Prominent media figures protest Shura Council role in editor selection

Prominent media figures protest Shura Council role in editor selection

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Thu, 05/07/2012 - 11:40

Several prominent media figures are adding their voices to protests against the Shura Council process of selecting editors to lead state-run publications.

They also expressed fears the Muslim Brotherhood would take control of state newspapers.

“It’s time for the state to release its grip on media and state-run newspapers,” Hamdeen Sabbahi, a former presidential candidate and editor-in-chief of party newspaper Al-Karama, wrote on Twitter.  

A Shura Council committee including several media figures opened the nomination process for chief editors of state-run papers on Tuesday based on criteria it had set.  

“I would call for postponing the decision, until [a new] constitution determines the Shura Council’s status,” Sabbahi tweeted.

Dozens of journalists protested outside the Journalists Syndicate Thursday, including deputy syndicate head Gamal Fahmy, syndicate council member Hesham Wanees and the union's former head Yehya Qallash.

The participants said they planned to march on Sunday from the headquarters of state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper to the Shura Council.

Selecting state media heads was also the purview of the upper house of Parliament under former President Hosni Mubarak, whose administration held a tight grip on official media channels.

Makram Mohamed Ahmed, another former head of the Journalists Syndicate, claimed the Shura Council wants to replace Mubarak's disbanded National Democratic Party with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

The council, Ahmed told London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper Thursday, is taking "revenge against journalists considered to have smeared the reputations of the dissolved Parliament’s members.”

Last month the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled an election law unconstitutional, resulting in the dissolution of the People's Assembly. No order has been given to dissolve the Shura Council, whose members were elected under the same law.

Makram said the issue is not about the selection standards, but the way they are applied.

Journalists Syndicate head Mamdouh al-Wali said last month that there was no disagreement between the Shura Council and the syndicate regarding the selection criteria.

"Ahmed Fahmy, Shura Council speaker, has responded to all the demands of the Journalists Syndicate. This includes our demand for the presence of eight journalist members in the committee that is choosing the editors-in-chief, alongside six Shura members," Wali told Al-Masry Al-Youm in June.

"The Shura Council speaker has also responded to a number of other demands, particularly the abolition of a number of criteria rejected by the union, including that the editor-in-chief should have experience in financial matters, should not be suspected of ties with foreign countries and should provide samples of past work," he added.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm