State-sponsored media production company in Egypt embroiled in corruption scandals

Rumours have circulated during the past few hours of upcoming changes within the United Company for Media Services, the Egyptian regime’s media arm, which is owned by the intelligence. The news that was circulated was about investigations taking place inside the company due to the “suspicion of wasting public money” and the ouster of Tamer Morsi from the company’s presidency. His role was limited to Synergy company for Artistic Production.

Several issues caused the current crisis, most notably the series Khaled Ibn Al-Walid, which led to disagreements between the hero and his director. There was also the series King Ahmose. The work in this series was stopped despite the filming of most of his scenes due to the advertisement of the series, which was met with wide objections. The criticism was due to the hero’s appearance, the clothes of the actors, and other details. As for the series Nasl Al-Aghurab, some criticised its unjustified, bloody ending. Others accused the director Mohamed Sami of complimenting his wife, the heroine of the series, at the expense of the artistic work.

Sources from within the group revealed that a committee of sovereign bodies had been formed to examine all the issues. The sources indicated that officials in the group were being investigated on charges of wasting public money worth EGP 800 million (about $51 million).

The veteran journalist specialising in artistic affairs, Hisham Lasheen, says: “The drama has a deadly poison!” He added that “after a Ramadan season flourishing with polluted drama and the political marketing of the regime, there was a hot night for the company that appears at the forefront of artistic production as a monopolist and lonely drama commissioned by the state.” Lashin continued: “If you are not optimistic that there is a real intention to change this anomalous and strange situation of the oldest drama in the region, considering that the monopoly of it has not changed, even if people change, as there are trends and directions with which personal discretion does not fit.”

He adds, “Perhaps the new expected change is to bring about a different group for the new officials to continue domination and monopoly before we return to square zero again … and this is how the circles of corruption and monopoly are.” He concludes: “An old and sunken state, no matter how many faces change… and the victim is always the citizen who is powerless, and his only weapon is a drama saturated with deadly poison.”

In the context of the broad controversy that erupted over the case, Colonel Ahmed Shaaban, the right-hand man of the head of the intelligence service, Major General Abbas Kamel, wrote on Facebook: “Whoever seeks reform is not scandalous, who seeks to a development and an idea is not concerned with faces.” Shaaban considers that announcing the investigations into suspicions of “wasting public money” is “a scandal that should not take place,” as if public money is an internal matter and the corrupted will be reformed with wisdom and charity only.

Other developments in the Egyptian media included most notably the mysterious departure of Osama Kamal, the journalist, from the programme he presented, 90 Minutes, on the Al-Mehwar channel. Some linked these leaks to Kamal’s apology and his earlier announcement of his return, through 90 minutes to present a special episode on Palestine and discuss the details of the successful ceasefire initiative sponsored by Egypt. The episode was later cancelled.

Tamer Amin returned to the screen after a long absence after he mocked the people of Upper Egypt. Amin returns to Akher Al-Nahar TV show on the Al-Nahar channel after obtaining a temporary permit to practice the profession for a period of three months from the Media Syndicate.

This action came after the Syndicate’s decision, last February, to withdraw Amin’s permit for violating the Media Honour Charter after speaking inappropriately about the people of Upper Egypt. The Syndicate has set two conditions for the appearance of the returning broadcaster, namely adherence to the media code of conduct and a code of professional conduct.