Journalist Osama Heikal, the editor of the Wafd Party's daily mouthpiece, Al-Wafd for the past six months, has been appointed new minister of information. He delivered his oath of office before Field Marshal Hussein Tantawy, the head of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Saturday morning.
Heikal had previously stated that the government had decided to bring back the ministry of information to avoid what he said were setbacks resulting from its absence. He added that interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had asked him to restructure the ministry.
The move is widely seen as a significant turnabout in the interim administration's attitude towards freedom of expression and media freedom. The post of Minister of Information exists only in authoritarian states, and the post was cancelled in response to insistent post-revolution demands when the present Sharaf-led government was formed early last March.
Journalist and press syndicate board member, Gamal Fahmy, commented that the decision to appoint a minister of information and re-establish a ministry for the media is a problem in itself; regardless who is appointed.
He views the decision to re-establish the ministry of information as reverting to the regime's old tactics of controlling media and using it as a propaganda tool, which conflicts with media freedom. “Freedom necessitates a free media,” he emphasised