Egypt MPs accuse information minister of poor performance, negligence: Report
Gamal Essam El-Din, , Thursday 11 Feb 2021
The MPs criticised Heikal for not building a national media strategy to fight extremism and contain rumours against the state

An eight-page report issued by the Media and Culture Committee at the House of Representatives accused Minister of Information Osama Heikal of poor performance and negligence.

The report, released on Wednesday night and scheduled to be discussed before parliament in a plenary session next Sunday, has also rejected Heikal's policy statement delivered before parliament on 19 January.

"The majority of the committee's members decided at the end of their discussion to reject the minister of information's statement, all insisting that the minister failed to achieve the objectives of the ministry, not to mention that he violated administrative and financial regulations," said the report.

The report said the fact that Heikal also works as chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) is a constitutional and legal offence. "This goes against Article 166 of the constitution and Article 79 of the joint-stock companies' law," said the report.

The report complained that '"it is really deplorable that since he came to office in December 2019, the minister of information has failed to achieve anything significant to improve the financial performance of the EMPC, and that the only thing he did was that he used his position as head of the EMPC to raise his salary to LE100,000 per month," said the report.

The report also stated that Heikal has done a lot of 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, adding that "Heikal made another bad announcement when he claimed that the Ethiopian media excelled the Egyptian one in its coverage of the GERD negotiations in Washington last year.

"This is a very bad statement which did a lot of political damage to the state and local media authorities."

According to the report, Heikal's statements raised conflicts between Heikal and Egyptian journalists and media institutions.

"These conflicts denied the Egyptian state the ability to forge a national media strategy that can defend its interests in the face of foreign hostile media outlets," said the report.

It added that "Heikal should have coordinated with local media institutions to settle the debts of the National Press Organisation and the National Media Organisation and to improve the performance of the national radio and television – publicly known as Maspero."

The MPs also criticised Heikal for not building a national media strategy capable of fighting extremist ideologies, containing rumours against the state, and raise the awareness of citizens of the danger of such rumours.

The report said it will not give a final say on whether the information ministry should be scrapped.

"This decision should be left to senior politicians to decide," said the report.

Deputy Chairman of Parliament's Media and Culture Committee Tamer Abdel-Qader said in a TV interview on Wednesday night that all MPs advise that the information ministry be cancelled.

"It is redundant and a waste of public funds," said Abdel-Qader, indicating that the committee's report reveals that the information ministry cost the state LE12 million without offering anything in return.