Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Billionaire fights Egyptian conservatism with TV"

"Egyptian billionaire and telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris plans to launch new television channels to counter what he describes as increasing social and inreligious conservatism the Arab Muslim country. Sawiris, a Coptic Christian with a $10 billion fortune according to Forbes magazine, said he would launch a movie channel early in 2008 followed by an all-news station. He already owns OTV, a 24-hour entertainment channel.

"Speaking at a dinner for journalists late on Monday, Sawiris said he was disturbed by the rising number of women wearing the Islamic headscarf. 'I am not against the headscarf because then I would be against personal freedoms,' he said. 'But when I walk in the street now I feel like I am in Iran... I feel like a stranger.' [...]

"The Egyptian billionaire, who owns a stake in Egypt's popular daily newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, launched a scathing attack on the Brotherhood, which insists that non-Muslims and women are ineligible to run for the country's presidency. 'To hell with them,' he said. 'Not a single Christian is waiting for their permission. God is just. God does not discriminate between people.'

"Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom, the fourth largest Arab mobile phone operator by market value, is not known to have any political ambitions and has rarely expressed his political opinions in public. Independent media have challenged the dominance of state-run Egyptian press and television, which for decades has dictated what the public could read, watch or listen to. Privately-owned newspapers have pushed the boundaries in political reporting, attacking President Hosni Mubarak and his family. Private television, however, does not enjoy the same liberties."

Source: Reuters, November 7, 2007