Media coalition launched to protect freedoms, pen legislations

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CAIRO: In order to defend media freedoms and help pen related legislations, A number of media activists and human rights organizations launched Tuesday the National Coalition for Media Freedom (NCMF).

The coalition, which made the announcement on Press Freedom Day, urged for a political will to establish free media that would serve citizens’ right of information and stop all forms of political and security domination over media outlets.

"We represent both the principles we want for the media and the demands of media workers. After the revolution, the amount of corruption that was revealed in media institutions was beyond imagination and we had to take action." said Raga’y Al-Merghany, prominent writer and general coordinator of the coalition.

"The coalition is open for all media activists and those interested in improving Egyptian media. We will work on developing the legislative and institutional framework for media in Egypt," he added.

May 3 is celebrated globally as the World Press Freedom Day in memory of the Windhoek declaration in Africa 20 years ago emphasizing the role of independent media in the development and protection of democracy.

The coalition issued a "Media Freedom Declaration" comprising 10 principles that they said may act as a code of conduct for media outlets during the transitional period and 10 tasks that are requested from the government.

The coalition demanded ending state of emergency, dismantling the Ministry of Information and the Supreme Press Council, and restricting the role of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to technical issues.

They also demanded that state owned media abide to a declared code of ethics for neutral coverage and the establishment of media institutions that would publish budgets annually and set minimum and maximum wage limits.

The declaration’s principles included recognizing media professionals’ rights of access to information and circulating them freely, the right to establish media outlets freely, and getting rid of extensive centralization of media in Cairo.

"We never had a comprehensive strategy to defend violations against journalists and media professionals. We will try to create a front for pressure that prevents violations from taking place rather than having reactions only," said Hussein Abdel Ghany, prominent journalist and one of the coalition founders.

Legal support will be provided by the rights organizations taking part in the coalition.

The coalition is set to form a committee that would draft legislations governing media to present it to the founding convention that will draft Egypt’s new constitution.

"Reform will take a long time in state-owned institutions because of the huge corruption, absence of professional practices and excessive employment," Abdel Ghany said.

Coalition members criticized media practices and said the "hypocrisy" toward the ruler hasn’t changed but only shifted to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces rather than ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

The coalition is set to hold a general assembly soon in which it will announce its work plan and discuss its bylaws.

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