By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: While opinions differ on whether former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq’s appearance on ONTV Wednesday brought down his cabinet, prominent journalist Hamdy Qandil says one thing is for sure, “This was a historic episode in Arabic television.”
At a panel discussion at the American University in Cairo Sunday, Qandil, recalled Shafiq’s appearance on “Baladna Bel-Masry” talk show, on which Qandil was also a guest.
“It was originally supposed to be me and [novelist Alaa] El-Aswany with Yousri Fouda to comment on Shafiq’s discussion with Naguib Sawiris, Ahmed Kamal Aboul Magd and Amr Hamzawy,” said Qandil.
However, upon their arrival Fouda told them that Shafiq will be joining them because “authorities” had allegedly objected to a commentary on an official’s statements in his absence.
“People have different view but one thing is for sure, this episode, as an independent critique, [is historic],” said Qandil, explaining that it’s the first time a prime minister comes to face-to-face with journalists who question him.
“We are accustomed that an official is never questioned/interviewed, and if he does he has the right to change and choose the questions, we know how officials were interviewed on television whether on private or public channels,” he noted.
“People on television should take advantage of what happened because it can be used to expand the freedom ceiling,” Qandil said.
Qandil criticized Shafiq’s constant appearance in the media during his tenure, saying in 25 days he was on television 29 times. “He came in this critical period and was paying too much attention on television,” he said.
On the other hand, Qandil, a member of the National Association for Change (NAC), expressed his respect for Shafiq saying that he is “a victim of timing and those who appointed him.”
When Shafiq appointed the new cabinet, Qandil said he paid him a visit and “warned him” against keeping “the same old provocative faces,” such as minister of interior Mahmoud Wagdy, minister of foreign affairs Ahmed Aboul Gheit and minister of Justice Mamdouh Marei.
“[I tried to explain] the magnitude of the situation, [I told him] a catastrophe will happen in the country if you remain as Prime Minister and the other ministers remain in their posts,” he said.
Qandil addressed the divisions in the society, where some criticize the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square for their negative impact on the economy. “Revolution and freedom have a price,” he said.
“If the embezzlement and corruption that have been in the country on all the different levels stop, the country will be more than fine, there will be stability, freedom which will provide the environment for a flourishing economy,” he explained.
Qandil said that people need to support the Supreme Council for Armed Forces as they are working on fulfilling their demands. “For the coming two weeks their won’t be a million-man march to give the country a chance to breathe and Tahrir is always there to go if our demands are not fulfilled,” he said.
On the other hand he noted, “All this is based on one primary condition and this is the presence of the security forces, the police to go out on the streets.”
While Qandil said he is against dismantling State Security altogether, he called for “purifying and renewing it and changing its objectives.”
When asked by Hafez Mirazi, a journalist and director of Kamal Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism, who he would vote for in the presidential elections if it were between Mohamed Elbaradei and Amr Moussa, Qandil said “neither.”
“I highly appreciate and respect both but I believe in the upcoming period other candidates will surface … the competition still didn’t start and we may be surprised and impressed with those who come out.”