Al Ahram Editor to Revamp Egypt’s Propaganda Machine and Give It Realistic Touch

President Gamal Abdel Nasser has appointed his personal friend and confidant Mohammed Hassenein Heykal as the head of Egypt’s public information services. The 45 year-old newspaper man edits Al Ahram, the largest daily in the Arab world and is a firm believer in giving the public the true facts however unpleasant they may be at times. Officially Mr. Heykal was named to the post of Minister of Guidance succeeding Mohammed Fayek who was appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Col. Nasser named three other ministers of state and a new ambassador to Paris in what were described as his most important government changes in two years. The elevation of Mr. Heykal coinciding with stepped up Egyptian ground and air activity against Israeli positions in the occupied Sinai peninsula, was seen by the (London) Guardian today as the beginning of a campaign to convince the outside world that no peace is possible unless Israel withdraws from Arab land. This is where the appointment of Heykal as information minister comes in, the Guardian said.

“Arab observers believe Nasser chose him to mastermind a campaign to get this message across. The message is not for home consumption but directed particularly to the West where Arab battle claims have been received in the past with considerable scepticism.” Mr. Heykal will have authority over information and propaganda activities including publishing, television and radio and other means of informing and influencing opinion at home and abroad. He has been a critic of secrecy and bureaucratic obfuscation. His close relationship with President Nasser has given Al Ahram the status of a semi-official organ of state. The views it expresses are said to be usually those of the President. As an editor and editorialist Mr. Heykal has opposed officials who want to keep bad news from the public. Last January he disclosed in Al Ahram that a complete Soviet-made radar station had been captured by Israeli commandos and flown off by helicopters. In one of his columns he assailed the practice of issuing optimistic military communiques when they are not justified. Subsequently, military spokesmen began announcing the deaths of Egyptian soldiers and civilians in Israeli air attacks.

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