Freedom to Nile News AFTE condemns the persecution of Egyptian TV media staff Media Freedom Program

Date : Sunday, 22 September, 2013


AFTE expresses its full solidarity with Ihab El Mergawi, director at Nile News channel against the intimidation and administrative punitive measures that started against him on Thursday the 9th of February. El Mergawi had raised a banner of “Freedom to Nile News’ in the background of the studio during the broadcast of “El Mashhad” program on Nile News. He was fist suspended from work for 15 days and then referred to a disciplinary committee on Sunday the 19th of February at 1 p.m. at the office of legal affairs, affiliated to the Radio and TV broadcast Union and threatened that the matter will be further referred to the respective judicial bodies. The office of Ahmed Ani, Minister of Mass Media and Ibrahim El Sayad, head of the news section had filed a complaint alleging that El Mergawi had broken into the live broadcast studio resulting in obstruction of work and waste of public funds. Colleagues of El Mergawi, both at the Nile News as well as other Maspero channels have denied the incident and expressed their solidarity organizing a rally inside the building while he was being interrogated. They insisted that their colleague did not in any way cause disruption and that his gesture did not have any negative repercussion, describing his gesture as one of freedom of expression and a protest against the neglect by the minister of mass media and the head of news section of their fair demands to enjoy editorial and financial independence from the news section. They added that that the Nile News staff were also objecting to the negligence by the Radio and TV union of their colleague, channel news correspondent Mahmud El Azaly who was injured by a birdshot which caused the loss of his right eye in the recent Ministry of Interior events. They demanded that their colleague be treated on the expense of the state. The staff’s protest in front of the office of the minister and the head of section extended from 10 am until 4 pm without any official response.

Ihab El Mergawi is being interrogated without any knowledge on his part of the bylaws of administrative punitive measures that organizes those interrogations. The union has always withheld any information regarding the provisions of those bylaws. AFTE considers it unacceptable that any of Maspero staff by subject to interrogations or administrative punitive measures according to regulations they know nothing about, which constitutes a violation of the right to knowledge and as well as freedom of exchange of information inside state bodies.

It is noteworthy that the movement of Nile News staff calling for the independence of the editorial policy of the channel had witnessed an escalation during the previous months, foremost their sit-in in front of the minister’s office to lobby for the broadcast of a documentary “My name is Tahrir square”. That and recent developments during the past year strongly reflect the frustration and wide lobbying activities by Maspero staff calling for radical cleansing of superior administrative staff at Maspero and the adoption of fair and professional policies and standards for the restructuring of the sector, including foremost lifting official political control of mass media messages.

Finally, AFTE calls upon civil society and democratic actors to provide all forms of support and solidarity to the Maspero movement which struggles for radical reform and restructuring of the media sector and its protection against all forms of intimidation.

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