New Egyptian information minister pledges free speech
December 12th, 2011 - 13:50 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

The policy of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) will be based on freedom of expression and will make sure everyone can voice their opinions, Egypt’s new information minister said on Sunday. In a press conference at the ERTU building, Information Minister Ahmed Anis urged Egypt’s revolutionary youth to contribute to state media operations and join the ERTU board. Egyptian revolutionaries must be invested in all aspects of state-run media, Mr Anis said.

State TV recently faced heavy criticism from activists and political groups who condemn its coverage of events as propagandist, and accuse it of serving the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Solving ERTU workers’ problems will be a top priority for the Information Ministry, Mr Anis said adding that he will focus on meeting the financial needs of ERTU workers and promoting upward mobility.

Several problems in the ERTU and related institutions must be dealt with, Mr Anis said. He said Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri had promised to support efforts to meet workers’ demands, within the restrictions of the state budget. “I am no stranger to this building and am fully aware of the problems here based on my previous experience. I will try to respond to the demands of every worker,” Mr Anis said.

Mr Anis served as head of the ERTU under toppled President Hosni Mubarak’s last information minister, Anas al-Fiqqi, and was reportedly very close to Fiqqi. A former general, he has also served as head of the military’s morale department. Though Mr Anis clarified that no political decision has been made to restructure the ERTU, noting the administrative and financial complexities of such a decision, he stressed that restructuring the union will be on his agenda.

Restructuring would not endanger current ERTU employees, Mr Anis said. The ERTU owns numerous assets and has an infrastructure that can be privatized without encroaching on the rights of the workers, he said. He said he has read studies conducted by local and international agencies that argue such a step could maximize revenues and develop performance.

Commenting on demands to eliminate the Information Ministry, Mr Anis said that because the ministry runs many other institutions, an alternative body would have to be created in its place. That body would have to remain committed to the legal administrative obligations of the ministry. The political leadership would be tasked with making this decision, Mr Anis said.

“We are considering different options to produce high-quality media. We are looking outside of Egypt at several models, the most similar to our system being the French Audiovisual Council, whose policy is to issue directives and punish violators,” he said.

Mr Anis vowed to do his best to expand advertising, noting that the ERTU’s Cairo Sound Company is working to achieve that goal. He said he is considering granting workers a share of advertising revenues as an incentive. Mr Anis promised a review of media production companies to enhance their performance, singling out Egyptian Media Production City, a multimedia studio complex and production company established in 1992.