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Appointment of information minister a setback for free expression, media coalition says

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 10 July 2011 - The National Coalition for Media Freedom condemns the decision of the Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, to appoint a Minister of Information. This action marks a setback in the liberalisation of media policy and its independence from the executive, as a Ministry of Information is a tool commonly used by dictatorial regimes.

The coalition is shocked by the move to overturn the decision, made at the onset of the revolution, to abolish the Ministry of Information. The decision had been greatly supported by various political forces, and by representatives of the media community, and was referred to in the coalition's "Declaration of media freedom" published in May 2011. The declaration emphasised the need to abolish both the Ministry of Information and the Supreme Council for the Press, and to replace them with an independent media council staffed by senior professionals, specialists and public figures. The declaration was sent to the Prime Minister along with a request for a meeting to discuss the provisions of the Declaration, but no response has been received.

The coalition emphasised that its criticism of the decision to appoint a Minister of Information is not leveled against any individual, and calls upon the interim government to take serious measures to restructure the Egyptian media on the basis on independence and professionalism, which could be achieved in one of two ways.

1. Study the multiple proposals submitted by various media organisations.

2. Follow the lead of the interim transitional government in Tunisia, which has formed a specialised committee of experts to study various ways to restructure and develop the media landscape.

The coalition also calls upon the Sharaf government to reconsider its decision, and to establish specialised committees to discuss the development of the media and take into account the opinion of specialists, media personnel and journalists' unions with the goal of reaching a democratic formula that guarantees the right of citizens to a free and responsible media.

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