Egypt's new Mamluks jostle for power

Egypt's new Mamluks jostle for power
Comment: A media campaign against the interior ministry betrays a possible struggle for power between Egypt's ruling institutions, says Khalil al-Anani.
2 min read
29 Apr, 2015
Police in Egypt have been accused of oppressive behaviour [Getty]

Egyptian media outlets have launched a campaign against the interior ministry for its oppressive practices, especially against those being held in prisons and police stations.

The campaign began with an investigation published on several pages of a private newspaper alleging corruption, bribery and thuggery among the police. The ministry responded by suing the newspaper. However, other media outlets soon followed suit and began criticising the ministry.

The state-owned al-Ahram newspaper published a similar article titled: "In police stations those who do not die from torture, die from suffocation".

Over the past few days, journalists have complained of being targeted by police, for example at checkpoints.

The decision of pro-coup journalists to turn against the interior ministry raises many questions, especially because of their close ties to the regime.

     The decision of pro-coup journalists to turn against the interior ministry raises many questions.

However, this move does not suggest an "awakening of conscience". Nor is it likely the media has realised the threat posed by the ministry's domination of state institutions, parties, elections, media and politicians.

The most likely explanation is that we are entering a new era of power struggles between the state's ruling institutions. For example, there has been conflict between the supporters of former interior minister Mohammad Ibrahim and his replacement, Magdy Abdel Ghafar.

This happened after Ibrahim was dismissed two months ago, and Ghafar shuffled underlings to ensure loyalty.

Egypt has long been divided into spheres of influence controlled by the army, police and business and it is possible we are seeing the outcome of their jostling.

The army and businessmen hold greater influence over the media than the police. Therefore, no journalist can criticise the interior ministry, which controls the police, without agreement from the army and businessmen.

Pro-regime media is clearly controlled by the president's office, which tells journalists what to write and say and when. 

Businessmen control the media because they invest large sums of money in satellite television channels. This means employees have to act according to the wishes of those who own these channels.

Another explanation is that Sisi is trying to weaken public anger against the interior ministry.

Sisi may have allowed the media to attack the interior ministry to show his unhappiness. This happened under former president Hosni Mubarak, who would chastise his ministers or allow the media to attack them publically before removing them.

One could argue we are witnessing the clash of the "new Mamluks" who united against the January revolution, and are now locked in a conflict of domination over the remnants of the Egyptian state.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.