Saturday,25 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1342, (27 April - 3 May 2017)
Saturday,25 November, 2017
Issue 1342, (27 April - 3 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The most pressing issues

Members of the National Press Organisation contemplate a major shake-up of state-owned papers

NPO’s members during their meeting on Monday
NPO’s members during their meeting on Monday

The newly-formed National Press Organisation (NPO) will meet on Saturday to discuss new legislation regulating the conditions of the media and press. Chairman Karam Gabr said the meeting of the NPO, which replaces the Higher Press Council, will also debate the selection of new chairmen of state-owned papers and editors of their publications.

Alaa Thabet, a member of NPO’s board and editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram Al-Masaai, told reporters that a long anticipated shake-up is expected to involve 62 press figures. “Eight board chairmen will be selected and up to 54 editors-in-chief could be named,” said Thabet.

Thabet said NPO board members were likely to prioritise the selection of new chairmen and the naming of editors-in-chief could be postponed until a new general press and media law is issued.

“The current law, as long as it is still in effect, can be used to name board chairmen of national press organisations. We do not need to wait for the new general press law to be passed,” said Gabr.

The NPO’s first meeting on Monday reviewed the criteria which will be used in selecting new board chairmen and editors-in-chief. “The next meeting on Saturday will be devoted to holding more discussions on the selection criteria,” said Gabr. “In general, new board chairmen and editors-in-chief should be highly-qualified, widely experienced, visionary, and have credible reform plans.”

He added that the “security apparatuses’ only input will be to ensure new press leaders have not been involved in any activity that is harmful to national security.”

Gabr dismissed press reports that the chairmen of some national press organisations had already been chosen by the NPO.

“I have no idea about these reports. What I do know is that the opinions of a number of state bodies will be canvassed before we reach a final decision. I have high hopes that the new press leaders will be highly qualified in professional and financial terms.”

The NPO has already named Hesham Lotfy Salaam as new board chairman of Al-Ahram press establishment. Salaam replaces Ahmed Al-Sayed Al-Naggar who resigned on 19 April. Al-Naggar was appointed head of Al-Ahram on 1 January 2014.

Salaam, a former chairman of Al-Ahram Advertising Agency, said in a meeting on Monday that Al-Ahram, the oldest press establishment in Egypt and the Arab world, would see a lot of changes in the near future.

Three Al-Ahram journalists sit on the NPO — Mohamed Abdel-Hadi, editor of Al-Ahram; Diaa Rashwan, head of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and Alaa Thabet, editor of Al-Ahram Al-Masaai — a fact that has led some commentators to raise concerns about a possible conflict of interests.

Salah Eissa, a former member of the now defunct Higher Press Council and editor-in-chief of Cairo magazine, said in a TV interview on Monday that the law on the regulation of the press (Law 92/2016) does not prevent a single journalist occupying two posts simultaneously. “Nor,” said Eissa, “does the law prevent members of the NPO from retaining their jobs as editors-in-chief or board chairmen.”

The only stipulation, he pointed out, is that the head and secretary-general of the NPO have no other jobs.

“We have seen how conflicts can erupt between board chairmen and editors-in-chief in national press organisations — particularly in Al-Ahram. The NPO needs to make sure that there is greater harmony in terms of the new selection of press leaders in order to guarantee financial and professional reforms are implemented efficiently,” said Eissa.

On new legislation Gabr said “the NPO was given two months — until 19 May — to formulate its opinions on the new law.”

The 127-article press and media law includes six chapters on press freedoms, the duties of journalists, the ownership and regulation of national press organisations.

“Under the current press law [Law 96/1996] the now defunct Shura Council, and later the Higher Press Council, were entrusted with selecting the heads of publications,” says Eissa. “I would recommend that the selection of new press leaders comes after the new general law on the press and media is passed by parliament.”

Mustafa Bakri, owner of Al-Osboa newspaper and an independent MP, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he believes that the NPO should give priority to discussing the new law and reviewing the 47-year-old law that regulates the Press Syndicate. “I also hope the NPO will focus on doing its main job which is to overhaul the finances of national press organisations.”

“It would constitute a clear conflict of interest for some members of the NPO to occupy leading positions in national press organisations,” insists Bakri.

“I think board chairmen should be experts in business administration and financial reform while those selected as editors-in-chief should be reputable journalists with wide experience and an independent mentality.”

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