Egypt’s Supreme Media Council, headed by Makram Mohamed Ahmed, ordered on Sunday an investigation to be carried out by the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate into editor-in-chief of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, Mohamed El Sayed Saleh, and the editor of the controversial headline that read “State mobilises voters”, published on the third day of the presidential election. The council also demanded an official apology to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), to be written as prominently as the headline in question, as well as fining Saleh EGP 150,000.
Saleh commented on the decision saying he “is committed to implementing the investigation,” according to the Supreme Media Council. He also insisted that the headline referred to the “positive mobilisation” and had no hidden meaning. Meanwhile, Abdel Mohsen Salama, head of the Journalists Syndicate, said the syndicate is “keen on freedom of the press and journalists,” adding that the syndicate is already in contact with the Supreme Media Council to settle the issue. He also said that the fine “may be a precautionary measure.”
The decision has raised varying reactions among Egyptian journalists and media personnel, as some fear it may have consequences that lead to more limitations on free speech and press in Egypt. Journalist Amr Badr commented on the decision on his Facebook page saying, “neither Makram Ahmed’s council nor the syndicate have that right to investigate Saleh. The role of the syndicate is to protect journalists’ rights to free reporting according to the law.”
Meanwhile, former head of the Journalists Syndicate Yehia Kalash said, “[the decision] did not target Al-Masry Al-Youm, but the profession itself, which cannot continue without some freedom of speech and the right to disagree.”
Meanwhile, lawyer and chairperson of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, Hafez Abu Seada said that fining the newspaper over its coverage of the presidential election is a “gross violation of freedom of speech and opinion.”
Journalist Mohamed Saad Abd Elhafiz, a member of the Journalists Syndicate’s council, described the whole decision as “flawed,” adding that the headline was “professional and expressed what happened during the election.” Abd Elhafiz also wrote a commentary over the commotion raised by the headline in privately-owned newspaper Al-Shorouk entitled “Bow your head brother.”
The NEC had filed a complaint against Al-Masry Al-Youm and the New York Times to the Supreme Media Council over reporting “incorrect news on the presidential election—which concluded last Wednesday—in order to distort the commission,” it said.