File Photo: A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session (AP)
The discussion of a parliamentary report critical of Egypt’s Minister of State for Information Osama Heikal was postponed by MPs on Sunday based on a request by the minister for time to prepare a response.
House of Representatives Speaker Hanafi Gibali told MPs in a plenary morning meeting on Sunday that he has received a request from Heikal asking that the discussion of the Media and Culture Committee’s report, which was critical of his performance, be postponed for some time.
“Minister Heikal said he needs some time to prepare complete and detailed responses to the report’s critical points and so we will not be able to discuss the report today,” said Gibali.
“I hope that you approve that the discussion of the report be postponed to the next plenary meetings.”
Egypt’s parliament was scheduled on Sunday to discuss an eight-page report which directed scathing attacks against Heikal, accusing him of poor performance and financial wrongdoing.
The report, prepared by the House’s Media and Culture Committee, recommended that the information ministry be scrapped because it is redundant and a waste of public money. “But, it is up to state officials to give a final say on this issue,” said the report.
Tamer Abdel-Qader, secretary-general of the Media and Culture Ministry, told Ahram Online that the committee concluded that the information ministry should be cancelled because it by no means has any roles to play.
“The constitution states that three independent institutions shall be the ones who take charge of regulating the media sector and these are the National Press Organisation, the National Media Organisation, and the Supreme Council for Media and Press Regulation,” said Abdel-Qader, adding that “the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in 2013 that the information ministry be cancelled.”
The report said Heikal’s policy statement, delivered before parliament on 19 January, was rejected because “Heikal failed to achieve the objectives of his ministry and that he violated a number of financial and administrative regulations.”
The report said the fact that Heikal works also as chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) is a constitutional and legal offence. “This [chairmanship of the] EMPC goes against Article 166 of the constitution and Article 79 of the joint-stock companies’ law,” said the report, adding that the information ministry’s budget cost EGP 12 million over the last six months.
“MPs agree that it is unconstitutional and illegal for Heikal to work both as information minister and chairman of the EMPC and so, he should pay back all the money he obtained from the two posts,” said Abdel-Qader.
The report also said that a number of public announcements made by Minister Heikal have inflicted a lot of political damage to the state’s reputation and image.
“The minister’s aggressive statements against Egyptian journalists and media people in terms of accusing them of poor performance were exploited by hostile television channels — broadcasting from Qatar and Turkey — to attack the Egyptian state,” said the report.
The report also added that “Heikal made another bad announcement when he claimed that Ethiopian media excelled over the Egyptian one in its coverage of the GERD negotiations in Washington last year.”
Heikal is the only cabinet minister which received ferocious attacks from MPs, leading many to believe that he will be fired in any expected cabinet re-shuffle. He was named Minister of State for Information in December 2019.
The other 27 cabinet ministers which have so far delivered policy statements before parliament have received complimentary reports from committees.