Egypt’s information minister resigns after months-long standoff with media

Egypt’s information minister resigns after standoff with pro-government media
2 min read
26 April, 2021
Osama Heikal resigned after months of pressure by pro-government figures who disapproved of his criticism Egypt's media.
Heikal's comments reportedly angered Egypt's intelligence agency, which has heavily invested in media [AFP]
Egypt's Information Minister stood down from his post on Sunday citing personal reasons, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister-site reported.

Osama Heikal's resignation follows a months-long pressure campaign led by pro-government figures sparked by his criticism of the country’s journalistic output.

The Facebook and Instagram accounts of Egypt's information ministry disappeared shortly after Heikal's resignation was announced.

Heikal, who had an established career as a journalist, was appointed to the role in late 2019. He had previously served in the same post for five months in the aftermath of Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

In August 2020, Heikal published a report which criticised declining numbers in news readership and viewership in Egypt. In particular, his comments took aim the alleged lack of competitiveness and poor quality of output both print and broadcast media.

His criticism reportedly left him deeply unpopular among lawmakers from Egypt’s Mostaqbal Waten (Nation’s Future) Party, which strongly backs President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

It was also met with disapproval by top figures in the country's intelligence establishment, including the powerful Ahmad Shaban, the officer in Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate in charge of media affairs.

As Sisi has tightened his grip on the press and independent reporting, Egypt's intelligence services have reportedly invested heavily in the media sector in recent years, launching new companies and media outlets, and acquiring existing ones.

After Heikal accused the media of incomptence, pro-regime media personalities, including the flamboyant Ahmad Mousa of intelligence agency-linked Sada el-Balad, attacked him on their shows, calling for him to resign.

The rift between pro-government media and Heikal deepened, despite the Heikal's invitation to hold conferences and meeting to address concerns.

Read also: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood mulls election in exile amid internal dissent

In a Facebook post published in October last year, he appeared to slam the Egyptian media’s deference to the regime's agenda.

He wrote: "The worst form of corruption is for a writer to give his pen to someone else and be content with a mere signature."

Some Egyptian experts believe his resignation was not his choice.

"He did not resign. He was asked to because he had become a burden for the regime" Muhammad Jafar, an Egyptian media expert, told Arabi21.

Heikal also found himself at the centre of a Senate probe into allegations of corruption and misuse of public funds. He did not attend of any of the questioning sessions he was invited to.

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