Egypt's Journalists Fight to Free Press From Brotherhood Control

Article Summary
The struggle over the selection of newspaper editors marks Egypt’s first major post-revolution battle, writes Ziad Oleimi. Even with Mubarak gone, the rules he used to dominate journalists remain. Egypt must now decide if it will allow the Brotherhood-controlled Shura Council to direct the press, or fight for a truly democratic system.

Egyptians have ousted Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood holds the majority of seats in parliament and in the Shura Council. Their candidate won the presidency armed with a huge arsenal of laws that have turned him and his party into a new dictatorship. Today, the Brotherhood has two choices: declare its loyalty to the revolution and abolish the dictator’s arsenal of laws, or rule Egypt according to the ousted regime’s laws, and end up where the ousted president and his party are now.

Freedom of the press is the first challenge of the new president. Selecting the editors-in-chief of the national newspapers is a real battle that has been escalating day after day. This is a battle between the journalists and their union on one side and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood-controlled Shura Council on the other.

This battle — which constitutes the first significant test for the ruling party — is not a personal matter, nor is it a matter of choice between who is or is not qualified for the post. Will they govern by Mubarak’s rules? If so, it would prove that they just wanted to replace him instead of being against his regime. Or will they adopt new rules and fulfill the Egyptian people’s dream of a press that expresses their ambitions? They do not want a press that is used as a weapon by the regime against the taxpayers.

These newspapers are owned by the taxpayers, and they must be extremely independent of any political authority. No authority shall interfere in the selection of the editors-in-chief or the newspapers’ political tendencies. In the past, the Mubarak regime gave the Shura Council the responsibility of selecting the editors-in-chief. In addition, most of the news had to be checked by an officer from the security service before they were published. The opponents to the regime, including the Brotherhood, were a constant target of these newspapers.

It is a shame to keep these rules after the revolution. This is why new rules should be established, and a separation must be made between the political authority ruling the country and the newspaper’s editorial angle. It is important to note that the political authority is going to change under democracy. However, the newspaper’s angle must only belong to the people, the country's actual rulers.

Senior journalists and members of the journalist union can certainly be entrusted with setting the rules to select editors-in-chief of the national newspapers. Then, the union should convene the extraordinary general assembly to adopt these rules by a two-thirds majority to make sure that the vast majority of professional journalists approve of them. Afterward, the Shura Council, in cooperation with the union, must officially call candidates to stand for elections and oversee the election of the newspapers’ editors-in-chief by direct ballot. This is the only way we can have a press that is owned by the people.

The first battle is not between the journalists and the Brotherhood in the Shura Council, but rather a battle for the freedom of expression in Egypt. In reality, it is a battle between the forces of the revolution and the revolution’s opponents. The revolution’s goal is to restructure every institution for the benefit of the Egyptian people. As for its opponents, they are eager to keep the current despotic rules, only changing the ruler and his party. Today, the battle for the freedom of the press is a battle for all of us!

We fight for freedom, so let us all unite to support the revolution. Do not expect to be graced with minor scraps of freedom; this is how dictatorships are built. You have to wrest your full liberties — this is how free people build their free countries.

Found in: union of journalists, shura council, press in egypt, muslim brotherhood, freedom of press, egyptian media

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