Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Rude remark

The information minister has come under fire following something impolite he told a female journalist, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

Since he took the ministerial post last year, Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maksoud has been the source of public criticism because of statements that cross the red line. He says his statements are usually misinterpreted or taken out of context, however, Abdel-Maksoud could not get out of this latest faux pas easily. On Saturday he verbally harassed a female reporter at a public event. His critics say the way in which he talked to the reporter may instigate legal action against him.

On Saturday, and while the minister was discussing press freedom at a conference held at the Faculty of Mass Communication in Cairo University, Nada Mohamed asked him “Mr Minister, where is this freedom when journalists are dying and getting beaten everywhere?” The minister replied: “Come here and I’ll tell you where,” which in Egyptian colloquial Arabic has a sexual connotation.

“The minister totally shocked me. I expected a professional and objective answer to my question, or even an open debate on the crisis of press freedom,” Mohamed wrote in the independent Al-Fagr newspaper.

Reacting to the minister’s statements, hundreds of journalists staged a sit-in protest in front of the Press Syndicate, demanding the dismissal of Abdel-Maksoud.

“We demand an official apology from the government. The profession of journalism has been insulted by having such a minister,” said Khaled Al-Balshi, a board member in the Press Syndicate during the protest.

Al-Balshi added that the silence of President Mohamed Morsi and his Prime Minister Hisham Kandil means that “they accept what Abdel-Maksoud did.”

Mohamed told the Sky News Arabic website that she would not “shut up” over the humiliation she says the minister caused her.

“I am consulting a lawyer to decide on taking legal action against him,” she said.

Mohamed considered the minister’s response “humiliating”. “The minister disregarded all the ethics of the profession and the etiquette of dealing with others. His very strange response was disrespectful to the attendees, to the event and to his post,” she said.

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) insisted that the prime minister issue a formal apology and sack Abdel-Maksoud for the verbal assault.

Abdel-Maksoud’s statements were not the first time to create controversy. In September last year and when appearing on the TV show “The Arab Street” in Dubai with Syrian television presenter Zeina Yazigi, Yazigi said she was about to present recordings of opinions of various journalists. The minister said, “I hope they’re not as hot as you.”

“My questions are hot but I am cold Mr Minister,” Yazigi responded at the time.

“This is the second time that the minister says things bearing sexual connotations. Why isn’t he fired or held accountable,” ANHRI’s statement said.

The statement added that the words used by the minister are not used on the Egyptian street except in cases of harassment.

“It is unacceptable that these words are used by a minister who is supposed to be leading the largest media institution in the country.”

The minister, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, received harsh criticism on social networking websites, while some demanded his dismissal after a video of the incident was widely shared.

“He does not really know how to talk to ladies. So how would someone like him be appointed as a minister of information?” asked writer Alaa Al-Aswani on his Twitter account.

Criticism also came from senior Salafi leaders including Yosri Hammad, chairman of the Salafist Watan Party who described Abdel-Maksoud’s statement as “immoral and irresponsible”.

“The minister who cannot act as a professional has to leave immediately. Enough scandals,” he said.

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