law should have been discussed since the election of the parliament and after the constitution was passed, but other priorities made the parliament allocate a lot of time to discuss many legislations to complete the building of institutions in political and legislative terms.

The long-awaited 156-article is one of the most important legislations expected to be issued by the parliament preparing for holding local council elections, which were suspended for 12 years, as the last elections were held in 2008.

Members expressed their rejection for articles related to administrative distribution, the vote of Egyptians abroad in local elections, calling for the alignment of the law with the Constitution, and the proposed electoral system.

Ahmed Al-Sigini, head of the Local Administration Committee, said that around 70 meetings were held to discuss the law that aims to consolidate establishing administrative, financial, and economic decentralisation, and applying governance.

 

Regarding the new draft, Al-Sigini explained that it was outdated and did not  keep pace with modern technological developments and changes.

He said that there were objections from several heads of political and parliamentary blocs in the matter of accepting the draft law, illustrating that the committee still did not received any official request from the government to amend the law.

However, he said that he learned that the government had feedback for the local administration law.

Several members of the parliament were divided over the draft law.

Parliamentary blocs of Nation’s Future, Free Egyptian, and Al-Wafd rejected it, while members of local administration committee supported the law that took two years of discussion.

Ayman Abu El-Ela, head of the parliamentary bloc of the Free Egyptians Party, was among those who rejected the law, saying  it is not possible to hold local elections under Article 180 of the Constitution. According to him, the law legitimises discrimination through representing women by just 25%, a percentage that cannot be guaranteed in individual elections (the law requires 75% of the absolute list and 25% of the individual). In addition, he stated that 50% of workers and peasants demanded an amendment.

Accordingly, the new law stipulates that elections are 100% based on the list system.

Abu El-Ela also refereed to another obstacle in implementing the law, related to the participation of Egyptians abroad in voting in the local council elections, explaining that it is not possible to send the papers of 40,000 committees to each Egyptian embassy and consulate in the world, noting that his party’s approval of the law is conditional on these amendments.

For this part, Abdel Aal commented that the law already excluded some communities, noting that the constitutional text related to  people’s representation in the council needs to be amended, saying  that he warned people about these articles several times.

Abu El-Ela said that approval of the law was conditional to returning it  to the local administration committee to amend some articles.

He stated that the new draft law gives governors wide terms of reference and powers, as well as providing local councils with tools and oversight powers such as withdrawing confidence or interrogating people.

Member of Parliament (MP) Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future National Party, said he rejected the bill, elaborating that his party was keen on issuing the law, but the draft law had constitutional problems, such as the way of implementing the decentralisation of the government in light of the current of situation of the localities.    

He also pointed that there is a political split in the law, with the ability of parties to contest local councils and the parliament elections within one year, as he considered a difficult experience for parties to run both in one year.

Soliman Wahdan, undersecretary of parliament stressed on the need to return the law to the committee to address a number of problems, which include the administrative part which comprises many overlaps, emphasising that this law does not keep pace with the solution of the problems prevalent in the localities.

“We still need urban planning, separating the large overlaps between local centres and units, and also demarcating the borders between the provinces, as everyone should benefit from state’s wealth,” he said.

He also highlighted the necessity of having a thorough preparation for local elections by political parties through preparing good cadres and then working to discuss the law during the coming period.

 

On the other hand, a member of the Local Administration Committee, Mohamed Attiya Al-Fayoumi, affirmed that the draft law presented aligns with the constitution.  “There are no constitutional violations in the law,” he said, noting that the law has received its right in discussion in the committee.

He also said that committee worked on the law in the presence of some advisers of the State Council and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

Besides, Al-Fayoumi said that delaying the law is against the constitution.

“Some people do not want the law to come to light at the present time so that local elections could not be held before the elections for the parliament, which will have a negative impact on some representatives in their constituencies, because they promised people to support them in the localities. ”

Secretary of the Local Administration Committee Mona Gaballah said that the draft law was constitutional, excluding  the flaws of the previous law, noting that former ministers and consultants from the State Council and senior legal figures attended the committee meetings.

Gaballah said that the law is supposed to be returned to the committee again to discuss some of the amendments demanded by the members.

She added the committee would not accept the cancellation of the law that it worked on for around two years, saying that if the parliament will discuss new draft, they will request making amendments to the basic law prepared by the committee instead.

“It is not possible to cancel a law that took from this committee all this effort, especially since the committee came out with the draft law after discussions and proposals from four laws that were submitted by the members, in addition to the government project,” she said.

The discussion came after several years of delay, and while there was already a report prepared by a joint committee over the law.

The report was drafted on 17 December after several meetings of the committee.

According to the report, a government-drafted law aimed at regulating the performance and election of Egypt’s local councils was referred to parliament in November 2016. It also provided a system to be followed in holding the local councils elections.

The committee said in the report that the local administration law organises elections for local councils for its urgent importance to monitor the executive bodies in the governorates. It also pinpointed its role in combating and reducing corruption, along with regulating administrative and financial affairs in local units.

The new law, which is expected to be the first for local administration, provides for a transition to a decentralised system, which if properly implemented, will be a gateway to achieving a comprehensive development in the provinces and maximising their own resources, according to the report.

The new law is divided into several chapters: the basic components of the local administration system in Egypt, the local councils, and the financial resources.

The new draft included many advantages that were not available in the current old law No. 43 of 1979, which is outdated and does not keep pace with modern technological developments and changes. The new draft law gives governors wide terms of reference and powers, as well as providing local councils with tools and oversight powers that lead to withdrawal of confidence and interrogation.

It also targets the application of financial and administrative decentralisation as stipulated in the constitution. It will also install a timetable for the governance of local administration in Egypt and the achievement of positive visions towards the elimination of bureaucracy and corruption.

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Concerns arise as ‘foreign mercenaries’ mobilise to  Libyan battlefield  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/29/concerns-arise-as-foreign-mercenaries-mobilise-to-libyan-battlefield/ Sun, 29 Dec 2019 18:31:19 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=717807 ‘GNA's need is immediate, Ankara deploys Syrian rebels without a troop authorisation from Turkey's parliament,’ says fellow

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Turkey is moving toward possible military intervention in Libya as part of its two accords with the Tripoli-based UN-backed government, as Ankara struggle to rally support from Mediterranean nations ahead of Berlin conference expected early 2020.  

In the meantime, the leaders of Israel, Cyprus, and Greece are planning to meet in Athens on the second of January to sign an agreement for the construction of EastMed pipeline.

The project, which will be completed in 2025, aims to export gas from Israel to Europe and is expected to satisfy about 10% of the natural gas needs of the European Union.

Afterwards, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and France are gathering in a summit in Cairo on the fourth or fifth of January. The details of the summit are not released yet, but it is expected to address Turkey’s activities in the region, in particular, the maritime border accord with the Government of National Accord (GNA).

 

The situation in Libya is getting more complicated as concerns rise that the North African country moved towards an out of hand war between the two Libyan factions in Tripoli, Benghazi, and their international supporters. 

 

The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian mercenaries loyal to Turkey are mobilising to Tripoli to support the GNA in exchange for money. The organisation said on Friday that Turkey offered from $1800 to $2000 monthly for every fighter in addition to other benefits.

These Syrian mercenaries will be face to face against Russian mercenaries who allegedly backed the eastern-based Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), headed by Khalifa Haftar.

There are also reports of 3,000 Sudanese mercenaries who are now fighting in Libya, according to a report by the Guardian which cited leaders of two different groups of Sudanese fighters active in Libya and fighting with the LAAF.

 

Two weeks ago, Haftar ordered to advance toward the centre of Tripoli as part of the “final battle” to control the capital which was launched in April this year. However, since he launched the offensive, the forces failed to control the capital as they confront GNA allied militias, especially the groups in Misrata.

 

Haftar is backed by the UAE, Egypt, France, and allegedly by private security forces from the Wagner Group of Russia, while Turkey is the GNA’s main supporter.

 

“Currently, there is a race to put boots on the ground to gain a troop-size advantage. Towards this goal, Sudanese mercenaries are flooding into Libya to bolster the forces of Haftar’s LAAF,” Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow for the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) remarked the Daily News Egypt.  

 

Tanchum said, “Turkey needs to insert sufficient forces to prevent a LAAF victory. Using Turkish-allied jihadist fighters from Syria, in addition to regular forces from the Turkish army could be an expedient measure for Turkey to fill the gap.” 

 

“The GNA’s need is immediate and Ankara deploys the Syrian rebels without a troop authorisation from Turkey’s parliament, which will not resume until January 7, 2020. With the parliament’s authorisation of a Turkish troop deployment possible no earlier than January 8, Haftar’s forces have about a 10-day window from December 28 through January 7 to advance their campaign against Tripoli,” Tanchum said.

Meanwhile, Tanchum pointed out that Turkey’s objective is to halt the fight with Haftar’s forces to a stalemate and thereby protect the GNA from being toppled. 

 

“Having done so, Turkey could then engage Russia as a partner in the management of Libya as it has done in Syria,” he noted. 

 

On November 27, Turkey signed its mormaerdoms of understanding (MoUs) for military and security cooperation and on the maritime border with GNA. Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece condemned the accord. Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador for failing to send the content of the GNA and Turkey maritime and military agreements.

 

Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the GNA already resorted to Turkey, his main backer, to fend off Haftar’s military offensive. According to the UN, Ankara has previously provided Al-Sarraj’s government with military equipment, including armoured vehicles and drones, but it would be a major escalation if it sends ground troops to defend Tripoli under its new deals with the GNA. 

 

For the UAE, it also provided Haftar with drones, according to the UN. The UN has already denounced the UAE and Turkey and accused the two governments of violating the arms embargo imposed on the parties to the conflict in Libya.

Tunisia surprise talks

 

Earlier on Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that lawmakers will vote on the eighth or ninth of January on a measure to send troops to Libya in support of the GNA.

 

A report by Reuters also cited an official from Tripoli who said that GNA officially requested an air, ground, and maritime military from Turkey.  

 

As part of Turkey efforts to rally support from Mediterranean nations, Erdogan made on Wednesday a surprise visit to Tunisia to hold talks with Tunisian President Kais Saied. 

 

During his visit, Erdogan said that he called on Germany and Russia to make Tunisia, Algeria, and Qatar take part in Berlin peace conference on Libya which is expected early in 2020. He also noted that he supports resolving the Libyan crisis through “internal negotiations between Libyan factions.”

The Turkish president also talked about an agreement with Tunisia to support the GNA, without giving details on the nature of the deal. 

 

However, the Tunisian Presidency rapidly said in a statement that it will not accept to be a part of any coalition with any party in the conflict of Libya. It also said that the issue of the GNA-Turkey accords has not been raised during talks between the two leaders. 

 

The Interior Minister of Libya’s GNA Fathi Bashagha said in a press conference in Tunisia that there is a coalition between Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, and the GNA “for economic cooperation and political and security stability,” in Libya.

“Erdogan’s surprise visit to Tunisia to meet the president needs to be seen in this light. While sympathetic to Turkey, the Tunisian government cannot afford to alienate France and Italy, Tunisia’s top two export markets. Turkey ranks only as Tunisia’s 14th largest export market,” Tanchum said. 

 

“Turkey ultimately would like to station troops on Tunisia’s border with Libya – opening a two-front war with Haftar. Ankara will probably attempt to draw Tunisia gradually into Libya with smaller measures. One of these may be the use of Tunisian port for Turkey’s naval and resupply vessels,” Tanchum pointed out, saying “Turkey also is seeking Tunisia’s participation in the upcoming Berlin conference on Libya to be held in early 2020 so as not to be completely isolated in the negotiations.” 

 

“Although Turkey has become a major player in Libya, its isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean is only likely to deepen,” Tanchum said. 

 

Turkey has been condemned over its unauthorised drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Greece denounced Ankara’s accords with the GNA and emphasised its sovereignty over its maritime zones, which are also European maritime zones under international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Last week, Israel Foreign Minister Israel Katz officially opposed the accords between Turkey and GNA. However, he said that the deals will not lead to a confrontation between the two countries. 

 

Early this year, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Jordan, and Italy founded the East Mediterranean Gas Forum to establish a gas market in order to export to Europe. Turkey opposed any agreement of exploitation of gas resources by Cyprus without its participation. 

Ankara’s accords with the GNA were viewed as an attempt to break its strategic isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean, but the deals rattle the region and escalate tension in Libya.
“Turkey’s agreement with the Tripoli government on the delimitation of maritime zones stands only as long as the Tripoli government does,” Tanchum said. 

He added, “Turkey lacks a land border with Libya, Russia may be less inclined to accede to Turkey’s strategic ambitions. Egypt, a close Russian partner, is committed to preventing such an outcome.”  

Meanwhile, Tanchum said that if Turkey succeeds in stymieing the advance of Haftar’s forces, it “will become the security guarantor for the Tripoli government.”

 “Turkey will become one of the primary players in the upcoming 2020 Berlin conference on Libya. And it would also likely construct a base in Libya, enhancing its power in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Maghreb, and in the wider Middle East,” Tanchum concluded. 

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The age of streaming: global service providers fight for profit https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/29/the-age-of-streaming-global-service-providers-fight-for-profit/ Sun, 29 Dec 2019 18:20:38 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=717803 Streaming as an idea started when its predecessor, a peer-to-peer file-sharing system Napster, was created in 2001, followed by Apple’s iTunes a couple of years later. Spotify, in an attempt to combat music piracy, was founded in 2006 by Swedish duo Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.

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In this day and age, the popularity of music streaming services is on the rise with hordes of different service providers competing for users. In definition, music streaming platforms are web-based services that allow users to listen to high-definition music without having to download and store large files. Global Web Index, market research company, examines the popularity of streaming services, exploring how streaming behaviour differs by age group and region.

Streaming as an idea started when its predecessor, a peer-to-peer file-sharing system Napster, was created in 2001, followed by Apple’s iTunes a couple of years later. Spotify, in an attempt to combat music piracy, was founded in 2006 by Swedish duo Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.

Now, 68% of adults use a music streaming service of some kind. According to Global Web Index, Generation Z leads the way with the highest average streaming times, accessing their favourite tracks across multiple platforms.

The streaming battle has also arrived in the Middle East and North Africa, where Spotify has entered the market in 2018, competing with MENA based Anghami which launched in November 2012.

Since its arrival, Spotify attracted millions of active users within the Arab world, broadening the music market with free Arabic and international music, which has limited piracy and has introduced the entire world to Arab music and artists.

How streaming providers profit?

There are currently 33 active streaming platforms available, with a range of different features and characteristics available. Spotify and Apple Music, the largest of the streaming giants, rely on almost identical models to generate revenue.

The first option is through paid subscriptions, which allow you to listen to music without interruption of advertising, for a monthly fee ranging from $3 to $15 depending on your region. The second option is through advertising, as advertisers pay for exposure, with ads played every 15 minutes for 30 seconds, and can also include sponsored playlists and homepage takeovers.

For both Spotify and Apple Music, 70% of the revenue generated from paid subscriptions and advertising goes towards paying music labels and artists.

Both platforms use the pro-rata model, which pays based on the total share of streams each artist has. For example, if $100m is generated in revenue, and an artist accounts for 1% of all streams, then they would receive $1m in royalties.

However, artists advocate for a fairer, more user-centric model that would pay artists based on who each user listens to the most, using their subscription fee. Smaller platforms like Deezer are moving towards a user-centric model and pressuring more established platforms to do the same.

Spotify

It is a music streaming giant with more than 248 million users, including 113 million subscribers across 79 markets.

Spotify achieved revenues of almost $6bn in 2018, 91% of the company’s revenue comes from its 100 million paid subscriptions—double that of Apple Music—while the other 9% comes from advertising.

Apple Music

Apple’s streaming service commands a larger user-base than Spotify in the Asia Pacific, Middle Eastern, and African regions. Revenues from Apple Music has not proven profitable for the company, but the streaming platform bolsters Apple’s ecosystem of services—encouraging a more loyal consumer base.

Deezer

Deezer is expected to achieve $400m in revenues in 2019 according to its CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht. The provider has around seven million subscribers, while another seven million opt for the no-fee, ad-laden version of the service, for a total of 14 million listeners.

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The return of  the Information Ministry will not impact the three media supervising bodies: experts https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/28/the-return-of-the-information-ministry-will-not-impact-the-three-media-supervising-bodies-experts/ Sat, 28 Dec 2019 14:34:50 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=717649 Media figures believe the ministry will have limited roles as all responsibilities are provided to three state bodies in accordance to the constitution

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After five years of abolishment, the Ministry of Information was brought back during Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle, raising questions about its responsibilities with the presence of other media supervising bodies in Egypt.

Currently referred to as the Ministry of State for Media Affairs, Egypt’s Parliament approved the ministry’s return, with former head of parliament media and culture Osama Heikal as its minister. 

State officials said that decision came in response to calls to regulate the scene of media and its condition.

The Supreme Media Council, National Press Authority, and the National Media Authority are currently the three bodies that regulate the workflow of the press and media in Egypt.

The creation of the three bodies was approved by the parliament in December 2016 and signed into law by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in April 2017.

Each body has a separate supervisory role: the Media National Authority is responsible for supervising radio and broadcast media outlets; the National Press Authority is in charge of supervising state-owned newspapers; and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation is responsible for overseeing the functions of the two authorities.

The Ministry of Information was abolished in 2014 under the government of Engineer Ibrahim Mahleb. The last information minister was Doraya Sharaf Al-Din who held the post from July 2013 until June 2014, after Al-Sisi took office.

Heikal, held the same position from July 2011 to December of the same year and was the first minister of information following the 2011 revolution.

Mass Communication professor at Cairo University Mohamed Al-Morsy previously said he did not support the return of the ministry as he believes any minister selected for this position will be there to serve the government and put the profession under control.

The professor continued that after looking at all the existing conditions and issues in Egyptian media, he found that the existence of the ministry is very needed, as the medium needs more organisation, control, and development.

Al-Morsi said that the minister of information will just be an executive minister in a government affiliated to a higher authority, explaining that the concept of the Minister of State for Information is a “minister without a ministry,” meaning that he only develops strategies.

 

Speaking about the role of press and media authorities, he said that it has an administrative and developmental role, while the supreme media Council has an organisational role. Accordingly, the ministry’s role is to oversee them.

Al-Morsy added that the ministry coordinates between the bodies that make up public awareness of the Egyptian citizen, while its second mission will be setting Egypt’s media policy, and to define its identity. It should set how the media looks, and what it should present and how. It’s also in charge of regulating different media outlets.

The third task, according to the professor, is solving problems facing the media system by contacting the executive channels in the authority directly and quickly.

 

Al-Morsi affirmed the necessity of having a minister at the present time, with the possibility of cancelling the ministry later after controlling the scene and handling all of the issues’ treatment, explaining that the press and media authorities and the supreme council are the basis.

On that note, Media expert Yasser Abdel Aziz said, “there is a mistaken and very dangerous belief among officials, parliamentarians, and some experts and professionals, that the problem of the media in Egypt can be solved by appointing a minister of information, as they believe that the presence of this minister will solve the problem and control the scene. ”

While the 2014 constitution does not prevent the appointment of a minister of information. In the event of having a minister for information, the constitution gives it very limited powers as opposed to the other supervisory bodies.

The new minister

“The constitution did not prevent the existence of a ministry of information, and this is the vision of the President and the head of government,” Heikal said.

He confirmed that there is no contradiction with the Supreme Media Council, saying, “In the past, the minister could organise the media, but currently a minister will come with new roles in the presence of media institutions that are already organising the work.

“The Minister of Information must set a media policy with a new vision and inform a new concept that sets a media policy for the state,” Heikal said.

Heads of the media and press bodies

The Head of the Supreme Council of Media Regulation Makram Mohammed said until now the new decision has not clarified the tasks of the ministry, nor its relationship with the three bodies, noting that the constitution already confirmed the presence and duties of the council and the two authorities.

“It is very important to understand the role of the ministry and the cooperation between all bodies, so things can work smoothly,” he added.

Karam Gabr, head of the National Press Authority, denied any inconsistency between the position of the minister and the three media bodies.

He explained that the return of the ministry places a heavy burden on the minister and the media, explaining that there must be media plans that develop the general policy of the profession during the coming period, and this is the responsibility of the ministry.

“I expect new plans to be implemented in 2020 to develop newspapers under the presence of the new ministry,” Gabr also said.

He suggested that the return of the ministry would further create opportunities for cooperation between agencies to find solutions to crises and devise various strategies.

Gabr believes that the aim of appointing a minister is to help control the scene, especially since Heikal is a great candidate and highly experienced.

Tarek Saada, chairperson of the founding committee of the media syndicate, said the role of the new minister is “coordination”. It is to help control the scene, by setting various media policies, confirming that the presence of bodies in law does not contradict the presence of ministry, as long as its duties don’t interfere with the regulatory bodies.

 

“I think its role is very important, to coordinate between these bodies and draw up media policies, in addition to improving journalistic and media content,” Saada said.

 

Gamal Abdel Rahim, Press Syndicate’s secretary general, said the ministry will not have any competences in accordance with the constitutional texts no 211-212-213, and the laws regulating the press and media 178-179-180 of 2018.

He continued in a press statement that the media and press organisations are competent in all matters of the press and media, adding that they are independent bodies in accordance with the constitution, and therefore the minister has no right to interfere in its work.

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Egypt’s giant natural gas discoveries are key for Egyptian industrial players https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/28/egypts-giant-natural-gas-discoveries-are-key-for-egyptian-industrial-players/ Sat, 28 Dec 2019 11:39:57 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=717550 Strengthening EGP could result in further margin pressure

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Beltone financial investment bank said in its latest Mena Macro Strategy, that the key sector for Egyptian industrial players has been Egypt’s giant natural gas discoveries in the Zohr Gas field, which triggered a turnaround in the industrial sector.

The first key milestone was the Ministry of Petroleum’s announcement that Egypt has achieved natural gas self-sufficiency in October 2019, reflected in the halt in natural gas imports starting January 2019.

The government targets an industrial annual growth rate of 10.7% by 2022 from current rate of 6.3% to be achieved through a series of encouraging sector reforms. Additionally, the 2018 and 2019 interest rate cuts should encourage capex spending amid lower debt cost opportunities, which should help facilitate higher growth for industrial players according to Beltone analysts.

Industrial sector reforms have already been initiated by the government with its decision to slash natural gas prices for key industrial players in October 2019. This saw steel and ceramic manufacturers given natural gas at $ 5.5/MMBtu down from $ 7.0/ MMBtu, notably reducing production costs Ezz Steel, Al Ezz Dekheila, and Al Ezz for Ceramics & Porcelain (GEMMA) according to Beltone.

Another key favourable aspect was the government’s decision to increase concession prices from $ 3.0/MMBtu to the current range of $ 5.18-5.8/MMBtu, which has encouraged EKH to resume the development of its Offshore North Sinai (ONS) gas field. There are further talks regarding additional industry reforms to further boost the industrials and materials sectors.

It is worth highlighting that a downward revision of electricity prices for industrial players would be a game changer for companies including Egyptian Aluminium (EGAL) and Misr Chemical Industries (MICH), where electricity represents the single largest cost component. Both companies are charged EGP 1.11/kWh, which is considerably high, compared to regional and global peers, resulting in recorded losses, according to Beltone analysts.

The trade tension between the US and China has been a threat to global economic growth and supply/demand policies, dragging down prices for a wide range of commodities such as steel, urea, aluminium, coal, petrochemicals, and others. Contracting commodity prices has negatively affected domestic industrial players, including Ezz Steel and Al Ezz Dekheila, which were forced to cut their prices several times on fears of heavy cheap import flows as global prices contracted 11%.

Beltone analysts choose EK Holding (EKHO) and El Sewedy Electric (SWDY) as their top picks. EKHO’S shift in strategy has been key in the company’s turnaround, as it has followed trending investment themes in Egypt. EKHO focused its investments on Egypt after macro development. Beltone analysts expect EKHO’s bottom line to grow by 16%. While they set fair value at $2.5/share with current market price at $1.4/share.

El Sewedy Electric has passed the normalisation test with flying colours following a couple of years of exceptional cable margins given low cost inventory, and highly profitable fast track mega projects. Belton analysts set fair value at EGP 18.8/share, while market price at EGP 13.32/share.

On the other hand, EFG Hermes added in its yearbook energy deregulation is still a valid theme to play in Egypt with continuing cut backs on its energy subsidy bill. EFG analyst expect players in utilities may stand to benefit. Not only will the deregulation of Egypt’s energy space help improve pricing, but it may also lead to improve private company participation in the utilities space.

Following Egypt’s significant capex cycle in power generation, they believe investment in distribution is necessary and will likely involve private sector participation. The two privately owned players in this space are EKHO’s Nat energy and Qalaa Holdings’ Taqa Arabia.

They added that the ongoing trade war is expected to have a sizable impact on global trade routes, as well as the size of trade. Every 10% applied on $ 250bn of goods will lead to a 50bps impact on global trade growth according to discussions between EFG analysts and DPW’s management. DPW’s portfolio is more skewed to frontier and emerging markets, which should be in a relatively more defensive position, should trade disputes continue for no longer than expected.

EFG analysts think the market has penalised DPW’s valuation because of global trade issues, and the stock could potentially see re-rating, once an agreement is made between the US and China. They are in favor with EK Holding and Aramex.

Moreover, Pharos holding investment bank added that the recent reduction in gas prices to $1.5/MMBtu would result in savings by $72m for ESRS. In addition, price reduction in local rebar steel by EGP 1300/tonne since September 2019 may close the gap between local and global prices by 0.4% premium to global prices, and stronger EGP will weigh down on both steel and Aluminium margins. 

In this context, Pharos analysts hope that the imposition of a flexible tariff north of 50% on current global steel price on both rebar and flat steel could alleviate the pressure from the global trade war, and improving overall commodity outlook if the US-China global trade war softens ahead of the 2020 US presidential election.

On the other hand, Pharos analysts are fearful of the weakness in global steel prices to persist on the back of the ongoing global trade war, the gradual decline in steel tariff that could lead to lower steel prices and magnify losses going forward, and higher tariffs in key export markets. They also believe that the strengthening of the EGP could result in further margin pressure, and a higher electricity tariff in July 2020 irrespective of producer complaints, which will pressure EGAL margins further.

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Highest HIV rates are in MENA region, with 36,000 cases: UNAIDS Egypt https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/28/highest-hiv-rates-are-in-mena-region-with-36000-cases-unaids-egypt/ Sat, 28 Dec 2019 11:37:59 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=717642 It is important to provide psychological support for HIV patients as it is linked to behaviors that society condemns such as drugs and sex.

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With 0.02% of the population estimated to have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS), Egypt is a low-HIV-prevalence country. However, HIV prevalence rates in Egypt have increased six fold in the last few years, compared to 2000.

The percentage of new cases of HIV- positive in Egypt is increasing every year by 20%-30%. In 2019, the average number of new cases of HIV in Egypt was 2470 per year. According to UNAIDS’s 2019 statistics, there are about 13,000 people currently living with HIV in Egypt. However, unsafe behaviors among most-at-risk populations and limited condom usage among the general population place Egypt at risk of a broader epidemic.

Among officially reported cases, people between 25-49 years old are among most-at-risk groups, as sexual intercourse and intravenous drug usage are the primary mode of transmission of HIV in that age. However, recently this category has increased to include younger ages due to drug usage, according to the National AIDS Programme’s (NAP) report issued in November 2019.

Males are seven times more likely to have HIV than females. This may be the case since men conduct tests more than women, as well as the spread of drug usage amongst males.

These statistics point that there may be a concentrated HIV epidemic in Egypt among high-risk groups, but due to social stigma and lack of prevalence data, it is unacknowledged.

Nonetheless, over time, the Egyptian government has made efforts to improve the lives of people with HIV in the country. It launched several initiatives to examine and treat patients in strict secrecy, establishing 14 treatment centres. In 2020, the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population will launch a campaign to examine pregnant women in maternal and child health centres for HIV.

HIV’s patients have increased in 2019 by 28%, compared to 2010. In addition, 36,000  people are estimated to be HIV-positive in the Middle East and North Africa region, making one of the highest rates of the HIV patients in the world, said Heba Ali, UNAIDS Egypt’s country manager.

In commemoration of the World AIDS Day 2019, she called for “intensifying efforts to eliminate the social stigma of HIV patients,” explaining that UNAIDS’s main goal is leading the global efforts to end HIV by 2030, by supporting Egypt’s national AIDS programme.

As a response to the UN campaign against HIV, Egypt adopted 90-90-90 treatment plan target by 2020. The plan aims at reaching 90% of HIV patients, then 90% of those initiated in treatment, and 90% of those on treatment virally suppressed, by adhering to the treatment course.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Population, the National AIDS Programme viewed all efforts made by the ministry to combat the disease.

The National AIDS Programme Coordinator Heba El Sayed declared that the number of HIV’s patients registered in Egypt is 13,000 cases since 1986 and the number increases by an average of 20-30% each year.

In 2019, 2470 cases were diagnosed with HIV, and is expected to increase by December 2019 as the programmeme is working now on new cases. El Sayed added that the ministry has provided 14 treatment centers in 14 governorates in Egypt. However, one of the biggest challenges the programmeme faces is stigma and discrimination against patients.

The UNICEF programme in Egypt also addresses HIV by preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to children. In cooperation with the Health and Population Ministry, they launched an awareness campaign in eight governorates, which managed to target 50,000 women.

Walid Kamal, HIV programme manager at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt, declared that since 2008, the Egyptian government started to implement a plan in order to provide all HIV drugs through the Ministry of Health and Population. He added that in 2017, the government managed to support the HIV drugs by 100%.

As a goodwill ambassador of the global campaign to fight HIV, Actor Nicolas Mouawad stated during the conference that it is vital to know the symptoms of the disease and the ways to prevent it due to the large number of HIV cases. He added that awareness campaigns are still needed since people are still afraid of dealing with them.

“It is important to provide psychological support for HIV patients, because having this disease is very harsh. It is linked to behaviors that society condemns such as drugs and sex,” Mouawad stated, asserting that 90% of the infected people are afraid of declaring that they are HIV patients.

He explained that the social stigma pushes HIV patients to the point of pretending to have cancer only to gain people’s sympathy. He clarified that they are at risk of destroying their social relationships if they reveal their actual disease, stressing that everyone is responsible for providing them with both support, health, and preventive education.

According to figures issued by Ministry of Health and Population in 2015, only 4% of young women in Egypt and 7% of young men between the ages of 15 to 24 had accurate knowledge about HIV, adding to the state of disinformation, stigma, and discrimination.

According to UNAIDS’ statistics in 2018, 37.9 million people are estimated to be HIV-positive globally, clarifying that 1.7 million cases were diagnosed only last year, and 770,000  passed away in the same year form HIV-related illnesses.

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Italy, Egypt’s business relations strengthen despite political differences https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/23/italy-egypts-business-relations-strengthen-despite-political-differences/ Mon, 23 Dec 2019 11:30:26 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=717230 Regeni’s murder case still on top agenda in four high level presidential meetings in 2019

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Egyptian-Italian business relations have been developing very well, vivid through the joint business forums, delegations, and the announcement of new Italian investments into Egypt.

At the same time, student Giulio Regeni’s case is still on the top agenda of four high-level meetings between Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in 2019.

Al-Sisi met with Conte on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York in September. They also met in August on the sidelines of G7 summit meetings in France and in Osaka, Japan on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in June, as well as in Beijing, China on the during the Belt and Road forum in April.

Over the joint meetings with the Italian PM, President Al-Sisi praised the role of Italian companies operating in Egypt, highlighting Egyptian national projects and the opportunities it provides for Italian investors.

Counter-terrorism and illegal immigration efforts and the developments on the Libyan political scene were main parts of the leaders’ discussions.

Daily News Egypt dug into the recent economic approach between Italy and Egypt and its impact on the political views regarding Regeni, the Italian PhD student who was killed in Egypt in January 2016, after his abduction while studying trade unions in the country.

Italy is keen on boosting joint economic, military production cooperation

The Italian ambassador to Egypt Giampaolo Cantini met with Egypt’s Minister of Military Production Mohamed Al-Assar last Friday in the presence of the embassy’s military attaché’s staff to discuss the current and the future military production cooperation, according to a ministerial statement.

Both sides highlighted their fruitful cooperation in various fields including the defence and civil industries. In addition to the collaboration in manufacturing fields, such as cooperation with Rheinmetall Defence Group and Unical AG S.p.A working in the field of boiler production and other several Italian companies.

The statement added that both sides emphasised the importance of enhancing joint defence cooperation as well as economic relations, noting that there are many indicators that reflect promising opportunities to establish a fruitful industrial partnership between the two sides.

Al-Assar pointed out that the ministry’s goal is to cooperate with various international companies and institutions in order to technologically update and develop Egyptian manufacturers. The  Italian ambassador praised the historical relation between the two countries, and the positive developments witnessed during the recent period, stressing the importance that his country attaché in developing the joint relations.

The ambassador also expressed his desire to increase Italian investments in Egypt by encouraging Italian companies to invest in the country. He recommends for various partnerships with the Ministry of Military Production due to the high technological, industrial, and technical capabilities of its subsidiaries.

He also mentioned the participation of several Italian companies in the Egypt Defence Expo  EDEX last year, noting that he will encourage other Italian companies to participate in the upcoming editions of the exhibition, especially in EDEX 2020.

Signs of recent economic approach

An Italian delegation of about 15 companies concluded a visit to Egypt last Saturday after holding several meetings with senior Egyptian officials and private sector representatives for four days.

“We had a very successful business visit to Cairo where the companies had fruitful business to business (B2B) meetings to discuss future cooperation with their Egyptian counterparts,” Giuseppe Romano, president of the Italian Confederation for Economic Development (CISE) told Daily News Egypt on the sidelines the second Italian-Egyptian economic forum, held on Wednesday, organised by the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade under the patronage of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.

About nine economic agreements were signed during the visit which reassures the high potential of boosting economic cooperation, Romano noted.

“CISE includes 10,000 Italian companies and I’ve noticed their interest in investing in the Egyptian market, especially after the business climate’s improvement,” he added.

A number of Italian companies will invest in the New Administrative Capital projects, yet the names of the companies are confidential, he said, noting that the new investments will  be implemented in partnership with Egyptian partners to bring Italian innovation to new Egyptian cities.

On 15 September 2019, Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Al-Moselhy kicked off the first Egypt-Italy economic forum in the Italian city of Naples, where a large number of Egyptian companies and about 200 Italian companies participated in the four-day forum.

September’s forum included the signing of an agreement between Egypt and Italy to enhance close cooperation between both countries in technical rehabilitation, exchange of expertise, and support of mutual investments.

For his part, Al-Moselhy told DNE last Wednesday that his ministry is closely studying internal market models in Italy, Spain, and France to develop local markets.

“We aim to establish real local markets upon the world’s highest standards. We will also launch the Commodity Exchange by end of December 2019 as part of our efforts to develop our markets,” Al-Moselhy noted.

Trade exchange between Egypt and Italy hit $7.2bn in 2018, according to Minister of Trade and Industry Amr Nassar in a statement last Wednesday.

Regeni’s case

The family of Giulio Regeni demanded that Rome withdraw its ambassador to Cairo for a second time in response to what they say is Egyptian pressure on their lawyers and efforts to prevent investigation into their son’s death, according to global media reports in June 2019.

“Enough is enough,” Paola and Claudio Regeni said in a joint statement with their lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini. “The withdrawal of the Italian ambassador from Cairo can no longer be postponed.”

Italy withdrew on 8 April 2016 its ambassador to Egypt, Maurizio Massari after the murder of Giulio Regeni, who, at the time, conducted critical academic research on Egyptian labour rights and trade unions.

Italy has returned its ambassador to Egypt after evidence proved Egypt’s good standing.

Furthermore, ambassador Hisham Badr presented his credentials to Italian President Sergio Matrella to take up his post as Egypt’s ambassador to Rome, almost a week after the Italian ambassador Giampaolo Cantini came to office in September 2017.

For his part, Rakha Ahmed, former assistant minister of foreign affairs, said that revealing more information about Regeni’s case will help Egypt to recover its historical relations with Italy.

Economic cooperation with Italy is developing very well, Ahmed asserted, noting that Italy realises Egypt’s leading role in the Middle East and North Africa and Egypt’s consultation over the Libyan political scene, which is always on the top agenda of the leaders’ discussions.

Moreover, Italian prosecutors confirmed they had requested further evidence from their Egyptian counterparts after a new witness came forward testifying that one of the five accused men was overheard discussing Regeni’s kidnapping at an African security conference in 2017, according to media reports past June.

The Rome prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco, who is leading the investigation into Regeni’s murder, said, “We have sent the authorities in Cairo an international rogatory [letter of request]. We can’t disclose its contents. But we can say that our request is related to the new witness and that we’ve had no answer since then.”

Regeni disappeared on 25 January 2016, and his body was found bearing signs of torture on an outlying Cairo desert road on 4 February that year, generating suspicions that Egyptian officials were involved in his disappearance and his death

Earlier in 2018, Rome prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone stated that he believed Regeni was killed because of his research, which focused on trade unions in Egypt. His death provoked a significant break in Italian-Egyptian relations, with Italy recalling its ambassador to Cairo between April 2016 and September last year.

A closer look at these historical relations

Egypt and Italy have long, strong relations, since the Ptolemaic Era and roman Empire.  In the modern era, the exchange of ambassadors between the two countries began in 1914. These relations ceased in between 1940 and 1945, almost through the entirety of World War II.  Then relations became positive, and Egypt and Italy have become members of the Union for the Mediterranean, according to the State Information Service (SIS).

After June 30, there were major developments in the Egyptian-Italian relationship. This  has been witnessed in their political relations, official visits, and the Italian government’s support to the Egyptian road map on 30 June.

The Italian government supports Egypt in its war against terrorism that has spread in many neighbouring countries, especially Libya.  The two countries are affected by what is happening in Libya and are working to support the efforts of rebuilding the Libyan State and preventing its fall into the hands of the terrorists.

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Turkey-GNA accord activated: Ankara ready to send troops to Libya as tensions grow https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/22/turkey-gna-accord-activated-ankara-ready-to-send-troops-to-libya-as-tensions-grow/ Sun, 22 Dec 2019 09:00:18 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=717039 ‘Turkey's most likely objective is to help GNA-allied militias battle LNA to a stalemate, then seek a bargain with Russia as done in Syria,’ says fellow 

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Fighting has been escalating recently in war-torn Libya, as the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) decreed to activate its military and security deals with Turkey.

This came in response to Khalifa Haftar, who heads the eastern-based Libyan ِArmy’s (LNA), advancement toward Tripoli.


Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesperson for the LNA announced on Friday that they bombed what they described as “dangerous targets in Misrata,” including sites used to store Turkish supplied weapons.

Al-Mismari pledged to confront “the Turkish invasion”. Earlier, the LNA gave “Misrata militias” 72 hours to withdraw from Misrata and Sirte which ended on Sunday.

The GNA, headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj, agreed on Thursday following a high-level military meeting, to activate the memorandum of understandings (MoUs) for military and security cooperation signed with Turkey on 27 November.

Al-Sarraj called on leaders of five countries; namely the US, the UK, Italy, Turkey, and Alegria to activate the deals of security cooperation to fend off Haftar’s advancement toward the Libyan capital and to maintain security and stability of the country.

Meanwhile, extensive meetings between Al-Sarraj and Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad as well as other top officials in Doha were held last week. The officials pledged security and economic support to the GNA.

Additional meetings were also held between Al-Sarraj and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and its Defence Minister Hulusi Akar in Qatar.

Earlier last week, Haftar ordered to advance toward the centre of Tripoli as part of the “final battle” to control the capital which was launched in April this year. However, since he launched the offensive, the forces failed to control the capital, as they confront GNA allied militias, especially the groups in Misrata.

Libya has remained in chaos, divided between two governments since the fall of Muammar Al-Gaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich country has been suffering from a financial crisis due to clashes between militias and forces loyal to these governments.

Haftar is backed by the UAE, Egypt, France, and allegedly by private security forces from the Wagner Group of Russia, while Turkey is the GNA’s main supporter.

According to the UN, Ankara has previously provided Al-Sarraj’s government with military equipment, including armoured vehicles and drones, but it would be a major escalation if it sends ground troops to defend Tripoli under its new deals with the GNA. The UAE also provided Haftar with drones, the UN added.

The UN has already denounced the UAE and Turkey and accused the two governments of violating the arms embargo imposed on the parties to the conflict in Libya.

Ankara-Tripoli agreement is dubious

The deals on maritime boundaries, security, and military cooperation between Turkey and GNA came to spark Mediterranean tensions and raise the fears of more escalations in the war-torn country and in the East Mediterranean region.

The accord was condemned by Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece. The deals provide that Turkish troops will be sent to Libya at the request of the GNA.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan already pledged to send his soldiers to Libya to support the GNA. He said that the deals will enable joint exploration activities in the Mediterranean. 

Erdogan showed up on Friday and said that Turkey will not be silenced “over Russian-backed mercenaries supporting Haftar in Libya.”

For Moscow, it voiced its concern over the Turkish involvement in Libya. Russia said last week that Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet in Turkey in January to discuss Ankara’s potential military deployment to Libya.

“The two agreements signed between Turkey and Tripoli-based administration in Libya, are an attempt by Ankara to break out of its strategic isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute of European and Security Policy (AIES) told Daily News Egypt. 

“Ankara believes it can leverage the maritime delimitation agreement with the UN-recognised administration Tripoli to contest the region’s maritime boundaries established by Greece’s bilateral agreements with Egypt and Cyprus. Athens’s bilateral agreements defined maximal boundaries for Greece and Cyprus at the expense of Turkey,” Tanchum pointed out. 

“Under the principle of equity developed in the international case law deriving from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Turkey is likely entitled to larger maritime zone because of its long shoreline,” Tanchum remarked.

The deal on maritime boundaries supports Turkey’s stance against Greece and Cyprus amid the ongoing conflict over natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean. 

Turkey has been condemned over its unauthorised drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Greece denounced Ankara MoUs with the GNA and emphasised its sovereignty over its maritime zones, which are also European maritime zones under international law, as reflected in the UNCLOS.

 

Greece also expelled the Libyan ambassador for failing to send the content of the GNA and Turkey maritime and military agreements.

The US voiced its concerns over Turkey’s gas explorations in the waters off Cyprus. While the EU froze most high-level contacts with Turkey and is weighing sanctions.

As tensions escalated in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean, Turkey deployed armed drones to northern Cyprus last week.

“The Ankara-Tripoli agreement is dubious on two different grounds. According to the Skhirat agreement through which the GNA government in Tripoli derives its international authority, it cannot make such agreements without the approval of Libya’s House of Representatives (HOR), which now sits in Tobruk. The HOR has officially rejected both agreements with Turkey and declared them invalid,” Tanchum noted.

“Second, the maritime zones defined in the agreement ignore Greece’s island of Crete in direct violation of UNCLOS article 121, under which Crete possesses continental shelf and an exclusive economic zone,” Tanchum said.

“Because of other geopolitical drivers and domestic politics, the parties have been reluctant to take their case to an international tribunal. Instead, Libya and the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean are facing an escalation spiral centred on the battle for Tripoli,” Tanchum said.

He added, “Turkey’s most likely objective is to help the GNA-allied militias battle Haftar’s LNA forces to a stalemate and then seek to strike a bargain with Russia as Turkey has done in Syria.”

“It is unclear Russia would be interested in such a bargain. Further, this scenario assumes that Haftar fails in conquering Tripoli,” he noted.

“That outcome will not only depend on Haftar’s forces but also on the willingness of Russia, Egypt, the UAE, and France, his principal international supporters, to provide the weapons and assistance to ensure the LNA captures Tripoli,” Tanchum concluded.

Aguila Saleh Issa, speaker of the Libya’s House of Representatives visited Cairo almost two weeks ago and urged the Arab Parliament and Egypt to push for withdrawing the GNA’s international recognition which was formed in 2015.

A major escalation 

Tarek Fahmy, professor of Political Science at Cairo University told Daily News Egypt that the scenarios of conflict are potentially more than the scenarios of negotiations.

 

Fahmy said that Turkey is trying to change the game rules, especially that Ankara has no maritime boundaries with Libya. 

 

He explained that Turkey only owns 12 nautical miles under the 1982 Agreement on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations Convention, and its annexes governing the positions of riparian states. But with its new accord with Libya, it plans to have 200 nautical miles with the Libyan side. 

None of the condemnations or rejection that were expressed over the Turkey-GNA deals has stopped Turkey from moving on in its plans, he said. 

“Sending Turkish troops to the GNA will be a major escalation in Libya and would fuel the conflict between the GNA and Haftar,” Fahmy noted.

“An explosion will take place in the region at any time as tensions escalated,” he pointed out. 

Fahmy hailed the Egyptian stance regarding the GNA-Turkey accord, explaining that turkey activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Region enjoyed a “hidden acceptance from the US.”

Cairo pledges support to LNA

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi warned against attempts “to control Libya”, emphasising that Libya’s security is essential to Egypt security.

Al-Sisi said last week during Egypt’s annual World Youth Forum at Sharm El Sheikh that Egypt “will never abandon its support to the LNA.”

Meantime, Al-Sisi called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday to put an end to “illegitimate external intervention in the Libyan issue.”

Al-Sisi voiced in a phone call Egypt’s support to the unity and security of Libya, as well as efforts to counter terrorism and extremist militias, which not only threaten Libya but also the security and stability of the Middle East and Mediterranean region, he said.

Germany is already working with the UN and preparing a Libyan peace conference in Berlin in the new year, aiming to achieve a ceasefire and to ensure that all parts of conflicts commit to the arms embargo.  

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Total of 65% of citizens in six Middle East countries think corruption increased: TI   https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/15/total-of-65-of-citizens-in-six-middle-east-countries-think-corruption-increased-ti/ Sun, 15 Dec 2019 10:00:28 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=716548 According to the research, 44% of people think most or all parliamentarians and government officials are corrupt,

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Over the past 12 months, citizens of many countries across the Middle East and North Africa have turned to streets against corruption, unfair distribution of wealth and declining economic conditions, demanding the toppling of their governments and aspiring for better living conditions.

 

Countries such as Lebanon and Sudan have voiced their anger against their regimes that allowed a handful of people to control the country’s resources over the years, and stripped their citizens off their rights in a decent life. 

 

The recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have come in the footsteps of the Arab Spring revolutions that were led by Tunisia and had a domino effect across the Arab region.

Fighting corruption is among the main demands of every time protesters across the world.  Each year, the world marks the International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, viewing corruption as “a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies.”

 

For this event, Berlin-based global movement Transparency International (TI) issued the 10th edition of the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – the Middle East and North Africa. The report surveyed more than 6,600 people and a set of public opinion data on citizens’ views on corruption and direct experiences of bribery in six countries across the region: Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, and Tunisia. 

 

The report showed that “most citizens think corruption is increasing and that their governments are not doing enough to tackle the problem”. It also showed that “the police is still the institution most likely to take bribes.”

 

Moreover, the research disclosed that people offered bribes in exchange for votes in national, regional, or local elections.

It also found that “an alarming number of citizens are coerced to provide sexual favours in exchange for public services, such as health and education, in a practice known as sexual extortion or “sextortion” in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. 

 

“Evidence indicates a gender bias that particularly affects women. Some women are coerced into providing sexual favours to receive public services, including health care and education,” the research noted.

 

The highest sextortion rate is in Lebanon, where 23% of people experience sextortion or know someone who has, followed by Palestine at 21% and Jordan at 13%.

 

Meanwhile, people in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine also “experience vote-buying and threats of retaliation if they do not vote a certain way and spread fake news.” 

 

Yet, vote-buying is highest in Lebanon, as 47% of citizens are bribed in return for their vote, while 28% receive threats if they do not comply. 

 

“In Jordan, 59% of citizens believe that fake news spreads frequently to influence election outcomes, while many in Lebanon and Palestine believe the same (58% and 39% respectively).” 

  

Moreover, 66% of people surveyed think that their government is performing badly, while only 28% think their government is doing a good job regarding fighting corruption. 

 

Meanwhile, 44% of people think most or all parliamentarians and government officials are corrupt. 

 

The research also showed that “one in five citizens who accessed public services, such as health care and education, paid a bribe in the previous year.” More than a third in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine used their personal connections, which is known as “wasta” to get the services they needed.

Despite these rates, people across the region are still hopeful and 50% believe that ordinary people can make a difference to fight corruption, the research showed.

Corruption on the rise

 According to the research, 65% of citizens across the countries surveyed think corruption increased in their country in the previous 12 months, while 16% think it decreased. In Sudan, 82% think corruption increased, which is the highest in the region, followed by Lebanon 68% and Tunisia 67%. 

Meanwhile, 44% of citizens think that most or all members of parliament and government officials are involved in corruption. In Lebanon, 68% think that most or all government officials are involved in corruption. 

 On the satisfaction with the level of democracy, 52% of citizens said that they are not satisfied. In Lebanon, 65% are not satisfied with how well their democracy works, followed by Sudan (60%), Palestine (56%) and Tunisia (51%). In addition, 47% of Moroccans are not satisfied with the level of democracy in their country. 

 

However, Jordan was the only country where the majority reported being satisfied with how democracy functions in their country, with 65%.

A total of 83% of citizens think government corruption is a big problem, while only 16% think corruption is no problem or a small problem. 

 

On citizens’ trust in their government, the majority of Lebanese citizens have little or no trust in the government (80%), the courts (72%), or the police (59%). 

 

However, the Jordanian government, the police, and the courts enjoy relatively high levels of trust, with 60% of citizens having trust in the government, 70% in the courts, and 87% in the police.

 Effect of corruption 

 

Of all citizens surveyed, 78% said they had contacts with at least one public service including, the police, the courts, health care, schools in the previous 12 months. Of these, more than 22% paid a bribe for basic services such as health care or education. 

 

The research found that Lebanon has the highest overall bribery rate with 41%, followed by Morocco with 31%, and Sudan with 24%. However, Jordan maintains the lowest overall bribery rate (4%), followed by Palestine (17%), and Tunisia (18%). 

 

According to the research, the police have the highest bribery rate with 22%, making the public service most likely to demand and receive bribes. 

 

It also showed that courts and public utilities, such as water and electricity, are the public services for which citizens are most likely to use their personal connections.  

GCB recommendations 

 

The GCB published seven recommendations for governments of the six countries surveyed and others to fight corruption and regain their citizens’ trust. 

It advised governments to ensure elections are held periodically in a competitive, fair, and transparent environment, as well as enforce sanctions against vote-buying. 

 

Governments should engage civil society and protect activists, whistle-blowers, and journalists in monitoring and exposing corruption, the GCB noted, adding that the current crackdown on political dissent, free speech, and press must end.

 

Furthermore, governments must enforce a system that eliminates and criminalises the use of personal connections (wasta) to ensure equal access to the services. It also recommended raising awareness about (wasta) as a form of corruption to combat current social norms. 

 

It added that governments must deliver and publicly report on their anti-corruption commitments, including the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). 

 

Meanwhile, the governments must ensure the separation of powers and a democratic system of checks and balances, as well as an independent judiciary.

 

Governments also must recognise sextortion as a form of corruption and adopt gender-inclusive anti-corruption laws and accountability measures, the GCB highlighted. 

 

Finally, governments must make information public to help tackle fake news and support fact-based journalism. 

 

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Al-Hattaba’s Al-Shurafa mausoleum: A heritage site with tourist potentials uncovered  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/09/al-hattabas-al-shurafa-mausoleum-a-heritage-site-with-tourist-potentials-uncovered/ Mon, 09 Dec 2019 08:30:19 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=716035  Al-Hattaba residents have been living here since the neighbourhood was built. Their history is part of the history of Al-Hattaba

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 Al-Shurafa mausoleum, a heritage site next to the Citadel in Al-Hattaba Historic Cairo, has been newly discovered by Cairo-based Athar Lina initiative and the Built Environment Collective – Megawra, under the supervision of Ministry of Antiquities and with the support of the American Research Centre in Egypt.

 

 On 30 November, dozens of people including the residents of Al-Hattaba gathered to celebrate the beginning of the conservation work in Al-Shurafa mausoleum in the context of the initiative’s research project (Citizen Participation in Historic Cairo).

 

 Al-Shurafa mausoleum is believed to belong to the Mamluk period, given to its architectural elements, according to the Athar Lina initiative which conducted research and studies to look into the history of the Mausoleum. 

 Athar Lina is keen on protecting and developing historic sites to make them touristic, without ignoring the people and their role in protecting those places and enrich tourism with their historical crafts with a message of “heritage means people, there is no history without humans.” 

 

 The celebration ceremony also included the announcement of a second heritage programme called “Women Quilt for al-Hattaba.” It is a programme that is meant to showcase and enhance the talents of the women working in khiyamiyya (patchwork) in Al-Hattaba neighbourhood.

Other heritage awareness activities for the children were also conducted. “We are working with governmental bodies in a historic neighbourhood and we are keen to establish modalities of citizen participation in heritage conservation based on a vision on heritage as a resource, not a burden,” May Al-Ibrashy, director of both Athar Lina initiative and the Built Environment Collective – Megawra told Daily News Egypt. 

On Al-Hattaba neighbourhood and Al-Shurafa mausoleum, Al-Ibrashy revealed that after deep research and detailed studies of the region, they concluded that it has a great potential to be a tourist siteparticularly due to its proximity to the Citadel and given to the historic crafts that are still in practice after all these years. 

Al-Ibrashy remarked that the initiative held meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Antiquities, Informal Settlements Development Fund, and the Cairo Governorate office in which they agreed to host a six-day workshop to address the legal situation and the potentials of the neighbourhood. 

“We reached a vision to develop the neighbourhood and the Al-Shurafa mausoleum as a heritage and tourist site, but with maintaining its residents in their houses and upgrading their skills to be a part of the developing process,” Al-Ibrashy added. 

Al-Ibrashy highlighted that the initiative still has long discussions with the Cairo governate office on the Al-Hattaba as it is categorised as informal housing with a second degree of risk. “The area needs developing and rehabilitation, this is very clear and we do not oppose this, but it is not slums. It is a historical and cultural site but with bad conditions which only needs development.” 

“The people of Al-Hattaba has been living here since the neighbourhood was built. Their history is part of the history of Al-Hattaba. They do activities that are very important to enrich tourism such as

Khiyamiyya and Sadaf crafts,” Al-Ibrashy. 

On Al-Shurafa mausoleum, Al-Ibrashy explained that the building’s huge stone blocks (up to 50 cm high, 100 cm thick and 230 cm long) indicate that it is part of a larger building complex relating to the Citadel. “When we looked in history, we found that this place could be a “sabil building (an ancient Egyptian building with a public fountain), a courthouse or guesthouse.” 

Al-Shurafa mausoleum consists of an open-air courtyard leading to a vaulted shrine chamber and a domed ‘sabil room’. 

 

 

The mausoleum is next to the residents’ houses, who circulated a story over the reason for naming the place as Al-Shurafa.

Saeed Khalifa, a 70-year-old resident from Al-Hattaba told DNE that his father was born in the neighbourhood. “It is our place and here are our roots. Here is my life, I tried to move and live in another area but I could not.” 

Saeed noted that they used to hear that seven decent girls were burnt inside the mausoleum, therefore the place is believed to be named “Al-Shurafa”, in reference to the girls. 

 Women of Al-Hattaba weave their history 

 

 The project “Women of Al-Hattaba weave their history”, is a programme prepared by Athar Lina to enhance their skills in khiyamiyya.

 

 The programme consists of a participatory workshop and two public events where the women of Al-Hattaba neighbourhood join a designer to work on a khiyamiyya that tells the history of Al-Hattaba from their perspective, according to the initiative. 

The artisans’ khiyamiyya will be hanged in Al-Shurafa Mausoleum after the completion of Athar Lina’s conservation project by the end of 2020. 

Heba Negm, an urban researcher at Megawra said that they discovered many crafts in Al-Hattaba, which is characterised by khiyamiyya and sadaf crafts. 

The project offers women the chance to enhance their skills and contribute to the development of the Al-Shurafa Mausoleum, Negm added. 

Doaa (asked to be presented with her first name only), a 30-year old mother, is a resident of the neighbourhood. She told DNE that they have never expected that their neighbourhood, Al-Hattaba would ever be developed. 

 

 “We all here do khiyamiyya that’s used in weddings and funerals. But with the new project, they teach us a new kind of khiyamiyya. We are very glad that someone is taking care of us and is looking to enhance our skills.” 

“This will have a great benefit for us and our children. We wish they could also develop the roads and the whole neighbourhood, not only the mausoleum. Any chance to improve our living conditions and our income will be appreciated.”

“I hope my children will be raised in Al-Hattaba to keep their history in their hearts, but I also wish the neighbourhood could improve for their future so they don’t need to leave their home. We hope someone looks into our problems and solves them,” Doaa added.   

Meanwhile, Salwa, a 39-year-old woman from the neighbourhood (asked to be presented with her first name only) told DNE that this is the first time she worked in khiyamiyya. “I work at a garment factory. I am glad I am going to learn a new craft; this will benefit the women here.” 

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Fyonka: Egypt’s first only-women ride-hailing service, ten months into the market https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/04/fyonka-egypts-first-only-women-ride-hailing-service-ten-months-into-the-market/ Wed, 04 Dec 2019 14:41:53 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=715694  ‘It not only about providing female commuters with safer rides, but to make women a part of the ride-hailing industry as partners,’ says founder 

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Aiming to empower Egyptian females through decent and safer means of transport and providing job opportunities, three Egyptian school friends came together to launch the first ever all-female ride hailing application.

 In February this year, Abdallah Hussein, Mostafa El-Kholy, and Omar Shaaban, all 26 years old, founded Fyonka app in limited areas in Cairo and Giza including, Heliopolis, Nasr City, Maadi, Zamalek, Mohandessin the Fifth Settlement, and, most recently, Haram. 

 

The three men studied at the Hult International Business School in the UK and then returned to Cairo in 2015. They separated into their respective fields in various jobs before they came back together to the launch the app.


As part of the company’s expansion, Fyonka is preparing to launch its scooter services in Alexandria in April 2020 since users tend to use ride-hailing services to avoid the congestions of the city roads. However, they also consider expanding scooters services in Cairo and other cities around the country in the future.

“We believe this scooter service will rapidly grow. We aim to break boundaries imposed on women. We encourage women to challenge the social culture that restricts them,” Hussein and Shaaban said. 


Despite the differences, the new service is competing with the two major ride-hailing companies operating in Egypt, the US-based Uber and UAE based Careem, as both companies are also rushing to provide their commuters, especially women with safer rides and provide females, yet on small scale, with job opportunities. 

The ride-hailing companies are providing Egyptian women with alterative transport that is described by users as better than white taxi and public transport despite complaints over high prices and drivers’ performances. Besides, women often face sexual harassments in the streets and in vehicles. According to a study by the United Nations in 2013, 99.3% of women surveyed have been subject to sexual harassment in Egypt.

Therefore, enjoying a female-only ride hailing service could eliminate any possible harassment or any sense of being unsafe as the commuter and the driver are both females.

 

Specifically designed for females 

 

“When we were in London, we were inspired by how free women are to work in whatever they want, including driving the UK underground and public buses. We think that there should not be any boundaries or restrictions on women work. Women have to play more positive roles in the society,” Hussein told Daily News Egypt. 

 

Hussein added that when they returned to Cairo, Uber and Careem were already operating in Egypt, and they observed how both companies are providing job opportunities for a wide range of Egyptian people.

 

However, Hussein added, that they noticed the number of female drivers is less than male drivers. “When you look at this job (ride-hailing services), you would feel that it was originally founded for women, due to the flexibility of working hours,” Hussien highlighted. 

 

Moreover, Hussein said that housewives could use this as a job opportunity to choose their work schedule without being committed to specific working hours. “It gives them a decent income and they could choose the time they want to work flexibly,” Hussein added. 

 

“Fyonka is not only about providing female commuters with safer rides it as also about allowing women to be a part of the ride-hailing industry as partners,” Shaaban told DNE. 

 

Shaaban added that Fyonka offers female drivers who worry about cultural restrictions of riding with males the opportunity commute normally. 

“There are women who want to break into the ride-hailing industry but they face opposition from their spouses or families. Fyonka overcomes such challenges and offers job opportunities with female commuters,” Shaaban pointed out. 

 

Since Uber launched in 2014, almost 160,000 driver-partners were working with the company, but there is no clear data on the number of female drivers.

For Careem, it also created between 60,000 and 70,000 jobs per month across more than 100 cities in 14 countries according to their website. The company now has one million captains, including a small number of female drivers in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

 

Women’s contribution in the labour force is 20.9% of the total labour force (15 years and up) compared to 79.1% for men, according to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) 2019 report. But the percentage of females who work permanently was 89.3% compared to 67.1% for males, the report added. 

2000 trips in November only

Fyonka only operates from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm daily, but this is temporary. Hussien said that the limited hours are due to the limited number of female captains. “Very soon we will operate until 3:00 am,” Hussein noted. 

On the other hand, Shaaban said that the company offers training for drivers and requires driving licences and drug tests among other list of requirements. There is no specific age for being a female partner for Fyonka, but she has to be above 18. 

Hussein revealed that around 100 drivers are operating daily and 300 on standby. The highest number of trips so far has been 200 trips in November.

Hussein said that recently there is an increase in ride requests. “We only meet 40% of these requests because of the number of partners and the areas we are working in.” 

Meanwhile, Shaaban said that there are always plans to expand in new areas or cities and even in the Middle East. However, they are not considering collective transport at this time. 

On competing with Uber and Careem, Shaaban said that their model is similar, but they differ in other points. “Our services are different because we are not branding ourselves as ride-hailing service but as a brand for women. It is only for females.” 

“We are not competing on the same (male) drivers, but we push women to enter the field,” Shaaban noted. 

Shaaban said that Fyonka rides begin at a flat fee of EGP15, but there are no high fares if there is traffic, Hussein noted. However, he added that the company is planning to increase its prices in 2020. 


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Banning e-cigarettes is not the answer, regulations must be based on market specific risk proportions: research fellow https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/29/banning-e-cigarettes-is-not-the-answer-regulations-must-be-based-on-market-specific-risk-proportions-research-fellow/ Fri, 29 Nov 2019 08:45:44 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=715241 It’s clear that US cases of acute lung injury happened because of using illegal marijuana products

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Once e-cigarettes enter the market, the population will immediately drop cigarettes for vaping, and governments will lose out on a huge source of tax revenue

It’s clear that US cases of acute lung injury happened because of using illegal marijuana products

Debates about the dangers of smoking and the rise of e-cigarettes as a substitution have been ongoing for a while. While some countries openly allow the traditional tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes have been restricted.

During the seventh annual UK E-Cigarette Summit which took place this month in London, Daily News Egypt interviewed Konstantinos Farsalinos, M.D Research Fellow, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Greece, Department of Pharmacology, University of Patras, Greece, to get his insights on the issue.

There have been many debates after some e cigarette- related deaths, can you explain that?

About the US’s cases, it’s absolutely clear that it’s not because of E-cigarettes. It’s clear that these cases of acute lung injury happened because of using illegal marijuana products containing THC “tetrahydrocannabinol” in oils that is used with a battery device to be evaporated and inhaled.

These products aren’t the same as the legally regulated electronic cigarettes that have been used all over the world for 10 years. Normal electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, propylene glycol, glycol, and flavourings. These are very different products. They are just using the same type of device, a battery device, and an atomizer to be evaporated but they are not E-cigarettes. All the US’s cases are happening to people who were buying illegal products from the black market. Even in states where Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) use is legal, there is a black market because it’s cheaper. You can’t have an outbreak in one country in 2019 caused by products that have been used since 2009 all over the world, without any similar cases cropping up anywhere else in the world.

It’s pretty obvious that this is because of something that was used recently only in the US.

The vaping market is increasing nowadays, how will this affect or impact traditional cigarettes?

It depends on how they are being used. The goal of the public health community is that e-cigarettes should be used as a smoking substitute.

You know the cost of treating smoking related diseases that could lead to death and loss of working hours is damaging, so you need to think over the long term. It’s not going to replace the entire tobacco market in one day. It’s going to happen gradually. From a public health perspective, there is no doubt that we need something like that. We need people to quit smoking and start using alternatives.

In your opinion, how healthier are e-cigarettes than regular ones?

There is no doubt that e-cigarettes are less harmful. We may debate the level of harm reduction, but there is absolutely no doubt that they are less harmful. It’s a fact we’ve known for many years, we know it because we know e-cigarettes contain vapour, while tobacco cigarettes are made of smoke.

Not only do E-cigarettes not contain any tobacco whatsoever, but also they do not burn.  Vapers don’t inhale harmful smoke

Why do you think the authorities and governments are now banning this kind of product?

I think that it started as a precautionary principle, out of fear and lack of knowledge years ago. They argue that we don’t know what is going happen in 30 years, but this is a very invalid argument. For any consumer or pharmaceutical product that enters the market today, no one knows its  exact fate in 30 years.  There has been plenty of robust science done over the last 10 years since e-cigarettes went on the market to say to adult smokers – if you can’t quit, please switch to vaping instead because it is far less harmful to vape than to smoke.

Governments need to regulate them based on current knowledge and only proportionate it to the risk profile of the product itself. So the higher the risk – such as with tobacco smoking – the more restrictive the regulations; the lower the risk – like for e-cigarettes – the less restrictive the regulations.

Why do you think traditional high-risk cigarettes are open for all markets, while vaping with its fewer risks is still prohibited in many countries?

There is no justification for any country to legally allow the sale of tobacco cigarettes and at the same time restrict far less harmful alternatives. It makes no sense. If you give the people the option of smoking tobacco cigarettes, it’s your obligation to have a less harmful alternative. Why? Because most smokers want to quit. 70% percent of smokers want to quit if you look at surveys, but it’s extremely difficult and many can’t do it with the normal products like pills and patches so we need additional tools.

In your own opinion, what do you think is the main challenge for e cigarettes?

The main challenge is finding the perfect balance in the regulatory framework. You need to create a balance so that these products only target existing adult smokers and should be avoided by non-smokers, that’s the key point. In adults there are no problems anywhere with e-cigarette use. In most cases, the vast majority of adults using electronic cigarettes are current or former smokers, which is fine. In youth, there has been some observable increase in e-cigarette use, but daily users are rarely found. And if they were, they show a history of smoking, either as current or former smokers.

In the US where they made such big stories about youth, the latest data contradict the hype and show that the daily use of E cigarettes among never smoking adolescents is only 0.6% – it’s in fact extremely low. We have to look rationally at these products – because at the same time the US has the lowest smoking rates in all its history, during the period that e-cigarette use has grown, smoking has declined to historically low levels, and that’s a huge achievement.

It’s possible that e-cigarettes played a role because they attracted smokers away from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes. When you look at the regulation, you need to look at the whole public health landscape which includes both youths and adults.

Another advantage of these products is that these are smoking cessation aids that are self-funded by the smoker – the government pays nothing. Yet, it is also able to use funding from the vape market to fund smoking cessation efforts without using money from its own budget. In the UK, the market for vaping is predicted to reach a billion pounds over the next few years.

From a financial perspective, why are governments still restricting e-cigarettes even when they benefit from them?

You’ll have to ask them, I’m not sure what they’re thinking, but I believe they are worried that once e-cigarettes enter the market, the population will immediately drop cigarettes and start vaping, meaning that the government will lose out on a huge source of tax revenue. The transition is very gradual, and there were already decreasing rates of smoking in many countries, even before the invention of e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes have accelerated this decline. 

There has been much concern over the statistic in all markets, especially in Europe and the US, but what about other geographical areas?

When you want to create a regulation, you need to understand your own market. The problem in many regions whether its Africa, Asia, or Latin America, is that they are trying to make regulations without understanding their market. They aren’t even creating surveys to find out who it is that is vaping. The government needs to collect local data, that’s the first step before regulating. When you don’t do that, it’s a blind regulation and then you don’t know what the impact will be.

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Debate still on: Is vaping really less harmful than smoking cigarettes? https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/29/debate-still-on-is-vaping-really-less-harmful-than-smoking-cigarettes/ Fri, 29 Nov 2019 08:45:37 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=715235 We have about 40 million vapers worldwide

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Following the 7th annual E-Cigarette Summit held this month in London, Daily News Egypt interviewed John Britton, Professor of Epidemiology and Director UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies at University of Nottingham to know his opinion regarding the issue. Britton is also a consultant in respiratory medicine at Nottingham City Hospital.

Why are there so many debates about e-cigarettes?

Most of these debates were caused by doctors who would prefer smokers to be treated with medicines rather than consumer solutions. The US is also very different to other countries because there is a cultural antipathy to addiction of any sort, which unfortunately stigmatises smokers rather than helping them stop smoking. They believe switching people to long-term nicotine use from tobacco is perpetuating nicotine addiction, but this is wrong. Nicotine while addictive, it is not particularly harmful. It’s the burning of tobacco that causes the majority of health problems linked to smoking, so the view in the UK by contrast is that even if people stay addicted to nicotine, it is a better option than continuing to smoke.

The vaping market is increasing, how will this affect the traditional cigarette market?

Hopefully vaping will replace smoking. It may take decades, but hopefully other products will come along that will also function to help replace cigarettes, maybe other products better than e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are already widely replacing smoking, such as in the UK where we are relatively ahead of the rest of the world in its usage. We now have about 3.5 million vapers and about 7 million smokers, whereas 10 years ago we had 10 million smokers and no vapers. Accordingly, it’s taking part of the share, we have about 40 million vapers worldwide today.

Do you think the e-cigarettes are going to be an alternative for traditional cigarettes or a channel to quit smoking?

Well, it’s both. From a health point of view, the best thing you can do if you are a smoker is to stop smoking. The best thing to stop smoking is to stop using nicotine, but the next best thing is to stop smoking, but carry on the use of nicotine if that makes a difference. So vaping is a huge health benefit potentially because smoking kills.

Most of the statistics only focus on Europe, the United States, UK, and ignore other regions like Africa, do you think vaping is as popular there?

In lower middle-income countries or where you have low rates of smoking in the first place, the role of e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking is probably less appealing to their role in a rich country where smoking rates are already falling and most smokers are looking for a way to stop anyway. Generally, if you are an established smoker wherever you are, you will be better off vaping, so it makes sense to make electronic cigarettes available to smokers wherever they are. The dynamics are different depending on the different economic settings per country.

What are the challenges facing the vaping market?

The challenges that we are dealing with are concerns over health and harms that have been coming out of the United States. The solution or the response to that should be to point out that this is caused by cannabis vaping and is not caused by regular nicotine vaping.

Whose responsibility is it to prove this?

E-cigarettes should be used to help smokers to stop smoking and the industry needs to promote that. The main challenges are dealing with proper understanding about the health risks, and dealing with inappropriate regulations. It makes no sense at all to prohibit e-cigarettes in the great majority of circumstances. I think the industry has to deal with that, because if you want to sell electronic cigarettes in India now, you can’t and that’s a mistake. India has the sixth of the world’s population. They have a lot of smokers and they should be able to offer those smokers electronic cigarettes. Another big challenge is the World Health Organization which sees e-cigarettes as a mistake instead of being an opportunity.

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GIJC19: training and networking venue for investigative journalists from 130 countries  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/25/gijc19-training-and-networking-venue-for-investigative-journalists-from-130-countries/ Mon, 25 Nov 2019 15:35:51 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=714828 "GIJC was an excellent investment for me as a journalist who wants to specialise in investigative journalism," says Tunisian journalist

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As journalists around the world struggle to conduct investigations that have a significant impact on their society, many of them are still in an absolute need of training and connecting to distinguished and experienced journalists and trainers who could guide them, as well as workshops that could enhance their skills and knowledge.   

The 11th Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC) is one of these great opportunities for training. From 26 to 29 September, the conference was held in Hamburg, Germany, with the participation of 1,700 journalists from 130 countries representing different cultures, ages, nationalities, dreams, and career experiences.

The GIJC co-hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, Netzwerk Recherche, and Interlink Academy.

Experienced journalists, speakers, researchers, fellows, editors, university professors were present over the days of the conference at Der Spiegel publishing house and the HafenCity University. The represented entities included BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Ethical Journalism Network, NBC news, The New York Times, University of the Witwatersrand, Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and others. 

During the conference, there were about 250 panels, workshops, special events, and sessions on various topics, such as The ABCs of Investigative Journalism, Crowdsourcing for Investigations, Data Visualizations for Investigations, Exiled Media: Collaborating with Non-Exile Media, and How To Finance Your Investigative Documentary. Other sessions included How to Do Hard Stories on Soft Issues, The Art of the Investigative Interview, Mobile Journalism, Physical Safety and Surveillance, When Autocrats Attack: Independent Media Under Fire, and Editing the Investigative Story.

Despite restrictions on free press and crackdown on journalists who struggle to do their job in some countries, journalists are still eager to learn more about their professions and to challenge authoritarian regimes. 

Ons Bougacha, a Tunisian journalist, was among the participants who attended the GIJC 2019. “The GIJC was an excellent investment for me as a journalist who wants to specialise in investigative journalism,” the 24-year-old journalist told Daily News Egypt.

“I have learned more than I expected. I am interested in environmental issues, and I have found many journalists in Hamburg who believe that global warming is the issue of the century,” Bougacha added. 

Bougacha continued that she enjoyed long discussions with journalists from all over the world, as they shared thoughts and contacts. “Other journalists offered their help and even job opportunities.” 

“I was pleased to hear the experiences (of other investigative journalists) and the stories behind the scenes of well-known investigations. I was stunned by the courage of those storytellers,” Bougacha noted. 

“I have learned also how to protect myself during my work so, I will not be the story. I also learnt more about data journalism, the storytelling of televised investigations and so much more. I have made good contacts and even good friends,” she added.

“The GIJC was a marvellous experience. I went back home with good memories, contacts, friends, and most importantly [journalism] tools that I have learned and willing to use in my work,” Bougacha said.

Bougacha, who is working now with a production company to produce her first documentary, expressed her appreciation to the team behind the conference, and to “the wonderful people that she met during the conference, who didn’t save any effort to help her.” 

Rama Aldarwish, a Syrian journalist who settled in Berlin four years ago, told Daily News Egypt that one of the benefits of the conference was meeting with journalists from around the world.   

“To reach a wider network and get access to new sources to information were the best parts. I also benefited from the workshops on data journalism which helped me in learning how to collect data, and then deliver it to readers (in an understandable way),” Aldarwish added.

Aldarwish noted that she also benefited from the workshops on investigative journalism and from the experiences of other colleagues. The young journalist is now a trainee at a local radio and TV in Berlin “ALEX Berlin”.

Tips for journalists 

During a workshop on “Editing the Investigative Story” in HafenCity Universität on Saturday 28 September, Marina Walker Guevara, ICIJ’s director of Strategic Initiatives and Network, gave journalists some tips on how to edit their investigations and how to get the best out of their reporting.

Guevara said that during the editing process, a journalist has to say yes for the right things and no for a lot of things in order to sharpen their investigative narrative and angle.

Ons Bougacha

Guevara added that a journalist has to be able to ask tough questions for the sake of their investigation. She advised journalists to work with expertise, write memos often, build timetables, and a map of what they know and what they are inferring. 

While editing, a journalist should not wait to the end to come up with a great narrative, which means that a journalist has to write many drafts. Additionally, a journalist has to know where their stories end to avoid any prolongation.

Guevara noted that everybody has to understand what the journalist is writing, which means that writing has to be clear and understandable to all people. “Your grandmother needs to understand what you are writing,” she said. 

Furthermore, Guevara pointed out that a journalist has to think: what is the angel that they are uniquely positioned to develop? And when they own it, they have to consider the editorial control and legal responsibility. 

On bullet-proofing, Guevara advised journalists to footnoting and fact-checking; “pick your risks, fair opportunity for comment, and legal review.”

Meanwhile, Musikilu Mojeed, editor-in-chief at the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times, told Daily News Egypt that a young investigative journalist has to believe that what they are doing can have an impact on society.

“You have to believe that you want to make a change in your society. Once you are committed to an idea, then you can begin to get the skills necessary to conclude your investigation, some media websites and institutions offer journalists online workshops and networks to start.”

He advised journalists to ensure they have deep knowledge of the subject being investigated. And if they are working with other reporters, Mojeed advised them to never take anything for granted when editing work by talented reporters. “Be cautious in excessively trusting reporters.” 

Mojeed also said that editors must always demand evidence for key claims and allegations. “Never clear claims by anonymous sources without proper fact checking and demand evidence from reporters.” 

Marina Walker Guevara

Meanwhile, he reminded participants that anything post-publication will sometimes receive backlash and danger. “Take all this into consideration during the working process.”

Mojeed told Journalists who struggled with restrictions or those whose ideas were refused, to pick up stories on minor issues. “It does not have to be about sophisticated or big issues, at first it could be about people and how to change their realities.” 

Global Shining Light Awards

The GIJC set the Global Shining Light Awards to honour the investigative journalists who conducted investigations inside developing or transitioning countries under threat.

Among the investigations that were awarded during the GIJC 2019 were “Murder in Manila,” on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ drug war by Rappler and “Gupta Leaks,” on how the Gupta family “captured” the South African state by multiple outlets.

Furthermore, the “Car Wash”/ “White Collars” by Peru’s IDL-Reporteros was also awarded. The series of investigations delved into the complex transnational corruption networked dubbed “Operation Car Wash” as well as corruption in Peru’s courts, the GIJC noted. 

Other investigative projects were also awarded with citations of excellence including “The Profiteers,” a documentary series conducted by Kenya’s Africa Uncensored about how South Sudan’s elite plundered their nation. 

“The Azerbaijani Laundromat,” a cross-border investigation into a massive money-laundering operation, was also awarded citations of excellence. It was produced by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in collaboration with many international outlets.

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Ride-hailing apps: safe haven for Egyptian women from harassment, yet they come with hefty price tag https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/17/ride-hailing-apps-women-bear-additional-financial-burdens-to-avoid-street-harassment/ Sun, 17 Nov 2019 17:05:52 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=714206 'I am not looking for excellent service, but less harmful alternative to public transport,' says a female user

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Every morning, 32-year-old Content Creator Heba Hussien uses ride-hailing applications to request two rides, the first is a car ride through Uber to transport her from her house to a bus meeting point, around a 10-minute walk, and then another through Swvl bus that drops her off directly in front her workplace.

 

Hussein lives in Maadi and works in Mohandessin. This daily trip costs her about EGP 70 and it takes approximately an hour if there is no traffic jam.

“It became impossible to walk for minutes in the streets of Cairo and public transportation is also a nightmare because of people’s intolerance toward women,” she said.

At first, Hussein began to use the Uber app for long-distance destinations or when it’s late. Afterwards, it became her daily means of transportation. “As a woman, feel kind of safe in an Uber car, where the vehicle windows are locked, the driver is not a threat, so nobody is going to hurt you in anyway,” she added.

When she used public transportation, Hussein faced various forms of sexual harassments, including physical, verbal harassments, staring, and cat-calling.

If commuters did not like her appearance or outfit, they might react violently, she said “I would feel uncomfortable and threatened,” Hussein added.

Most Egyptian women have reported experiencing sexual harassment in streets, transportations, and workplaces. A study by the United Nations in 2013 showed that 99.3% of women surveyed have been subject to sexual harassment in Egypt.

Cairo is the world’s most dangerous megacity for women according to a report titled “The World’s Most Dangerous Megacities in the World 2017” issued by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in October 2017.

Uber, Careem, and Swvl apps have given an alternative to women who seek decent rides without being forced to fight over the fares or subjected to sexual harassment, Hussein pointed out.

However, after Egypt’s government increased fuel prices by as much as 50% in June 2018, as part of an IMF-backed economic reform programme, fares of transportation of all kinds increased signficantly.

“It [Uber] is not affordable all the time. The fares are sometimes illogical especially after the recent increases in fuel prices. The fare from home to work was EGP 40, but now it is EGP 90,” Hussein noted.

She said that she pays about EGP 3,500 monthly just for Uber, which is more than three-quarters of her salary.

With all of Uber’s advantages, Hussein complained that its services’ quality has declined in recent months, explaining that not all Uber drivers are professional.

“I sometimes feel as if I am taking a taxi or a public bus – when using Uber recently –, not the decent services or the peace of mind I pay most of my money for,” Hussein noted.

With ride-hailing companies expanding their services in Egypt, they are accepting more drivers that are “unqualified to work for them,” she added.

“To be honest with you, I am not looking for an excellent service, we are in Egypt at the end of the day, but at least a less harmful [compared to public transport] and decent service, ” Hussein concluded.

The US-based ride hailing app company Uber was launched in Egypt in 2014. The company keeps expanding and now operates in different cities including Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura, Tanta, Damanhour, and Hurghada.

According to the company, more than four million people have used Uber with almost 160,000 driver-partners. However, there is no detailed data over the number of women using the app in Egypt.

The UAE-based Careem operates in more cities in Egypt than Uber, including Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Banha, Sohag, and Fayoum.

For Swvl, it is a Cairo based bus transport technology start-up launched in Egypt 2017, producing an alternative to public transportation in Cairo, Alexandria, with fixed routes rides, timings, and prices.

“We mainly focus on female users, as we are keen on establishing a safe society for women without any form of sexual harassment,” a Swvl official told Daily News Egypt.

The official added that more than 50% of the app-users are women, mainly female university students who live far away from their universities.

The official added that they always update in their apps to offer more safety measures to ensure that neither the driver nor any male commuter would harass women in anyway using the app.

However, the official noted that they did not receive a complaint that included a sexual harassment incident, as most of them are related to the timing or the driver attitudes.

The company is firm about women safety, the official clarified. If a female reports such behaviour, the staff is able to get into the details of the trip, the route, and the driver, the official said.

 

“We pay for our safety”

A 31-year-old female writer who uses Uber frequently said that she abandoned public transport and white taxis in an attempt to get a kind of “safe” transport. “We pay money for a safer ride,” Weaam Mokhtar told Daily News Egypt.

Mokhtar decided to use Uber daily after several experiences with white taxi drivers who gave her an impression that they would kidnap or rip her off.

 

“I took a white taxi from Nasr city to El-Sayeda Zainab, but after a few minutes, the driver made a ‘suspicious’ call in which he gave the other side detailed information of his route. I felt something wrong would happen, I asked him to stop to get out the car, he refused and tried to convince me to change my mind, but eventually he dropped me off,” Mokhtar narrated.

Another time, she said that a taxi driver kissed her hand when she delivered him the fare, while another told her that he “liked her breast”.

As a writer, she works sometimes as a full-timer and freelancer. Before accepting any job offer, she considers if the salary will allow her to still use Uber or not.

Mokhtar spends about EGP 2,500 monthly on Uber. “When you get older, your tolerance with what you encounter in the streets decrease, so you choose to avoid it altogether.”

For Mokhtar, her experience with Uber is better than other experiences circulated on social media, but it also has its downsides.

“I met a diver who turned back to look at my legs and others who stare at me through the mirror, but overall, Uber drivers are better than taxi drivers as eventually, you can report your complaints to someone who can take action,” she added.

“More comfortable”

Shimaa Hassan, 33-year-old is an operation officer at ‎Save the Children Egypt organisation. She first learned about Uber from her work which offered employees a business account for their field rides.

“They cover field rides, but I cover my roundtrips to and from work which is in Maadi now,” Hassan told Daily News Egypt.

Earlier in 2016, her work’s headquarters was in Ard El Lewa, and she used to ride a bus then a Tuk-tuk. But now she uses Uber and Swvl for which she pays about EGP 4,000 monthly, almost half of her salary.

Hassan said that she stopped using the Cairo Metro because it is extremely crowded. The white taxi is also problematic for her because she has to focus on the road, or fight over fares, smoking, and deal with the drivers’ curiosity.

“I have not personally gone through a dramatic situation with public transport or a taxi, but I have a friend who was robbed in a taxi,” she added.

Hassan, as a pregnant woman, said that she fears facing a situation that puts her or her child at risk.

“Sometimes I feel tired and fall asleep in the Uber car. I feel I am kind of safe since I can share my ride with my husband. If I have a complaint, I would report the driver,” she added.

“It is not safe by all means ”

Mariam Ibrahim, 27-year-old said that she uses Uber and Careem because public transport “is not safe.”

The computer engineering graduate left her hometown of Alexandria two years ago to settle in Cairo and search for a job.

“When I use the Cairo Metro I feel afraid of people and the crowds, I feel it is not safe as anyone can hurt me, even women. Two face-veiled women had cut off my female friend’s hair. It is not safe by all means,” Ibraheem said.

Ibraheem visits her hometown regularly, she normally commutes by train, where she faced unpleasant experiences, “one day, I was heading to Cairo on Alexandria’s train. When I got off the main station in Ramses, a man sexually harassed me. I slapped his face and called the station’s police,” Ibrahim narrated.

“He ruined my day, I was with my female friend to spend good time in the city, instead, we stayed for four hours to file a report against the harasser,” she concluded.

Ibrahim still uses the train but avoids crowded days and weekends. She depends mostly on Uber and Careem, in Cairo, spending around EGP 3,500 monthly. Her family helped her in the expenses because her salary was EGP 4,500.

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Clerics, intellectuals, MPs, urge state to finalise renewal of religious discourse  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/16/clerics-intellectuals-mps-urge-state-to-finalise-renewal-of-religious-discourse/ Sat, 16 Nov 2019 15:49:56 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=714078 Over the years,  calls for renewing religious discourse have been pressing for the Egyptian society as a result of Religious misconceptions that lead to the emergence of terrorism

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Several religious clerics stressed the necessity of finding solutions to get rid of all extremist ideas and misconceptions surrounding religion, demanding a specific map for the major issues to be discussed, and representing all different sectors of society.

 

This came directly after president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called to hold a one-week conference on correcting misconceptions of religious, fighting extremist ideas, and misusing Religion during a celebration of the Prophet’s Mohamed birthday (Mawlid al-Nabi) held last Thursday.

Osama Al-Abd, head of the Religious and Endowments Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Parliament said the renewal of religious discourse is not an encroachment on religious principles, but is a correction to the misconceptions that are attributed to Islam and not actually from Islam, pointing out that Islam is known for justice, tolerance, moderation, and human brotherhood based on the principles of Islamic law.

 

Al-Abd revealed that he spoke with the Minister of Religious Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, following the president’s call, and agreed to meet with the religious committee in the parliament in the presence of three religious institutions, namely Al-Azhar Islamic Institution, Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowment), and Dar Al-Ifta in order to make reach a consensus on how to properly meet the criteria of the president’s call for religious understanding.

 

 

He added that the role of the religious committee is to link religious institutions and bring them together to correct the mistakes that have been distorting the Islamic religion

 

Al-Abd noted that the committee would hold a second meeting with stakeholders to hear their vision.

 

“Our role is to clarify the correct Islam and liquidate the Islamic Sharia from any impurity issued whether intended or not by people of Islam or others,” he said, adding that those who should speak about Islam are only those who have jurisdiction and accuracy adorned from the people of Islamic law and high Islamic authorities, which are fully aware of the conditions of l

“We are building a modern state on the true religion and to share the world in its progress and prosperity, and Islamic civilization testifies that we have served the entire world,” he added.

 

Al-Abd pointed out that this conference will be a continuation of the conference that took place under the supervision of parliament on the renewal of religious discourse.

According to Al-Abd, these seminars and conferences aim to fight extremism in thought, words, and deeds, and fights blind terrorism.

The Parliament’s committee of Endowment and Religious Affairs organised a conference on the renewal of religious discourse at the beginning of 2019. Members of other parliamentary committees, such as media, culture, education, and archaeology attended the conference, as well as members from the ministry of religious endowments, Dar Al-Ifta, and churches, in addition to political, cultural, and media institutions.

The Undersecretary of the Religious Affairs and Endowments Committee in the Parliament Shoukry El-Gendy, praised the president’s call, saying that all representations of society should be represented during the conference to voice their views and concerns.

 

He also suggested that the ministries of culture, education, and higher education must attend the conference and be aware of how they can change religious discourse in educational and cultural institutions.

 

“We must work together to get rid of all extremist ideas and misconceptions, and show the development of Egypt and fighting terrorism,” he asserted.

 

Abdel Moneim Fouad, Professor of religion and philosophy at Al-Azhar University said that such a conference will help open people’s eyes on real problems of the society and accordingly come up with solutions.

He said that however scholars, intellectuals, and all men of culture are the best to carry out this confrontation, all parts of society should participate in changing religious discourse.

 

“This is not the first instance that Al-Azhar works on his case, but has been for a long time now,” he noted, adding the challenges facing the state are intellectual challenges, which he believes “are harder and deadly than the military war.”

 

He called the state to develop a specific map of major issues, including “respect for national and religious symbols, so youth may come to them for advice”.

 

 

Discussions about the renewal of religious discourse were immensely tackled in the media during previous years, while also addressing different seminars and conferences which were also held on the issue, to combat terrorism and protect young people from joining extremist groups.

 

Despite the president’s prolonged calls over the necessity of reforming the religious discourse, top religious institutions are still unable to agree on a unified vision for the reform.

Gomaa, and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, previously showed division on several occasions over different Islamic topics that included the unifying of Friday sermon according to a state decision in 2016.

 

 

“Terrorist and extremist groups are also using some concepts of religious thought to recruit young people and distort their ideas, to become intellectual extremists, and are therefore used in terrorist acts anywhere,” he said.

 

Hassan Bassiouni, a member of the House of Representatives said, “We currently suffer that some public figures discuss {Religion} in meetings, seminars, or media, without awareness and study, which leads to distorting the image for the citizen, thus there is a need to expedite the completion of the steps to renew religious discourse and bring public affairs to this discourse.”

  

Dean of the Faculty of  Mass Communication of Cairo University Laila Abdel Majid , said that religious discourse has a social, cultural, and social dimension.

“We need to come up with a strategic vision of religious discourse that is consistent with the needs of society and our cultural and social realities,” she said. 

She pointed out that the media is a means through which religious discourse is circulated. “I hope that the church could have representatives in this conference, as they are part of the religious discourse. There must be a presence for educators to draw religious education in schools,” she added.

 

In a related context, Mohamed Morsy, professor of mass communication at Cairo University, said there is a particular mess in the field of media when it comes to the discussion of edicts, especially in  talk shows where hosts are unqualified to issue edicts and usually make mistakes that offend Islam and Muslims.

“We need to renew the religious discourse because we have become interested in appearing Religious as opposed to understanding Religion,” he said.

 

He pointed out that we need to link religion as a fundamental value of Arab people to the issues of daily life.

 

The professor added that Al-Azhar has taken steps to combat the issue through including a list of those who have the right to issue edicts on channels, and setting up a centre for preparing and training preachers.

For his part, Hassan Mekkawi, former dean of the Faculty of mass communication at Misr University for Science and Technology,  pointed out that terrorism is an intellectual rather than a security problem.

He explained that the renewal of religious discourse will eliminate terrorism, pointing out that both Islam and Christianity might be radically interpreted and hence they must focus on the importance of citizenship and non-discrimination.

He concluded that the merging of religion with politics is a mistake in society and that the media should work on becoming enlightened by exploring its negatives.

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Egypt’s press faces challenges in preserving quality journalism: Speakers of EMF’19 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/08/egypts-press-faces-challenges-in-preserving-quality-journalism-speakers-of-emf19/ Fri, 08 Nov 2019 14:00:01 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=713359 The press lost its basic services after its decline in quality and the absence of press analysis and live coverages, Al-Sannawi

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“Good journalism is always a goal we all seek. The biggest issue is how to maintain good press services in light of the many challenges we face,” said Howaida Mostafa, the dean of Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University, in an opening session of the second edition of Egypt Media Forum (EMF) 2019 on Sunday.

The EMF is an annual professional event for Egyptian journalists, allowing them to see the developments of the media industry in the world, and to learn about the latest methods of producing and displaying content in the media.

The forum showcases successful experiences of Egyptian, Arab, and international content production organisations that have dealt with digital developments.

According to Mostafa, there are basic standards that will always judge the quality of the press service offered, which includes simplicity, portability of performance evolution, and appropriateness to the public.

“We should adhere to those standards as the media has a great role in the enlightenment of the community by focusing in on its vital issues in a way that is unbiased and balanced,” she continued.

The dean added that there must be depth in dealing with issues, because the public is waiting for analysis, interpretation, and field service in a stressful environment in which the journalist works, especially in the presence of a strong rival, the citizen.

She also said that social networking sites are important and influential but have standards and frameworks that people must know how to deal with, pointing out that the accuracy is a basic determinant of journalistic work, an element that social media fails to advertise.

“The quality of information and objectivity were key to survival, and diversity was a fundamental value to compel the reader to continue on the site,” she asserted.

During the first session which tackled challenges of quality journalism, veteran journalist Abdullah Al-Sannawi said Media in Egypt is not keeping pace with developments in the field, noting that they do not offer anything new and do not meet basic standards.

Along with media Professor Yasser Abdel Aziz, Editor in Chief of Ahram Ezzat Ibrahim, and Journalist Ahmed Samir, El-Sannawi discussed the quality of press in Egypt, performance of journalists, content, and qualification of the leader.

The forum also discussed good journalism that adheres to information and abstract facts and investigates accuracy and truth.

It also provided workshops on ways for journalists to develop quality, know the legal conditions of different coverages, understand the impact of photojournalism, in addition to an in-depth discussion of investigative and conflict journalism. 

EMF launched the first edition of October 2018 under the title of “the post-information era”, in the presence of more than 600 journalists and media, and came in partnership with several major Egyptian and international media, including the Masrawy news site, and several television channels.

“Newspapers now are working randomly, with no teacher, no determined journalism as before, and there is a big quality problem,” was Al-Sannawi’s answer to a question about the status of journalism and media in Egypt. 

He explained that the press lost its basic services after the decline in quality, the absence of press analysis, and live in depth coverages of events.

“There is a restriction in press freedoms, and we have become a notorious profession” he added.

The press in Egypt has nothing to do with good journalism. It no longer provides services to the reader, creating a gap between newspapers and the reader.

“The situation of the press in Egypt misses role models, newspapers no longer have a character, which is a major reason for the lack of distribution of newspapers,” he said, adding that the level of services provided by news outlets is weak due to the lack of journalists’ training.

As the forum is organised by the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI), he also said that the Egyptian and Danish press is not good at all, pointing out that both are suffering similar challenges.

He added that journalism in Egypt lost the excitement of reading, stating that he goes through various newspapers daily for 15 minutes and always finds poor coverage.

In the early seventies, the number of issues produced by Al-Ahram newspaper on Friday could only reach one million copies, which nowadays do not amount to one-third of printed issues, elaborated Al-Sannawi, justifying this with the poor quality of journalism.

He concluded that newspapers are now repeating the same information, instead of providing education or informing, leading to a systematic destruction of the profession.

Moreover, Abdel Aziz stated the solution lies in Egypt’s constitutional vision to organise the work of the press. “If we applied to the legislative aspects, all would be good, although laws are still made hastily,” he added.

According to Abdel Aziz, some of the laws do not comply with constitutional entitlements of 2014 which were prepared in a hurry.

The law regulating the press was issued and amended in a short time, and even this amendment is not applied yet despite its issuance in 2018, he continued.

“The concept of good journalism has standards, and confidence rates have dropped from 42% to 39% in the Arab press, according to a poll conducted that included 7000 people, including Egyptians in 2017 and 2018. Also, half of the Arab respondents believe that political news is wrong,” he added.

Abdel-Aziz said, “Freedom is not the only condition to ensure good press.”

Furthermore, Samir said that the majority of the public suffers from a lack of confidence in the press and the media a long time ago, stressing the need to present the views of different parties in the press to provide good content and win the trust of the recipients.

On that note, he illustrated that sometimes citizens may resort to other invalid means to get the information, which he does not consider a mistake since the reader has the right to know.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim noted that there’s now a fear of the press’s extinction in general, and not just the paper press, during the expansion of the role of social media.

He explained that this struggle is normal since social media acquired more attractiveness to advertisers.

“There is a decline in professionalism and people are exposed to more restrictions, pointing out that everyone complains about the content, but providing solutions is rare,” he added.

He stressed the need to provide more good content. “Without this, we will not develop progress, especially since the reader is looking for good content, and therefore we see higher news follow-up to sites outside Egypt,” he added.

This year, EMF’s edition focuses on how to create the right climate for access to quality journalism by discussing topics such as journalistic skills, safe practices, professional ethics, investigative journalism ethics, conflict, and emergency coverage, content innovation, how to handle social media content, paid content, public service notification, and emerging entities.

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