Egypt’s ruling party ‘forces out’ editor of English Web site

The Guardian, CAIRO

Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - Page 7

The editor of Egypt’s largest English-language news Web site — the state-owned Ahram Online — has been forced out from his job, allegedly by allies of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s ruling party.

Hani Shukrallah, one of Egypt’s most respected journalists and a fierce critic of the Brotherhood, left his post last month. He had refused to explain why — in an attempt, it was understood, to use what leverage he still had to influence the appointment of his successor.

However, three weeks on, Shukrallah has broken his silence, claiming he was forced from office by Ahram’s new chairman, Mamdouh el-Wali, said to be both a Brotherhood sympathizer and a recent government appointee.

“The deed is done: the [Muslim Brotherhood] has now fulfilled its resolve to drive me out of Ahram,” Shukrallah said in a Facebook post, which also alleged that his forced retirement came after a series of drastic pay cuts aimed at humiliating him.

Ahram Online is the Web-based English-language wing of al-Ahram, Egypt’s sprawling, state-run publishing house, which runs about a dozen other papers and periodicals. Shukrallah had previously been removed from another senior editorial role at al-Ahram during former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

Neither Wali nor several Brotherhood spokesmen responded to requests for comment on Monday afternoon. Shukrallah’s departure comes amid increasing concerns that the Brotherhood — Egypt’s most popular single party at the last parliamentary elections and known in Egypt as the Ikhwa — is seeking to tighten its control of state institutions.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was narrowly elected in June last year, promising to govern “in the name of all Egyptians.”

However, his opponents say his behavior since has rarely been multilateral. They say he forced through an Islamist constitution, posted Brotherhood members to provincial governorships and appointed a prosecutor-general whom the opposition considered to be a Brotherhood-sympathizer.

“The general concern is about the Ikhwanization of the state,” said Khaled Fahmy, a prominent opposition commentator, and head of history at the American University in Cairo.

“What is alarming is [the way] they are putting in place so many of their followers into all kinds of positions of state authority, so much so that if they lose the next elections, they will still control much of the Egyptian infrastructure,” Fahmy said last week.

Morsi’s allies argue it is the right of any elected government to make political appointments and that such appointees are necessary to erase Mubarak-era appointees.

On Sunday, Morsi’s son was forced to resign from a position at an Egyptian ministry after a media outcry at what was viewed as another nepotistic appointment.

Omar Morsi, a recent graduate, was set to take up a human resources post at a firm affiliated with the civil aviation ministry. The furor also prompted uncomfortable comparisons with the way Mubarak’s son Gamal was groomed from an early age for high office.