Political concerns aside, journalists expressed sheer bafflement at how the Shura Council could have come up with such poor candidates. Hisham Kassem, the former editor of the independent daily Al-Masri Al-Youm, said, “There was nothing that could substantiate why these individuals were appointed. They [the Shura Council] were not professional in any way.”

The confrontation over the press only escalated on Saturday when a court ordered the confiscation of new copies of the privately-owned Dostour newspaper, after a number of complaints were filed accusing the paper of fueling sectarian strife during violence in the village of Dahshour that forced 100 Christian families to flee to neighboring villages.

That morning’s edition of the paper had featured a front-page editorial condemning Morsi, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of planning to set up an Islamic state, and predicting “killing and bloodshed … the cutting of the tongues of the media.” In spite of this hyperbole, journalists roundly condemned the decision to censor the newspaper.

Dostour itself has had a turbulent recent history. Once seen as a staunch opposition newspaper, it was purchased by El-Sayed El-Badawi, a businessman who leads the liberal opposition Al-Wafd Party. El-Badawi clashed with the newspaper’s outspoken chief editor, Ibrahim Eissa, ultimately sacking him.

After firing Eissa,Dostour’s editorial line shifted away from its previous anti-regime stance, and after the 2011 uprising, the newspaper’s former leadership started a new newspaper called Tahrir, which was one of the papers that joined the blank-columns protest last week.

Reached by phone on Sunday, Ibrahim Mansour, Tahrir’s executive editor and a former editor at Dostour, reiterated that Dostour had transformed into a completely different paper since he and Eissa left, but that he nevertheless unequivocally opposed the decision to the confiscate the editions.

He said taken together, the state media appointments and the censoring of Dostour amounted to “a continuation of the policies of the Mubarak regime.”

Jared Malsin is a freelance journalist based in Cairo