Egypt's media minister returns in new government shake-up

Ayat Al Tawy , Sunday 22 Dec 2019

Former information minister Osama Heikal has been named Minister of State for Information Affairs

Egypt named on Sunday a new minister of state for information affairs, more than five years after the information ministry was abolished.

Osama Heikal, an MP who heads parliament's media committee and the chair of the state-run Media Production City Company, has been appointed to the post. Heikal briefly served as the information minister in the first government following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The ministry was scrapped in a cabinet reshuffle in mid-2014. But under a government shake up on Sunday, Heikal returned as the minister of state for information affairs, an appointment that does not mean a full reinstatement of the ministry.

In Egypt, a minister of state does not have an independent ministry.

The new minister will now face the daunting task of revamping the image of a media criticised for dwindling standards, violations of professional practices and limited freedoms over the past few years.

Under Egypt's 2014 constitution, TV, radio, print and online media are governed by the Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media, whose chairman is picked by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

The media regulator, established in late 2016, is tasked with imposing regulations governing media organisations and introducing penalties against violators, ensuring their independence and neutrality and making sure they do not undermine national security.

It is unclear if there would be any change in the responsibilities of the council after the return of the ministry, which had long been in charge of only Radio and TV.

In comments reported by local media following the reshuffle, council head Makram Mohamed Ahmed called for delineating the new responsibilities of the minister to ensure there will be no conflict of tasks between him and the council.

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