Critical Voices Being Silenced in Egypt
State-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper has announced that the paper will reduce the number of opinion pages from three to two, and will preference staff writers over independent contributors, in a move widely seen as an attempt to silence critics of the Muslim Brotherhood. The change comes amidst other recent allegations of government censorship of critics, such as Al-Akhbar columnist Abla Roweini who alleges the paper rejected her piece for the Friday edition, telling her to “tone down” her criticisms to have it reconsidered.
The government also recently confiscated issues of private newspaper al-Dostour, known for its criticisms of the Brotherhood, and ordered that the satellite channel of conservative television host Tawfiq Okasha cease transmission for one month. Okasha’s channel went off the air at 5 pm Thursday, after the Freedom and Justice Party filed a suit against the network for allegedly inciting violence against the Brotherhood. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States is “very concerned by reports that the Egyptian government is moving to restrict media freedom and criticism,” naming specifically the incidents with al-Dostour and Okasha’s network.
Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maksoud also announced that new media guidelines will be introduced for state television that will make the media more “professional and give a platform to diverse opinions.” A committee will be formed of media figures in both within and outside state TV. Abdel-Maksoud added that the changes will better insulate the media from interference by the cabinet or People’s Assembly.
In addition, Dina Ezzat cites that inside sources in the Morsi administration say that the president is gearing up for a shake up of the judiciary once Ramadan is over. “Morsi is considering a tactful end to the mandate of General Prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud who, like Tantawi and Anan, assumed his job under the rule of Mubarak,” according to one source. Ezzat adds that Morsi is also keen on calling for new parliamentary elections, but will likely wait until the constitutional drafting committee has finished.