The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The Muslim Brothers' state media powergrab

Bad News for the Brotherhood

Meritte Mabrouk on how Egypt's state newspaper editors were appointed, and how the process was taken ove Islamist lawmakers, in Foreign Policy:

None of the signs boded well.  The 14-member selection committee was headed by FJP member Fathy Shehab and included three other FJP members. Two of its four journalists dropped out protesting what they saw as a naked attempt by the Islamist members to force their own candidates and another seven syndicate board members dropped out of discussions with the council altogether. Magdy el-Maasarawy, a Shura Council member who resigned from the committee last month, told Egypt Independent that the original criteria, which drew heavily on what he referred to as professional skills as agreed upon by the journalists, were scrapped by the rest of the committee. Additionally, he said that the 234 candidates didn't all fulfill the criteria, most notably Abd el-Nasser Salama, appointed head of Middle East's most prominent newspaper, Al Ahram. Salama, said Maasarawy, was never at Al Ahram for the required 10 years. He'd been the Muscat bureau chief for three years before returning to Cairo in 2009 as columnist.

Gamal Fahmy, secretary general of the Journalists' Syndicate, also told Egypt Independent that he thought the majority of the new editors were weak, professionally speaking, and certainly not qualified to lead the kind of large staffs involved in these papers. Professional competence is an especially sore point; Yasser Rizk, the former editor of Al-Akhbar is generally acknowledged to have worked wonders with the ailing publication. However, he has not been supportive of the Islamists and was replaced during the shuffle.

The new editors appear to fall into three categories: the cooperative, the Islamist, and the difficult-to-categorize.

It'd be politically difficult, but most of these publications should be shut down, or at least made to adhere to a budget plan aiming at self-suffiency. They're a drain on state coffers and in many cases not very good. And if they continue to exist, there is no reason to have parliament appoint the editors — hopefully something that can be addressed in the next constitution.