Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

New media rules

New criteria have been set by the Supreme Press Council for choosing the editors-in-chief of the country’s state-owned publications, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Supreme Press Council (SPC) has begun receiving applications for the posts of editors-in-chief of the state-owned newspapers. Candidates will be able to submit their documents in the week beginning 2 February, and as Al-Ahram Weekly went to press more than 70 applicants had submitted their papers.

For its part, the Council has also adopted new criteria for choosing the editors-in-chief of the national papers, and these were announced last week. Fifty-three current editors-in-chief of the eight state-owned newspaper organisations are expected to be changed.  

According to the Council’s new criteria, any candidate who considers himself to be qualified may now present himself for consideration. The board chairman of press organisations, as well as members of the SPC, will also have the right to make nominations.

Anyone wanting to put their name forward is expected to have not less than 10 years’ experience, not to have been found guilty of corrupting the country’s political life, and not to have set out in his writings opinions supporting normalisation with Israel. Editor-in-chief positions are now expected to last three years.

Salah Eissa, deputy chairman of the SPC, said that after the candidates had submitted their applications a committee would screen candidates for the posts. “The screened individuals will be referred to another committee formed of members of the SPC, which will make the final selections,” he said. After screening, the committee will come up with a short list comprising three nominees for the daily publications and two for the weekly ones.

However, many of Egypt’s journalists are against the new system. “The regulations which the Council has set do not suit all journalists,” said Yehia Qallash of the Press Syndicate. “The criteria remind us of the age of Safwat Al-Sherif, the former speaker of the Shura Council. In fact, the criteria are basically no criteria,” he added.  

Qallash said that there were fears that editors appointed under the new system would be loyalists to the regime. “No one can hide the fact that many journalists have submitted their papers just to be part of the new ruling regime. They are hypocrites and poor journalists, as they are simply trying to protect themselves,” he said.

Eissa said that the new rules were due to the deteriorating financial and administrative conditions of the newspapers, which had resulted from the interference of their management and former editors-in-chief. “Those who are over 60 at the time of submitting their applications will not be accepted. Three nominees are required for each publication, unlike under the previous system that limited the number of candidates to only one,” he added.

Current editors-in-chief whose term has not yet finished must re-apply to the Council. “If they do not re-apply themselves, either the board chairman or the Council’s members can nominate them,” Eissa said.

Gamal Fahmi, a Press Syndicate council member, agreed with Qallash, describing the new criteria as “humiliating and ridiculous.” The “criteria set by the current Council are unprofessional and are a product of ‘left-overs’ from the previous Mubarak regime. The intention is that they should be manipulated for their own advantage. They are inventing a system that is unknown to the rest of the world, in which the press is managed like an institution dedicated to serving the interests of the ruling party by subjecting it to the control of the Council.”

However, Eissa disagreed, saying that the new criteria were based on the terms of the new constitution. After the preliminary selection, eligible nominees will be subject to direct balloting, he said. “In cases where several nominees win the same number of votes, they will be subject to a lot system to select the winner,” he explained. The results will be announced in the first week of March.

Over the next week, the head of the SPC will announce the formation of the committee responsible for choosing future editors-in-chief. “Candidates will not have to submit a file of their work. Anyone having experience in a certain publication for more than 10 years will have hundreds of articles in his name,” Eissa said.

According to Eissa, the new criteria will help select professional calibre editors, unlike those appointed under the one-year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. “In the past, we saw the nomination of ordinary reporters who suddenly became editors-in-chief without any real prior experience in leading posts,” Eissa added.

The Council will now be responsible for appointing the editors-in-chief as well as the board of directors of the state-owned newspapers. This will be unlike during the previous Brotherhood regime, when a 14-member committee of the now-dismantled Shura Council hired journalists to serve the then government’s agenda.

“Now each publication will have three candidates who will fairly contest the post,” Eissa concluded.

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