TV anchor Azza El-Henawy returned to her show on state-owned Channel 3 after being suspended for criticising the government, amid wide-scale controversy. El-Henawy had condemned the government’s performance in handling the flood crisis in Alexandria and Beheira earlier in November and was suspended.
Daily News Egypt spoke to El-Henawy on Tuesday and she said she had not been informed that legal charges against her were dropped and was allowed to continue working in a decision issued by the State Broadcasting legal affairs department on 23 November.
“I did not know anything about the investigation results until last Sunday. When I went to legal affairs to follow up on the investigation progress, I found out that the investigation ended on 23 November and that the channel’s administration was informed,” El-Henawy said.
“Moreover, I realised the head of the channel had attempted to prevent me from appearing on TV on Sunday by telling the secretary to not provide me with information on my case, which means that if I had not visited the legal affairs office, I would indeed have missed the episode and maybe other episodes,” she said.
This is not the first time she found herself in trouble with the channel over her statements. During the rule of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and also faced suspension for refusing to spread false propaganda messages about the regime.
”I am kind of used to being penalised since Mubarak’s regime,” El-Henawy said. Yet she said she was determined on defending media freedom. “I will not leave my work and my duty of telling the truth and presenting all sides of the story in my episodes”.
Her recent case had sparked anger among journalists and human rights’ advocates over press freedom rights but despite the case’s conclusion, El-Henawy was still obliged by the channel to sign an official mandate where she would be committed no to “repeat her previous mistake”.
Commenting on media freedom in Egypt, El-Henawy regretted the banning of many respectable writers from appearing on TV, including Belal Fadl, Gamal El-Gaml, and Fahmy Howedi.
“Press freedom in Egypt is very poor. Any newspaper that publishes critical content about the state’s performance or decisions is immediately confiscated,” she stated.
She referred to two incidents of government censorship, one pertained to “Sout Al-Oma” newspaper when they wrote about the president’s mother and another case pertained to Al-Watan newspaper which wrote report about the presence of corruption in state sectors.
“Ironically, the state claims it respects media freedom while they give contradictory orders to channels and newspapers in secret. I really do not know if Essam Amir [head of Egypt’s state broadcast] was ordered to suspend me for expressing my opinion during the floods crisis,” she said.
El-Henawy said Egyptian media “misses Yousry Fouda, Dina Abdel Rahman, Jehan Mansour, and Reem Maged’s objectivity and credibility”.