Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Newspaper reshuffle

The cabinet approved a presidential decree amending a law governing the press, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last week, interim Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi referred the amended law governing the press, after it was approved by the cabinet, back to interim President Adli Mansour. The new amendment to Law 96/1996 allows the Supreme Press Council (SPC) to elect chairmen and editors of state-owned newspapers.

According to Article 68 of Press Law 96/1996, the SPC stipulates that council membership lasts for four years and can be renewed. After being amended the law included a clause which allows the SPC, which is operating in a transitional period, to end the term of national and state-owned newspaper chairmen and chief editors and elect new ones. This authority can only be used once, according to the added clause.

Veteran writer Salah Eissa, who is deputy head of the SPC, said the names of new chairmen and chief editors of national and state-owned newspapers will be announced after two weeks. “The selection will be done via secret ballot. Nominees were chosen by members of the SPC and media experts. The new chairmen and editors-in-chief who will be elected will stay for two years,” said Eissa.

Eissa said that, according to the approved amendments of the press law, after the presidential and parliamentarian elections the National Press Council and the National Broadcast Council will be created. “New laws will be stipulated in order to prevent or at least limit corruption prevailing in state-owned newspapers. The new organisation will substitute the current SPC and the annulled Shura Council, as newspapers will be affiliated to it,” added Eissa.

In the same context, Diaa Rashwan, head of the Press Syndicate, stated that the council proposed the added clause to the cabinet. He added that such an authority would end with the end of the council’s term. “This would allow us to replace chairmen and editors-in-chief elected by the Muslim Brotherhood when president Mohamed Morsi was in power,” Rashwan said. “It would allow us to appoint appropriate and professional leaders for national and state-owned newspapers.”

Rashwan said the now dismantled Shura Council had previously formed the SPC and appointed chairmen and chief editors for state-owned newspapers upon Morsi’s election as president in 2012. “Both appointments were widely criticised, especially because they included a large number of Islamist figures,” said Rashwan.

In August, Mansour ratified a bill drafted by the cabinet ordering the formation of the current interim SPC to replace one formed in 2012, in response to demands of the Press Syndicate. Hanan Fekri, syndicate board member, said the syndicate agreed on forming an interim council, comprising of only 15 members instead of the old 50.

Both Eissa and Rashwan stated there was a high possibility of converting the current state-owned newspapers into holding companies. It was a “great achievement”, according to Eissa, for the current SPC to convince the 50-member constituent assembly to include in the constitution articles 70, 71 and 72 regarding the press. “Imprisonment for journalists has been cancelled. Such defamation charges would be penalised by a fine ranging from LE10,000 to LE30,000. There will be no confiscation of newspapers. Newspapers will have independent political and economic identities in order to end the control of executive authorities over them,” explained Eissa.

Rashwan added that if newspapers are converted into holding companies, all rights of reporters and workers will be preserved. “No one will have the right to terminate the contract of any newspaper employee. This will be guaranteed by the power of the law of the National Press Council and the National Broadcast Council,” said Rashwan.  

At the same time, Fekri believes that the current amendment, although positive, was insufficient. “Corruption prevails in most state-owned newspapers, thus needing more firm regulations. I hope this would be applicable when the law of the newly created National Press Council is issued,” said Fekri.

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