Logo of Soot El-Shaab channel
CAIRO – 2 Aug 2017: National Media Authority’s recent announcement that the parliament channel ‘Sout El Shaab’ or the voice of people, will stop airing on August 3, has been met with strong rejections by many parliamentarians and is being considered against the people’s rights to information.
The head of National Media Authority (NMA) Hussein Zein stated that this decision was based on the economic grounds saving money for state television.
Zein said in press statement that “closing the channel will save millions of [Egyptian] pounds to the state television and NMA has a lot of important projects that need to be funded.” He mentioned that any TV channel can broadcast recordings of sessions, the role currently played by Sout El Shaab.
Many parliamentarians have praised the role of Sout El Shaab, and have voiced their rejections of the decision to stop operations.
Soliman Wahdan, parliament speaker's deputy, expressed his complete rejection to the decision and said, “the closure of Sout El Shaab is considered a trespass against the Egyptian people's right to know, because it [Sout El Shaab] is the only outlet for them and their eye on the parliament.”
The employees of Sout El Shaab will continue working in state television and the equipment used at the channel will continue being used. Wahdan added, describing NMA’s saying that the parliament channel will be closed to save money as “false claims.”
Dr. Mohamed Fouad, parliamentarian and spokesperson of Al-Wafd political party also denounced the decision and considered it against people’s rights to know what is happening inside the Parliament and their right to follow the performance of the members they have elected.
On his part, MP Osama Sharshar submitted a request to Parliament asking Prime Minister Sherif Ismail about the decision to close the parliament channel, stating that Zein previously denied any intention to close the channel.
On his program on Sada Elbalad channel, Mostafa Bakry lambasted the state’s decision to close Sout El Shaab and called on NMA’s Hussein Zein to rebroadcast the channel.
Sout El Shaab is a state TV channel which specialized in broadcasting parliamentary sessions since Jan 2012.
The channel started by airing the opening session of the Muslim brotherhood parliament in 2012.
At that time, the Egyptian people welcomed this unprecedented initiative to follow parliament sessions and watch discussions of the parliament representatives regarding their affairs in the country; they considered it one of the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution.
This channel revealed the shameful performance of Islamists and therefore showed the weakness of the Muslim Brotherhood regime to be one of the causes of the 30 July revolution.
But since the beginning of the new parliament in 2016, Sout El Shaab has stopped broadcasting live, with only recorded sessions being aired.
After two sessions of the new parliament, Parliament Secretary-General Ahmed Saad El-Din decided to ban live television broadcasting of the sessions and a petition to end such broadcasting was signed by more than 40 members of the parliament. The first two sessions were met with rumors and criticism.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) then filed a lawsuit to the Administrative Court, demanding the broadcasting of parliamentary sessions.
NGOs cited Article 120 of the constitution, which states “The sessions of the House of Representatives shall be held in public.The House may hold a secret session at the request of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House, or at least twenty of the House members.By the majority of 33 its members, the House shall decide whether the discussion in question is to be conducted in a public or a secret session.”
They went to say that this action would negatively impact the citizens' confidence in legislators.
However, the parliament speaker Abdel-Aal said reporters will be still able to cover the sessions, adding that the decision is temporary and does not contradict the constitution.
The days came and went with no change and at last, Sout El Shaab channel will be closed.