CAIRO: An anchor at the state-owned TV was suspended Monday after she demanded that state officials, including President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, be held accountable for any failure, el-Bedaiah news website reported.
“We call on you (Sisi) to consider corruption at town councils and hold officials accountable.. a law that holds officials accountable, starting with you because you are who appoints them,” TV presenter Azza al-Hennawy said Nov. 1 during an episode of her show “Cairo News,” discussing the severe damage that rain caused in Beheira and Alexandria in the past two weeks.
“Every person in the government, every minister and governor should be responsible for a specific file within a specific timeframe… starting with you, what are you responsible for? What is your plan? What is your vision? Declare it to the Egyptian people and therefore the government’s vision would be announced,” she continued.
Sources in Maspero told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Essam el-Amir, head of the Radio and TV Union (Maspero) ordered her suspended and referred to investigations for “expressing her opinion in a news show,” which Amir deemed as a violation to impartiality.
However, Hennawy told al-Bedaiah that her investigation “is an attempt to gag mouths and prevent the criticism of state officials, adding that the suspension violates her constitutional right to freedom of expression although she adhered to the media’s code of ethics.
“As long as there is no accountability, you (Sisi) will continue to talk and promise and there will be no outcome tangible by the Egyptian people in reality. That is why people are fed up and will no longer go to elections,” Hennawy, who works at the Cairo Third channel, said in the same episode.
“We [journalists] walk in streets and listen to people and report them to you. In all cases, may God help you and all officials if they work in the country with sincerity and really want the country to advance rather than work for their own interests,” she added, calling for investigating “corruption” at ministries and Maspero.
She asked why a “national plan to combat corruption” previously declared by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab “is not applied,” saying that Sisi has the answer. This part of Hennawy’s episode has been viewed over 242, 300 times on Youtube.
In January 2013, Hennawy was also suspended and investigated after she criticized Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian Yasser Abdel Rafei.
Pictures of Hennawy outside Maspero holding a Rebel document circulated on social media; before the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, many people signed Rebel documents in a campaign to hold early presidential elections.
Two journalists, two hashtags
Also on Sunday, journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat was summoned by the military intelligence, Mada Masr reported, and on Monday was ordered by the military prosecution detained for four days pending investigations over charges of “publishing false information that harms national interest.”
Bahgat has written a series of articles that tackled military issues and trials. His latest report titled “A coup busted?” explored the trial of 26 officers who allegedly conspired to organize a coup d’état.
Hashtags dubbed “in solidarity with Hossam Bahgat” and “in solidarity with Azza al-Hennawy,” circulated on social media, yet that of Bahgat has been tweeted over 17,000 times in the past 24 hours, and that of Hennawy more than 302 times thus far.
Bahgat is the founder of prominent human rights organization the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; he has contributed in-depth investigative articles to independent news website Mada Masr on highly controversial and contested issues related to military trials.
Meanwhile, Hennawy set a rare example of regime criticism at state-run Maspero, whether before or after the January 25 Revolution in 2011.
In October 2014, Sisi met with the editors-in-chief of Egyptian newspapers and other media professionals, many journalists of state-owned and independent media outlets signed a “loyalty pledge,” essentially agreeing to refrain from any criticism of state institutions.
For its part, Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate invited editors-in-chief and leading media professionals to convene at its headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the situation of journalism in Egypt amid “an attack on the Egyptian state” and restrictions imposed on journalists.
In another Monday statement, the syndicate said that the “Egyptian journalism is witnessing an attack on its freedom and media freedom in general,” and that the measures taken against the two journalists are “a concerning shift in dealing with cases of publishing and freedom of expression.”
With more than 32 journalists currently jailed in Egypt, more than half of them for practicing their job, journalists “should be allowed to contribute legislation cancelling codes that allow detention in cases of publication and freedom of circulating information,” according to the statement.
On Nov. 1, Sisi said in a speech at a military cultural symposium the criticism that was directed at him by another TV anchor after Alexandria’s infrastructure failed to contain severe rainfall was “unacceptable.”
“I feel that people (journalists) are not aware, do not understand anything what so ever, just holding a microphone to speak into or a newspaper to write in. No, people, this is a country we are going to lose,” Sisi said.
Egypt’s president approved an anti-terrorism law in August despite criticism by local and international press freedom advocates. The law, for example, prohibits reporting that contradicts statements by the Defense Ministry.