Saturday, August 11, 2012

The new heads of State owned papers are actually not that new nor that revolutionary

Ok lots of stuff took in Egypt this week , aside from Sinai and its implications  , aside from Morsi’s and his decisions ; the new heads of the famous State owned newspapers appointed by Shura council on Wednesday made it hard for the revolution to reach for the famous Press street in Cairo after all these months !!
The Shura council “with Islamist majority led by MB’s Freedom and Justice party” chose the new editors of chief of publications issued by the state owned publishing  corporations in Egypt. We are speaking here about 10s of publications from daily and weekly newspapers as well weekly and monthly magazines. Most of these publishing corporations suffer from financial and managerial corruption after decades of being controlled by the police state.
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purging the media was a demand 
These appointments were decided based on a mechanism that was rejected for months by journalists whether Pro-Revolutionaries or Non Revolutionaries.The mechanism was also rejected by the members of journalists syndicate. I will not waste your time and mine in explaining what the mechanism is but I will tell you that the Shura council member who heads the panel to choose the chiefs in editor is actually a person who has not worked in journalism or media !!
That mechanism adopted by Shura Council does not liberate the state owned press from the state’s control as we wish and want in the post Revolution Egypt , in fact now the State owned press will be controlled by the majority party whatever this party is accordingly.
Now despite all the people expected that the Shura council would choose MB to head the state owned newspapers , the heads of the major newspapers , the big three “Al Ahram , Al Akhbar and Al Gomhouria” to be accurate. But surprisingly they choose at least for Al Ahram and Gomhouria , the MB chose big Felol names aka former regime supporters. I do not know what kind of media purging is that !!!
Abdel Nasser Salamah , Al Ahram Daily newspaper’s new editor in Chief is a big Anti-#Jan25 Revolution outspoken journalist who has been attacking the revolution and describing the protesters as agents of foreign countries !! In early February 2011 he spoke about foreign agents in Tahrir square despite he believed that the majority in Tahrir square from the good youth that seek better political life !!
Of course after ousting Mubarak , the man shifted his loyalty to SCAF and continued to attack the protesters who protested against the council throughout 2011. It is enough to say that Salama used to appear in Tawfik Okasha´s TV show as constant guest and commentator !!


ِAl Ahram´s journalists are angry from his appointment and some of them actually began to protest against him. A group of journalists already started to organize silent protesting stands outside his office in the famous Press corporation on Thursday. 
The Egyptian Christians are also angry from his appointment as they can not forget his column during Al Omraneya clashes in 2010 where he attacked them and the church forcing Al Ahram to publish an official appology in very rare occasion before the revolution !!
The editor in chief of Al Gomhouria is Gamal Abdel Rahim whose name is well known among human rights activists and bloggers since 2009. Mr. Abdel Rahim is associated with his calls against Baha’is in Egypt , no one can forget how he praised the people in Sharoniya village in Sohag after burning the houses of Baha’is in the small village. Already not less than 6 human rights organizations filed a complain against him at the Public prosecutor office during that time accusing him of inciting attack against Baha'is
 As a member of the journalists syndicate’s council in 2009 , Abdel Rahim continued his crusade against the Baha’is and stopped a conference for religious freedom at the Syndicate by force !! I think Abdel Rahim is still a member in syndicate’s council.
Now among journalists Abdel Rahim is well known for his cooperation with the State security !! Not a big surprise.
Any how it seems that Abdel Rahim and Salama enjoy too much religious tolerance !!
I could not find anything related to the new  editor in Chief of Al Akhbar newspaper “Mohamed Hassan El Bana” , in fact no one knows anything about him when I checked. I do not why he was chosen when Al Akhbar newspaper. Egyptian tweeps say sarcastically that Mohamed Hassan El Bana was chosen because of his name “Hassan El Bana” which is identical to the late founder of MB’s name, the famous Hassan El Bana. I do not know if he is related to him or not. The only thing I know about him that he is from the children of Akhbar Al Youm.
Interestingly enough columnist and writer Abla El Rowainy "Former editor in chief of Akhbar Literature" found out that her Op-ed in Akhbar newpspaper about the Press and the new appointment was alerted and a sentence condemning what she believes an attempt of Muslim brotherhood to control press was removed without her knowledge or approval. 
Despite her success as an editor in chief of that important newspaper specialized in literature and arts , El Rowainy is dismissed from her position and journalist Magdy Afifi was appointed as editor in chief of chief to Akhbar Literature. Afifi was the deputy editor in chief of Akhbar Al Youm in time of Mubarak which means was granted the approval of state security. 
As time changes , it was not a big change to find Afifi praising Sheikh Safwat Hegazy describing him as a revolutionary icon !!I can not deny Hegazy´s role in the early 18 days of revolution in Tahrir square but I can not forget how he attacked later the revolution´s youth and protesters won the majority in the parliament. " Not even real majority !" 
Needless to say she does not like or support Muslim brotherhood yet she is good in her position !! The intellectuals believe that Afifi's appointment is like a return to the dark ages. BY the way Afifi used to work in Oman and he seems to be not that popular among the journalists there. 
The new head of Akhbar Al Youm is an Islamist , Soliman El Qenawy used to head a publication issued by Al Azhar called “Al Azhar voice”
Journalists and observers speak about the Muslim brotherhood’s control , well aside from Akhbar Al Youm newspaper I can not see anyone except the old regime remnants who used to work with State security.
On Tuesday columnists and journalists in state owned and independent as well partisan papers decided to object the appointments by leaving their columns blank. On Thursday several columnists in Al Masry Al Youm , Al Watan and Youm 7 have left their column blank like Magdy El Gald, Amr Hamzawy , Moatez Abdel Fatah and Mohamd Salmaway.
Now journalists accuse the Muslim brotherhood of taking over the press in Egypt despite it seems that they did not choose MB journalists to head major papers , still they chose men who are ready to sell their mamas for authority whoever the president is.
The state owned press corporations were used as a tool to control the media and manipulate the public awareness since 1960s and the nationalization policies, if you are true revolutionary or even true reformist who believes in gradual changes ; setting these corporations free should be from priorities if you want true democracy. Other than that you do not want democracy but just want to take over power using democracy.
Now at least 5 of the major state owned press corporations were privately owned and nationalised in 1960s to suffer from ups and downs reaching to the threat of bankruptcy especially in the decline of the printed press.
Some say that we should privatise these corporations and I totally disagree with that suggestion because we are replacing the State controlled media with the money controlled media. There is another solution several journalists working in these corporations : They own these corporations like some sort of worker cooperative ownership. 
There is another suggestion is to turn these state owned corporations in to a semi-autonomous public service corporations like the BBC.  I support this suggestion.
Of course as someone who knows the history of state owned press corporations , I feel sad because we have treasures and talents that need to be free to the pubic and not owned by the state or the regime or the ruling party but by the public. 

5 comments:

  1. keep up the pressure but you need to understand if anything direct had been done, on this and other issues, we would have had a coup. A slow inch by inch change process is the only peacful way. However the danger is losing ones way along the road so public pressure and vigilance albeit naive is important.

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  2. Freedom of the press is an essential pillar of democratic countries, unfortunately the newly elected government has missed a golden opportunity to rectify 60 years of state controlled press media.

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  3. IF Journalists could keep the pressure till turning state owned corporations in to a semi-autonomous public service corporations, it gonna be the biggest step towards Freedom of Press and the Freedom of information transfer

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  4. --- and the MB shows its true colors already. Al Dostour under investigation for "insulting the President". Not much change since NDP.

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  5. A lot of people talking about the freedom of press, which something important. However the Press code of conduct and code of ethics is something is equally important and vital. In fact both needs each other to survive.

    The three major state owned news papers lacked respect for so long for both codes (in any form, formal or informal). They were fully steered and served the ruling party political and media agenda and at the same time had no respect for any code of conduct or code of ethics.

    The fundamental problem is how heads of these 3 newspapers (and others) are appointed. Appointment by the Shura council appointment will remain the door from which all sins cross to the press system.

    What would be better is the Shura council, supported by Jurisdiction System, approve candidates applications to compete in open elections in each press house only for members/staff. The term should be restricted (e.g. 4 years) and the elected chief editor has no rights to appoint staff in any position that deal with financials (i.e. CFO, head of Accounts...etc).

    The criteria for approving an applications should be simple: 1) Worked for 5 years in the newspaper 2) have either academic qualification + number of experience years as journalist or have more number of experience years as journalist if he doesn't have the academic qualification, 3) no criminal record or active lawsuit in court, 4) Doesn't hold any other nationality 5) file a financial position declaration and grant access for government auditors to his personal finances 6) Pass on exam in Arabic Language (so we don't get some one who can't speak neither write a proper in Arabic). Plain, simple, objective criteria is very important.

    The Shura council role should become mentoring the adherence to code of ethics and code of conduct and in case they conclude that there is potential violation they must consult with an appointed judge to review from legal point of view the legal boundaries and decide on / or recommend the proceedings. Such proceedings shouldn't be of punishment nature (jail, public executions..etc) unless the violation is clearly defined under the criminal law. The proceedings is restricted to warnings, suspension of the person for a certain period of time.

    The main objective is these press houses should become the voice of tax payers, ordinary people, and exercise its role in feeding reliable information / knowledge sharing in both directions (i.e. from state bodies and from ordinary street).

    All news should be for information sharing... anything beyond that (e.g. praising the president visit to a school) shouldn't be allowed. Elected members of the state (all levels) should be granted access to talk about their own agenda, achievement, and plans against a fees to paid and the article should be clearly marked as paid press article. At the same time, journalist and ordinary people should be granted right to respond and criticize such paid articles published... at no costs.

    I believe this would bring balance, equality, freedom of press / expression. We will not have elected majority deciding on who head these institutions. We will not have someone brainwashing public opinion with trash articles neither we will have someone bringing down the level of public knowledge down to sea bed. We will not have Journalist crossing the thin line between freedom of press and taboo/red lines (religion, ethnic, moral, ethical...etc). Neither we will have Journalist dealing with rumors instead of dealing with facts, qualified statements, and well researched news.

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