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EGYPT: Ex-newspaper editor appointed as Information Minister

July 9, 2011 | 11:16 am

ALeqM5gh6p6HCD17oKu0ePV0cG8RpCIgRgThe former editor in chief of the Wafd party's newspaper was sworn in as the new Minister of Information by the head of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi on Saturday.

The appointment of Osama Heikal surprised many politicians and activists, who believed that the ministry, which had not filled the job for five months, might keep the position vacant. Many online activists and bloggers quickly highlighted what they called Heikal's "support" to Mubarak's regime through an article he wrote one day before the Jan. 25 revolt that ended with ousting Mubarak.

"I don't think that any devout Egyptian would want his country to witness a similar fate to Tunisia's [referring to the Tunisian revolution]. No one wants a clash between people and the regime. What we should understand is that people want change and the quieter those changes come the better this will be for Egypt," Heikal wrote in an editorial dated Jan. 24.

The editorial added that angry demonstrations represent a coup against "our values."

After working as the newspaper's reporter for military and presidential affairs for 18 years, Heikal was elected as head of Wafd's newspaper last January. After his appointment as minister, Heikal stressed that the Egyptian state media will focus on "reporting the full truth without any exaggerations or exclusions and that all sects of the country's society will have an equal place to appear in state media."

Despite its status as an opposition party, Wafd and its newspaper have in recent years been criticized for taking the side of the former Mubarak regime against other independent newspapers and writers more critical of the former president. Egyptian information ministers during Mubarak's rule have always been regarded as watchdogs who controlled and manipulated state media according to the ruling party's interests.

On Friday, tens of thousands of protesters marched toward Tahrir Square in Cairo calling for the fulfillment of the revolution's goals, including the sacking of a number of state media top officials, who used to serve under Mubarak.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Egypt's new Information Minister Osama Heikal. Credit: Agence France-Presse

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