Names are out
New editors-in-chief of state-owned newspapers have been selected amid heated objections from many journalists, reports Reem Leila
The Shura Council yesterday selected the editors-in-chief of state-owned newspapers. Abdel-Nasser Salama was chosen editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Ahram; Mohamed Hassan El-Banna of Al-Akhbar; Suleiman Qenawi in Akhbar Al-Youm; Gamal Abdel-Rehim in Al-Gomhouriya; Galal Nassar in Al-Ahram Weekly; Amal Fawzi for Nos Al-Donia magazine; Shaker Abdel-Fattah for the Middle East News Agency; Ibrahim Qaawoud for Akher Saa magazine; and Mohamed Khoraga at Al-Ahram Al-Masaai.
Until the final moments, journalists were still protesting against the Shura Council for the way it selected the editors. Journalists from several publications were demonstrating in front of the Shura Council while the council was announcing the names.
On the eve of the announcement, dozens of journalists stood in front of the Press Syndicate while holding candles and chanting slogans against the Shura Council and its criteria for choosing new editors-in-chief.
Many journalists are opposed to the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, or upper house, and the criteria the council put in selecting editors-in-chief. They also objected to the formation of the preliminary committee which chose the editors. The committee is composed of 14 members -- six from the Shura Council, four veteran journalists and four mass communication university professors.
The committee's criteria depended on whether the candidates were involved in corruption cases, if illicit gains were made through advertising and if they had gone to Israel on missions of normalisation. Other criteria included scientific certificates, experience in the field and managerial and leadership qualifications. Excluded from the list of nominations were journalists who worked as councilors for businessmen or governmental and private bodies and those who have not spent the past 10 years working in their press institution.
Another group of journalists along with heads of opposition, liberal and government newspapers demanded a new way of selecting editors, in order to reduce the influence of Islamist political forces which the journalists claim are trying to dominate all organisations in the country.
Alaa El-Attar, board member of the Press Syndicate told the Weekly journalists had reiterated their support for peaceful strikes and demonstrations to pressure the Shura Council. "The final announcement of the names of editors-in-chief will not be an obstacle to demonstrating and imposing our demands even if this were to happen later on," said El-Attar.
The journalists also agreed on holding a series of meetings between representatives of the Press Syndicate, political parties and revolutionary groups, to draft their recommendations on press legislation and to submit them to Egypt's Constituent Assembly, commissioned with drafting the country's new constitution.
According to El-Attar, a statement signed by almost 1,000 journalists was presented at the meeting, accusing the Shura Council of implementing the same tactics as those used by former president Hosni Mubarak's dismantled National Democratic Party. "Journalists are exerting their utmost effort to pressure the Shura Council to prepare a new law on stipulating that state-owned organisations should be affiliated to an independent national council which does not have any political preferences," said El-Attar.
In the same context, Hisham Younis, a member of the board of directors of the Press Syndicate, stated the council's attempt to interfere in the affairs of press institutions raises suspicion regarding "its desperate attempt to Islamicise state-owned organisations. Journalists will be forced to write what the Islamists like. If they did not, definitely they will be penalised," added Younis.
According to Younis, many of the new editors-in-chief belong to the Muslim Brotherhood or their ideologies lean towards them.
The Shura Council's decision was announced despite a lawsuit filed by journalists against the Shura Council over the selections. The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) adjourned the case to 1 October. The case was postponed as subsidiary judges failed to show up in court on 4 August, which prompted the head judge to adjourn the session. The State Commissioners body had earlier recommended that the court reject the appeal.