Egypt's Shura Council uses NDP-regime tactics: Press syndicate members

Ahram Online, Monday 11 Jun 2012

Journalists' Syndicate members storm out of meeting with Islamist-dominated upper house protesting manipulation of state-media appointments; FJP spokesman defends council

Meeting between Shura Council and Members of the press syndicate brings complications (Photo: Ahram Archives)

Seven board members of the Journalists' Syndicate withdrew from a Sunday meeting with the speaker of Egypt's Shura Council, Brotherhood MP Ahmed Fahmy, after objecting to the upper house's "excessive" interference in the Supreme Press Council, responsible for appointing editors-in-chief of state-owned media.

Only five members of the press syndicate remained for the duration of the meeting including Mamdouh El-Wali, head of the syndicate.

The upper house of Egypt's Parliament, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafist Nour Party, oversees the press council, of which the syndicate board is a part.

In addition, the current description of appointment criteria of state-newspaper editors is written by a separate sub-committee appointed by the Shura Council.

The objecting board members consequently demanded a new mandate of how key editors are chosen, in order to reduce the influence of the Islamist forces, who hold the majority of seats in the upper house.

A statement signed by almost a thousand journalists was presented at the meeting, accusing the Shura Council of implementing the same controlling tactics of former president Mubarak's now defunct National Democratic Party.

The document furthermore warned of re-embracing of what it described as "pre-January 25 Revolution regime policies" which could lead to the removal of reforms the press community have long struggled to put in place.

Syndicate members also demanded the dismissal of some of the current chief editors as they were appointed before the Egyptian uprising by Safwat El-Sharif, former Shura Council speaker and secretary-general of the dissolved NDP.

Khaled El-Meeri, member of the board of the Journalists' Syndicate announced that the signed document was created to prevent parliament's upper house and its sub-committee from implementing policy without consulting the syndicate.

El-Meeri accused the Shura Council of "wanting the Journalists' Syndicate to be at its service in order to facilitate its domination of state-owned newspapers", stressing that the journalists have the right to have a say on the appointments of editors.

Aly Fath El-Bab a representative of the FJP in the Shura Council, consequently denied the accusations levelled against the upper house and his Islamist party in a press statement Monday.

"The council does not monopolise the description of criteria for hiring editors," El-Bab said, "We do not seek control over the public press, the [FJP] party has its own newspaper."

El-Bab emphasised that the council supports freedom of expression, confirming that all the current guidelines for editorship appointments were established after a series of sessions that included members of the press syndicate, experts and scholars.

El-Wali defended the Shura Council in Sunday's meeting by stating that the upper house, upon the requests of journalists, would not announce the names of those running for media posts.  

He added that appeals against those running for editorship would not be looked into, in order to preserve "a friendly" atmosphere within the various state-news institutions.

The meeting approved an increase in the number of experts and media scholars within the Shura Council's sub-committee. The committee is tasked with determining the criteria for appointing editors will now consist of eight journalists in addition to six members of the Shura Council.

During the meeting, the upper house of parliament passed seven measures and three conditions for hiring new chief editors including implementing an age limit and a minimum requirement of 15 years experience.

The Shura Council also stressed that no chief editor will be appointed if he was proven to be involved in a corruption case or had promoted normalised relations with Israel.

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