Egypt’s newly-appointed information minister Osama Heikal's media policies were approved in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
A cabinet statement revealed that Heikal was extensively asked about his new media policies at the meeting. "As a result, the roles, responsibilities and policies of the new minister of state for information Osama Heikal were approved, and that the cabinet's legal advisor was asked to formulate these roles to be issued in the form of a ministerial decree and executive regulations," said the statement.
The approval came two days after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi met with Heikal and Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on 5 December. According to Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady, El-Sisi said the role of the re-established Ministry of Information will be to formulate media policies capable of defending Egypt's interests.
"We want a professional and disciplined media capable of standing up to foreign hostile media campaigns targeting Egypt in the form of malicious rumours, TV reports, and social media attacks," said El-Sisi.
According to Rady, El-Sisi told Heikal at the meeting on Sunday that the media is advised in the coming stage to focus on reforming religious discourse and protecting people from radical ideologies.
To achieve these objectives, El-Sisi requested that there should be closer coordination between the Ministry of Information and media regulatory bodies and state authorities. "This includes national press organisations and the government-owned TV and Radio Union," said El-Sisi.
"This is important to keep abreast of the latest international impressive developments in the media sector, and in order for the Egyptian people to be able to confront the risks of the proliferation of rumours and to quickly react to the tempo of escalating events in the region," added El-Sisi, stating that "at the same time, the Ministry of Information should be keen on abiding by the professional media criteria, and focus on young generations to help the state build the Egyptian man and personality."
Rady said Heikal told President El-Sisi that his main goal will be to "regain Egypt's soft power in the cultural arena, convey a realistic view of Egyptian politics, history and civilisation to the world, and raise local and foreign awareness of the national development projects being implemented in Egypt."
Heikal indicated that his policies also aim to open channels of communication with all Egyptian political forces. "We want citizens to have access to diverse views and opinions," said Heikal, adding that "the ministry is looking forward to making optimal use of Egyptian expertise in the area of information, and reinforcing the instruments of training and institutional development of national cadres."
On 22 December 2019, five years after the information ministry was abolished, a new minister of state for information was named in a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle.
Following the reshuffle, many MPs asked what the aim was in resurrecting the post of information minister and in appointing Heikal, the outgoing chair of parliament's Media, Culture, and Antiquities Committee and the current head of the Egyptian Media Production Company (EMPC) as new minister of state for information.
Under Egypt's 2014 constitution, TV, radio, print and online media are regulated by three regulatory bodies: the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR), the National Press Organisation (NPO), and the National Media Organisation (NMO).
Head of SCMR Makram Mohamed Ahmed said that since the constitution made no mention of a post of a minister of information, the roles of this minister should be clear to avoid a clash of interests between regulatory bodies and the new ministry.
Many expected a presidential decree would be issued to delineate the roles and responsibilities of the new Ministry of Information. However, it was preferred, following Heikal's meeting with El-Sisi on Sunday, that the roles of the new minister of state for information be discussed by the cabinet and issued in the form of a ministerial decree and executive regulations.
Parliament's media committee is also expected to discuss Heikal's policies and roles in a meeting new week.