Egypt halts new recruitment, employee contracts in national newspapers

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Updated 30 January 2020

Egypt halts new recruitment, employee contracts in national newspapers

  • Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said on Monday that there was “dire need” to cut costs

CAIRO: The Egyptian government has announced new measures to reduce spending on national newspapers which have incurred huge debts by limiting recruitment and introducing austerity measures.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said on Monday that there was “dire need” to cut costs and manage spending wisely in all national press institutions.

Madbouly stressed that the government will continue to support the institutions as long as they continue to achieve their objectives.

However, the government’s decision was derided by many journalists.

“This will probably lead to nothing in terms of the reforms the state seeks simply because it does not tackle the actual problem,” one journalist at Al-Ahram news agency who asked to remain anonymous said.

“The problem is that the state does not allow its newspapers to become independent and at the same time expects them to generate enough revenue to at least reach the breakeven point,” the journalist said.

The decision, announced by the cabinet earlier this week, has raised questions over the future of hundreds of journalists and employees who have been working for years with temporary contracts.

“It’s terrible for journalists because the move neglects their rights and basically asks them to bear the brunt of the state’s shortcomings,” another Al-Ahram journalist said.

“For instance, an Al-Ahram journalist who has been working for the newspaper for 10 years without being employed will now lose any hopes of being employed, so the newspaper will gradually lose competent and qualified journalists. Manpower is what matters if the state is to reform national newspapers in the red.”

The Syndicate of Journalists representative Diaa Rashwan said the public press is a strategic industry for the country that aims to protect national security. Rashwan said the press has two primary objectives: Provide a media service to citizens and defend the image of the homeland in the face of unconventional wars which target the minds of people.

“Applying what has been announced represents, in essence, a threat to the human power of the Egyptian national press which is a source of its distinctiveness and richness,” Rashwan added.

According to Arab News sources, tensions are boiling over at Al-Ahram especially that the newspaper is struggling to pay its annual end-of-year bonuses to its employees who feel their interests are not being taken into account.

In a statement, head of the authority which regulates state-run publications Karam Gabr said the move aims at helping institutions with limited resources meet their financial obligations toward employees with contracts, and stopping the addition of large numbers of staff to newspapers which would add further financial pressure on the press.

Gabr said papers are obliged to present a list of those working with temporary contracts and the duration of their service, as well as their job tasks in order to study the necessary steps that need to be taken.

Newspapers will still accept “young members who have technological capabilities, while taking into account the current circumstances regarding the inability of institutions to provide salaries to basic employees,” the statement said.

“The step aims at avoiding the mistakes that occurred in recent years in supplying institutions with large numbers [of employees] which has led to the current situation,” the statement added.

The authority will take measures in the next few days to implement a financial and administrative reform program and develop editorial content for state papers, Gabr said.

Qatar’s BeIN chairman, two others indicted in bribery case

Updated 20 February 2020

Qatar’s BeIN chairman, two others indicted in bribery case

  • Former FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke charged with accepting bribes, among others
  • Al-Khelaifi charged with inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement

GENEVA: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was charged Thursday by Swiss federal prosecutors in connection with a wider bribery investigation linked to World Cup television rights.

The office of Switzerland’s attorney general filed an indictment charging Al-Khelaifi with inciting former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke “to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.”

The Qatari football and television executive, however, no longer faces an accusation of bribery. Following a three-year investigation, FIFA reached an “amicable agreement” with Al-Khelaifi last month, prosecutors said, to drop its criminal complaint relating to the awarding of 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights to Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports.

Al-Khelaifi is the head of Doha-based BeIN Sports and also a member of the UEFA executive committee.

Al-Khelaifi was indicted for his alleged part in providing Valcke — who had influence over the awarding of World Cup rights until being removed from office in 2015 — with use of a luxury villa in Sardinia without paying rent valued at up to €1.8 million ($1.94 million).

Valcke was charged with accepting bribes, “several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement … and falsification of documents.”

For the first time in the five-year investigation of FIFA business, Swiss prosecutors revealed that they believe Valcke received kickbacks totaling €1.25 million to steer World Cup rights toward favored broadcasters in Italy and Greece.

A third person who was not identified was charged with bribery over those payments and also for inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

Al-Khelaifi was appointed to the UEFA executive committee, representing European football clubs, one year ago despite being implicated in the bribery case. He is also an influential board member of the European Club Association, which is seeking to drive reforms in the Champions League to favor elite clubs such as French champion PSG.

He denied wrongdoing after being questioned in 2017 and 2019 in connection with criminal proceedings opened three years ago.

Al-Khelaifi has also been implicated in a separate corruption investigation by French prosecutors that is linked to Qatar seeking hosting rights for the track and field world championships. Doha hosted the 2019 edition.