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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Egyptian MPs back potential return of minister of information post in expected reshuffle

Some believe the post of minister of information has become a necessity in order to mobilise the country against attacks coming from TV channels like Al Jazeera and the BBC

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 26 Nov 2019
Parliament
A file photo of Egypt's Parliament (Photo: Reuters)
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Egyptian MPs told reporters on Tuesday that the potential return of the post of minister of information does not contravene the constitution, and that it has become a necessity in the coming period in order to mobilise the country against media attacks launched from Muslim Brotherhood-linked TV channels broadcasting from Qatar and Turkey.

The post of minister of information was abolished in June 2014 after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was elected. The last person in the role was Doreya Sharafeddin, who took up her post in July 2013.

Osama Heikal, the head of parliament's media, culture and antiquities committee, told reporters Egypt's 2014 constitution does not stand against the return of the post of the minister. 

"The constitution just states that three organisations shall regulate the media in Egypt," said Heikal, who served as minister of information in 2011.

“If there is a new minister of information, he or she will be required play new roles, above all to coordinate with these three organisations."

Heikal believes that the media attacks coming from the Qatar and London-based TV channels, particularly Al Jazeera and the BBC, show that they are doing their best to tarnish all regimes in Egypt that do not belong to Muslim Brotherhood or political Islam.

"In this respect a minister of information could help achieve this objective in terms of mobilising all forces to stand up to the media attacks which are attempting to destabilise the country all the time," he said.

Karam Gabr, head of the National Press Organisation (NPO), and Abdel-Mohsen Salam, chairman of Al-Ahram, agreed in a TV interview on Monday that the return of the post of the minister of information has become a necessity.

"But the roles of this minister will be different from the past, and I think that these will be to reinforce the national media, solve its problems, and mobilise the country against hostile media attacks targeting internal stability," said Salama, arguing that "Egypt's national and independent media outlets were able to defend the country and disrupt the hostile media attacks in September, but I think that our media could do better in the future if there is a kind of collective action in this respect, and in this respect a new minister of information could be necessary."

A number of MPs have said in recent days that a cabinet reshuffle in Egypt is imminent, and that between 10 to 12 ministers will be replaced.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Aal decided on Monday to call MPs to meet in an extraordinary session on Thursday to discuss and vote on El-Sisi's decision to keep Tarek Amer in office as governor of the Central Bank of Egypt for a second four-year term.

Some MPs believe that there will be a cabinet reshuffle within the next few hours and that El-Sisi will send a message in this respect to speaker to also discuss the reshuffle in Thursday's extraordinary meeting.

According to Article 129 of parliament's internal bylaws, in introducing a cabinet reshuffle, the president must submit to parliament a list containing a list of the cabinet ministries to be reshuffled, and the speaker should put the reshuffle up for a debate in parliament's first meeting.

If MPs are in a recess, parliament must hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss and vote the cabinet reshuffle within a week of the date of receiving the president's list.

Another camp of MPs, including official parliamentary spokesman Salah Hassaballah, believe that there will be a cabinet reshuffle but nobody can say for sure when it will come and how many cabinet ministers will be replaced.

"There will be a cabinet reshuffle, particularly after the announcement this week that Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali will leave the government to take a UN post, but nobody knows when the decision in this respect will be taken and who are the ministers who will be replaced or if a new minister of information will be named," said Hassaballah.

 

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