Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi’s cabinet approved the presidential decision to amend the law governing the press.
The cabinet referred the amended law back to interim President Adly Mansour on Wednesday for issuance.
Article 68 of the law number 96, issued in 1996, stipulates the criteria for electing members of the Supreme Press Council and states that the council membership lasts for four years and can be renewed afterwards. The amendment involves adding a clause which gives the Supreme Press Council, operating in the transitional period Egypt is currently witnessing, the authority to end the term of national and state-owned newspapers’ chairmen and chief editors and elect new ones. This authority can only be used once, according to the added clause.
Mohamed Noor Farahat, constitutional expert and member of the Supreme Press Council, said the council proposed the added clause to the cabinet. He added that such an authority would elapse with the end of this council’s term.
“This would allow us to replace chairmen and chief editors elected by the Muslim Brotherhood [back when ousted President Mohamed Morsi was in power],” Farahat said. “It would allow us to appoint appropriate leaders for national and state-owned newspapers.”
Articles 64 and 65 of the law governing the press gives the Shura Council the authority to elect the chairmen of the board of directors as well as the chief editors of state-owned newspapers. While the chairmen’s term lasts for four years, the chief editors’ term lasts for three years; both terms are renewable as per the law.
The now dissolved Shura Council had formed a Supreme Press Council and appointed chairmen and chief editors for state-owned newspapers upon Morsi’s election as president in 2012. Both appointments were widely criticised, especially for including a large number of Islamist figures.
In August, Mansour ratified a bill drafted by the cabinet ordering the formation of an interim Supreme Press Council to replace the one appointed in 2012, answering the Press Syndicate’s demand. Hanan Fekry, Press Syndicate board member, had said the syndicate agreed on forming an interim council, comprising of only 15 members instead of 50.
The new Supreme Press Council took on the jurisdictions of the Shura Council, those regarding its control over the council itself. The council’s mandate would elapse by the end of the Egypt’s current transitional period.