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Egypt’s Appointment of State Newspaper Heads Provokes Backlash

Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s upper house of parliament named new editors-in-chief of state-run newspapers, provoking criticism from journalists that the government of President Mohamed Mursi was filling the industry with Islamists and supporters of the current and former governments.

The appointments, which come the same day that the new Islamist information minister banned state-run media from interviewing Israeli commentators, can be considered “a threat to the independence of the profession,” Adel Iskandar, professor of media at Georgetown University, said by e-mail from Canada today.

“This is a continuation of the power-sharing agreement that seems to permeate much of Egyptian politics today -- between the Muslim Brotherhood and a nebulous amalgam of ‘foloul’ and SCAF-loyalists,” Iskander said, referring to the Egyptian term for “remants” of the old regime and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which handed power to Mursi in June.

That month, seven board members of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate withdrew from a meeting with the speaker of the Shura Council after objecting to the upper house’s interference in state media and accusing it of adopting the same autocratic tactics used by former president Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party.

Both houses of the assembly are dominated by Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, which nominated Mursi for the presidency. The lower house was disbanded under a court order before Mursi took office.

Freedom of Expression

Abdel-Nasser Salama, named head of Al Ahram newspaper, wrote several articles condemning the uprising that ousted Mubarak, describing protestors as paid thugs. Gamal Abdel Rehim, appointed head of Al Gomhuria, sparked anger among human rights groups in 2009 when he appeared on a television talk show with a Bahai woman who, he said, should be killed for being an infidel.

“When it comes to the choices, virtually none of them, from either camp, has a glowing record of promotion of freedom of expression, opinion and the press, an imperative condition in a post-authoritarian media system,” Iskandar said. “Sadly, this is simply a fall-back to the media of yesteryear only with the addition of more schizophrenia.”

Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud ordered an investigation after Nile News broadcast the comments of an Israeli commentator yesterday during its coverage of the aftermath of an Aug. 5 attack by unidentified militants who killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a border post, the state-run Middle East News Agency said.

Abdel-Maqsoud, a prominent journalist and member of the journalist syndicate, is also a member of the Brotherhood. He was appointed Aug. 2 as part of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s new Cabinet, a government that includes several Brotherhood members and Islamists.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Louis Meixler at

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