CAIRO: Egypt on Saturday appointed a new information minister, a controversial post that had been abolished after the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
Osama Heikal, former editor-in-chief of the liberal Al-Wafd party’s newspaper, was sworn in on Saturday in front of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council that took power when Mubarak was ousted.
Tantawi urged Heikal to "reorganize the Egyptian media and draw up a plan that addresses all the shortcomings that came from abolishing the post of minister of information," a military source said.
Heikal’s nomination for the post two days ago triggered an outcry from online activists who were quick to circulate an editorial he ran in Al-Wafd on Jan. 24, one day before the historic Jan. 25 protests.
In its lead paragraph, Heikal wrote: “I do not believe that any Egyptian, loyal to this country, would want a repeat of the Tunis scenario in Egypt,” referring to the ouster of ex-president of Tunisia Zine El-Abidine Bin Ali following a 28-day popular revolt on January 14.
The position of information minister was removed during a government reshuffle on February 22, just days after Mubarak stepped down following 18 days of anti-regime protests demanding political change.
Under Mubarak, the ministry was little more than a regime mouthpiece, and its abolition was one of the demands of protesters who ended the former president’s 30-year rule.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Friday to press the military rulers to fulfill the goals of the revolution, which include ridding the media institutions of remnants of the old regime.
It is unclear what will become of the army General Tarek El-Mahdi, who was appointed interim head of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union over a month ago.
The last minister of information, Anas Al-Fiqqi, is currently in jail suspected of corruption. He was recently acquitted on one charge, but is being investigated in other cases of fraud.