Friday, March 11, 2016 1:40 pm
CAIRO (Reuters) – “Your excellency: you are not working,” television presenter Azza al-Hemawy said, looking into the camera but addressing the Egyptian president. “Not one single issue has been solved since you took over.”
After years of hearing little but enthusiastic applause for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and vilification of his enemies, the tens of millions of Egyptians who watch the country’s pugnacious talk shows are suddenly being presented with the president’s faults.
The former military chief who overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood to take power in 2013 is facing the first sustained public criticism of his rule.
State television, known for being fiercely loyal, launched an internal investigation on Wednesday into Hemawy for her remarks. But her comments were hardly isolated.
After years of publicly lionising Sisi as the saviour of the nation, many of the country’s most influential figures have emerged to blame the president for an economy in crisis, an Islamist insurgency raging in the Sinai peninsula and the brutality of an unreformed police force.
“Your state imprisons people for their thoughts and their novels,” one of Egypt’s most prominent newspaper editors, Ibrahim Eissa, wrote addressing the president on his paper’s front page last month, after authorities jailed a young novelist for including a sex scene in a book.
“What happened exactly to make our nation turn around with you to the era of searching consciences, putting minds on trial and imprisoning writers and authors?”
Eissa is no longstanding critic: he initially hailed Sisi’s rise as “a day of joy, a day of victory, a day of dignity, a day of pride, the day Egypt and its people were victorious”. As recently as three months ago he described Sisi as “the president with the most amount of popular backing in the world”.
Since then, it was not the media that had changed but the government’s record, Eissa told Reuters at his office on Cairo’s outskirts: “We aren’t more critical; there are now more mistakes.”