A new law creating three regulatory bodies to oversee all media outlets in Egypt was ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on 26 December. The 91-article law, approved by parliament on 14 September, has already been revised by the State Council's Department of Fatwas and Legislation.
Osama Heikal, head of parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, said the Institutional Regulation of the Press and the Media Law had been ratified by Al-Sisi moves will be taken to create the three regulatory bodies within one month. "The three bodies will be the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR), the National Press Organisation (NPO), and the National Media Organisation (NMO)," said Heikal.
The NPO, explained Heikal, will replace the current Higher Press Council, taking charge of supervising state-owned press organisations. The NPO will be also responsible for selecting board chairmen and the editors of state-owned publications.
The NMO will replace the current Radio and Television Union (RTU), and will be mandated with overseeing state-owned audio-visual, radio and digital media institutions in a manner that guarantees their independence, professionalism and profitability.
The HCMR will take charge of supervising the general performance of the media in Egypt.
Following a meeting with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail on 26 December Heikal said "setting up the boards of the three regulatory bodies should be completed within one month."
“Before the formation of the boards can be completed a new law establishing a syndicate for media workers needs to be ratified by President Al-Sisi. This is important because the media regulatory bodies law stipulates a number of seats on the boards of these bodies be occupied by candidates nominated by the new syndicate of media workers."
Hamdi Al-Konayesi, a former head of Egypt's Radio and Television Union, is hoping the law establishing the syndicate of media workers is ratified by Al-Sisi and published in the official gazette in the next few days.
Under the Institutional Regulation of the Press and the Media Law the boards of the three media regulatory bodies must comprise 13 members three of whom are to be selected by the president (including the head), two by parliament, two by the syndicate of media workers, two by the board of the Press Syndicate, one by the State Council, one by the Anti-Trust and Competition Protection Agency, one by the National Agency for Telecommunication Regulation and one by the Higher Council of Universities.
The law also states that if any of the above fail to name nominees within a fixed period parliament will be tasked with selecting replacements.
Tamer Abdel-Kader, a member of parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities committee, told reporters this week that once the law on the syndicate of media workers is ratified by the president and the board of this syndicate is formed the cabinet should take immediate steps to ensure all institutions mandated to nominate board members do so.
Abdel-Kader also revealed that it will be left to parliament's General Secretariat, which includes the speaker, his two deputies and the heads of parliamentary committees, to agree the names of parliament's two nominees for each of the boards. "The law states that these two nominees should be high-profile public figures with prestigious track records and proven experience in media and journalism," said Abdel-Kader.
According to Heikal, once the boards of the three media regulatory bodies are created their first job will be to select new heads of the boards of state-owned press organisations and chief editors of their affiliated publications. "They will also be asked for input on a unified media law which will seek to place national press organisations back on sound foundations," said Heikal.
Hanan Fikri, a member of the board of the Press Syndicate, said plenary meetings will be held to decide on the Syndicate’s own list of nominees forthe boards of the three bodies.
"Under the law the board of the Press Syndicate can select four nominees of which two will be selected," said Fikri, "the board of the Press
Syndicate will meet to select its nominees once it receives official notification from the cabinet."
Salah Eissa, secretary-general of the Higher Press Council, announced last week that until the board of the NPO is formed the council will continue performing its duties.
"These include helping national press organisations overcome their financial problems which have been exacerbated following the devaluation of the Egyptian pound," says Eissa.
Rumours are rife that Al-Sisi will nominate journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed as head of the NPO. Ahmed, a former head of the Press Syndicate and the state-owned Al-Hilal Press Organisation, is widely viewed as a moderate figure.