Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1401, (12 - 18 July 2018)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1401, (12 - 18 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

57357 gag order backfires

Prosecutors summon HCMR head Makram Mohamed Ahmed for questioning over a media gag order

Makram Mohamed Ahmed, head of the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR), was summoned on Saturday by Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek for questioning by the State Security Prosecution over the gag order he placed on reports into the controversy currently engulfing the 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital, reports Ahmed Morsy.

Ahmed’s gag order, which banned reports into ongoing investigations relating to the 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital and threatened legal action against any party violating the ban, is not only “ineffective”, said the office of Prosecutor-General Sadek, but “violates the law”.

On Saturday a statement issued by the prosecutor-general’s office said the HCMR “is authorised to protect the freedom of the press and the citizen’s right to have a free press within a professional framework” but has no further jurisdiction. Ahmed had therefore been summoned for investigations before the Supreme State Security Prosecution for “violating the law and infringing on the jurisdiction of the public prosecution”.

The prosecutor-general then slammed a gag order on the investigation into Ahmed’s own ban on reporting.

In response to the summons the HCMR issued a statement insisting Ahmed’s decision to ban media reporting of the 57357 Hospital case “fell under the privileges granted him by Law 92/2016”. The statement stressed Ahmed was ready to be questioned.

Law 92/2016 states the HCMR is an independent entity in charge of regulating audio, visual, digital and print media publications.

“The gag order taken by Ahmed referenced ongoing investigations by the fact-checking committee formed by order of the minister of social solidarity,” said the statement. It stressed that Ahmed’s decision was not intended to overpass any judicial authority or interfere in judicial affairs.

The Press Syndicate on Sunday said it supported the HCMR head and Press Syndicate Chairman  Abdel-Mohsen Salama, together with a lawyer from the syndicate, would attend Ahmed’s questioning.

The controversy currently engulfing the hospital began last month when articles written by well-known screenwriter and columnist Wahid Hamed were published in Al-Masry Al-Youm alleging financial irregularities and the mismanagement of donations at the 57357 Hospital.

The 57357 Hospital, named after the bank code to which donations can be made, was founded in 2007. It treats children with cancer and is entirely funded by charitable donations. It organises advertising campaigns to raise money to pay for treatments and cover the salaries of staff.

Hamed’s articles accused the hospital of spending more money on advertising than on treating its patients. Hamed also argued it was unethical to feature sick children and their families in televised ads in order to raise funds.

The hospital has denied all the allegations against it. It issued a statement saying it had compiled a comprehensive list of all donations and expenditures which has been sent to the relevant authorities.

The Social Solidarity Ministry formed a fact-finding committee in late June to investigate the allegations.

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