Egypt gives free hand to media, says minister

March 18, 2013 - 3:57:12 am

From left: Khadija Bengana, Presenter, Al Jazeera Arabic; Salah Abdel Maqsoud, Information Minister of Egypt; Mustafa Al Khalfi, Communication Minister of Morocco; Mostafa Souag, Managing Director, Al Jazeera Channel; David Hearst, Chief Foreign Leader Writer, the Guardian; and Abdel Wahab Badrakhan, Lebanese Journalist and Political Commentator during the Al Jazeera Forum yesterday. (Salim Matramkot)

DOHA: A whopping 6bn Egyptian pounds was invested in private television channels in the post-revolution Egypt last year and many of these have been controlled by remnants of the old regime, the Al Jazeera Forum at Sheraton Doha was told yesterday.

Addressing a session on ‘transformation of media in emerging democracies in the region,” Egyptian Minister of Information Salah Abdel Maqsoud said that the Islamist-led government had given a free hand to the media which has resulted in the establishment of several new television channels that are not favourable to the ruling party.

“Most of the new channels are controlled by private businessmen or remnants of the previous regime. Some journalists working with Egyptian television channels are now earning more than what Al Jazeera journalists are getting. There are journalists who earn more than 1m Egyptian pounds a year,” said Maqsoud. 

He said even in public media, majority of the shares — 65 percent — have been held by the opposition, while pro-government shares account for only 35 percent.

Reacting to complaints from the audience about the counter-revolutionary stance of many Egyptian TV channels, Masqoud said the government had no plans to control them.

“Let the world see how the Islamists are treating their opponents,” he said, while admitting that “many people are hurt  by press freedom in Egypt which they believe has crossed the limits.”

He added that a new media law will be enacted soon “that will guarantee free flow of information.” 

Mostafa Souag, Managing Director of Al Jazeera Arabic, wondered why the official media in Egypt were taking positions against the government. 

“Is this because the remnants of the old regime are controlling the media?” he asked, adding this is an issue that needs to be studied.

David Hearst of the Guardian said that the revolutionary camp in Egypt remains split and two years after the revolution, the country was not able to form a stable government. 

He said despite the Arab Spring, serious human rights violations in some Gulf countries still go unreported.

Moroccan Minister of Information Mustafa Al Khalfi said that the Moroccan government was working on a new press law as part of political reforms in the country.

“Our view is that there should not be censorship on the media but violations of the law should be handled through courts,” said Al Khalfi.

The government has also proposed the establishment of an independent council to monitor the media.

He said currently there are 500 electronic media outlets in Morocco and no journalist is in prison.          The Peninsula

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