State TV news staff launches protests to demand independence

Dozens of employees at the state-run Nile News TV Channel started an open-ended strike Sunday at the Maspero building, as they protested policies still in place since Mubarak’s rule. They demanded editorial independence from the state.

A video of the sit-in posted on YouTube shows the channel’s employees chanting, “Field Marshal, the purging is still not enough,” and “Down with military rule, we are the people, we are the red line,” outside what is reported to be the office of Information Minister Ahmed Anis.

TV presenters, directors, editors and video journalists submitted a list of demands for Anis which includes sacking Moataza Mahaba, deputy manager of the channel. Mahaba has a record of opposing the revolution and insulting protesters, according to Hedi Sameh, a director at Nile News, state TV’s flagship news channel.

The channel’s team protested last month following Mahaba’s appointment because she criticizes the revolution on Twitter and attends protests in support of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Previously, about 100 of Nile News’s 250 employees signed a petition rejecting Mahaba’s appointment and raising concerns about the station’s pro-regime bias.

Sameh added that Nile News employees demand total independence from Maspero’s news sector due to anti-revolution media policies reminiscent of the former regime.

“We want to be free from their shame,” Sameh told Egypt Independent.

According to Mona al-Shayeb, a presenter at the 24-hours news channel, the protesters plan to defy management Sunday evening by airing a documentary entitled “My Name is Tahrir,” which was prepared by their colleague Ali al-Geheiny. The channel’s management has delayed screening the pro-revolution documentary, the protesters say.

“They are insisting on straying from the real revolution,” said Shayeb.

The TV presenter complained that there is no clear plan set up by the station’s administration for covering 25 January 2012, the one-year anniversary of the start of the revolution. “They are leaving everything for the last minute so that we don’t have time to object to their plan,” Shayeb said.

State TV has been accused of biased coverage since the 18-day uprising last January when it broadcasted empty Nile views as hundreds of thousands protested in nearby Tahrir Square demanding the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Since then, many critics of state media say that it is controlled by the ruling military council which seeks to discredit any opposition to the junta.

Shayeb said that the management gives Nile News producers a list of guests they have to interview.

“They recorded interviews with some people claiming they are revolutionaries but who are suspicious, as no one knows anything about them,” said Shayeb.

The protesters’ other demands include restructuring the pay scale and providing the station with more studios. There is currently only one studio assigned to the 24-hour news channel.

The media professionals vowed to remain on strike until all their demands are met. In the meantime, negotiations with the information minister are ongoing.

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