The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced the use of administrative penalties imposed by state-owned media on their employees as a means of intimidation or punishment for the background content of their programs. ANHRI made the announcement in a statement on Tuesday evening in response to the punishment handed out by the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) to Riyadah Samer, an anchorwoman who was punished for comments that were made on her show by a caller.
Samer lost her monthly allowances and was banned from presenting alone on the Youth and Sports network, after an on-air caller criticised President Mohamed Morsi. The call was cut short by one of the programmers, and Samer continued the show.
“It is worth noting that harassing media professionals who do not adopt supportive stances towards the authorities or broadcast critical materials became the methodology adopted by the Ministry of Information,” the ANHRI report said, adding that newspapers and channels owned by the state have also adopted this as a result.
The ANHRI’s report points at “the series of harassments conducted against the journalists and media professionals since the president came to power” as proof of this adopted policy.
It also listed several media professionals who were victims of such reproach, including Hala Fahmy, presenter of ‘The Conscience Program’, and Egyptian television anchor and activist Bothaina Kamel.
“Penalising the announcer due to a phone call on air is an arbitrary procedure beyond logic and the only thing that could be understood is that the administration expected [Samer] to engage in a verbal argument with the caller to defend the president and his policies, which exceeds her duties and the ethics of her profession,” the statement read.
The penalisation thus serves as a means to coax state-media employees to “defend the regime and their policies. In an obvious way they seek to make the state-owned media the authoritarian voice and a tool to repress the opposition’s opinion.”
The ANHRI concluded that “there is no alternative to changing the pattern of ownership and administration in the state-owned media to guarantee its independence from the authorities,” adding it hopes that the new media law will be finished soon and put up for discussion among the public. “A new law and a new regulation should be issued to the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU). In addition we should not allow this huge entity, which is owned by the people, to become an authoritarian voice that adopts stances to defend such authorities.”