MPs were taken by surprise on Tuesday when an additional schedule of debate showed that they must set a date for discussing a parliamentary questioning directed at Minister of Information Osama Heikal, accusing him of negligence, poor performance, and committing a plethora of financial and administrative offences in violation of the constitution and the law.
The questioning request, submitted by Nader Mostafa, the deputy chairman of the House’s Media and Culture Committee, is based on a report prepared by the committee directing scathing attacks against Heikal and accusing him of poor performance and financial and administrative wrongdoing.
The report recommended that the Information Ministry be scrapped because it is redundant and a waste of public money.
The report said Heikal’s policy statement, delivered before parliament on 19 January, was rejected by MPs because “Heikal failed to achieve the objectives of his ministry and that he violated a number of financial and administrative regulations.”
The report explained the fact that Heikal works also as chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) is a constitutional and legal offence.
“This goes against Article 166 of the constitution and 79 of the joint-stock companies’ law,” said the report, adding that the information ministry’s budget cost the state EGP 12 million over the last six months and that Heikal should pay back all the money he obtained from the two posts — as minister of information and chairman of the EMPC.
The report also charged 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.”
The House’s Media and Culture Committee report was originally scheduled to be discussed last January, but the House Speaker, Hanafi Gibali, told MPs on 14 February that he had received a request from Heikal asking that the discussion of the report be postponed because he needed some time to prepare complete and detailed responses to the report’s critical points.
Tamer Abdel-Qader, secretary-general of the Media and Culture Committee, told reporters on Monday that the report is expected to be discussed on Tuesday.
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.
Informed sources said that, if discussed, the “parliamentary interpellation” could end up asking MPs to withdraw confidence from Heikal. To avoid such a scenario, Heikal might choose to resign from office.