CAIRO: Employees inside Maspero say the sit-in that started in front of the state TV building on the Jan. 25 anniversary to escalate pressure on the ruling military council is serving them in their fight to cleanse the media.
"This sit-in definitely pushes us forward," said Ziad Ali, anchor at state owned Radio Masr, whose show was temporarily suspended for criticizing the military council during the Cabinet clashes last December.
"A few days ago I talked about a protest inside Nile News Channel against Minister of Information Ahmed Anis who refused airing a documentary about Mubarak’s rule. The surprise is that no one stopped me and I was never notified to tone down my criticism," Ali told Daily News Egypt.
On Jan. 22, reporters and producers on Nile News Channel protested against banning a documentary titled "My Name is Tahrir Square," which is critical of the Mubarak regime and police brutality.
Journalists protested in front of Anis’ office, threatening not to broadcast the news. The documentary was eventually aired after massive pressure.
Prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah who was detained in connection with the Maspero clashes last October and released pending investigation was hosted on State TV on Friday, where he harshly criticized the ruling military council and slammed the performance of state media.
A collection of videos used by "3askar Kazeboon" or Military Liars campaign to expose the violations of army forces against protesters is also helping in the fight for a possible change in the editorial policy of state media.
"The problem is that there are no guidelines or standards set for us to follow," Taghreed El-Dessouki, founding member of the Independent Media Personnel group and a producer for Nile Life Channel told DNE.
"Hosting Abdel Fattah and airing ‘3askar Kazeboon’ videos were a result of the mounting pressure, but once we ease the pressure, the media will go back to siding with the military council," El-Dessouki added.
Ali echoed El-Dessouki’s sentiment.
"On Sunday, Radio Masr hosted Ibrahim El-Sayyad, chief newsroom editor at Maspero, where he was heavily criticized for state TV’s performance," said Ali, who is also a member of the Independent Media Personnel group.
"Media officials inside Maspero are concerned about being used as scapegoats for the biased policies set by the military rulers, so they want to ease the pressure," he added.
Independent Media Personnel is calling for canceling the Ministry of Information to end the decades-long state control over Maspero and transferring Maspero to an independent body free from state intervention, funded by tax payers.
They also demand modernizing the performance of the media and setting specific standards for journalism that do not change according to the changing political leadership.
"Freedom in Maspero is always occasional, according to the policies set by the rulers. Due to the current mounting pressure on the political leadership, they are allowing some freedom," El-Dessouki said, adding that the group aims to change the policies and standards, not only the faces.
"Today for example, I was prevented from hosting a member of the April 6 Youth Movement," she said.
Publisher Hisham Kassem told DNE that the issue with state media is not only about professionalism, but that funding and human resources need to be addressed as well.
"The efforts of those youth groups at Maspero are appreciated and promising, but even if state media’s professionalism reached a level similar to Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, what about the finances of state media?" Kassem asked, adding that state media consumes a huge part of the country’s annual budget.
"If the budget of Maspero is released, people will end up disbanding it. People need this money in health and education. We have priorities," he added.
Kassem claims that restructuring state media will require an early retirement scheme to do away with 90 percent of Maspero’s employees.
"This should happen if we really want to turn Maspero into a successful media institution. Most of Maspero workers are trained to work according to the preset agenda of the regime, they cannot work in a professional atmosphere," he said.