A group of more than 300 Egyptian journalists are planning to refer the head of the Journalists Syndicate to a disciplinary committee for signing last week’s controversial media statement in support of the government and its war on terrorism.
Last week, the editors of some of the country’s major state- and privately owned newspapers, including state-owned Al-Ahram, as well as privately owned Al-Shorouk, Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Watan, released a declaration of unqualified “support for all measures taken by the state in combating terrorists and protecting national security.”
A number of journalists from the syndicate told Mada Masr that the group would refer the elected head of the Journalists Syndicate, Diaa Rashwan, to a disciplinary committee for attending the editors’ meeting and signing the statement without first consulting with the syndicate’s general assembly.
On Saturday, syndicate board member, Khaled al-Balshy, held a meeting with several journalists, during which they agreed to form a new movement to protect the independence of the practice.
Balshy and the organizers of Saturday’s meeting issued a statement that was signed by over 300 journalists, declaring that the editors’ statement does not represent them and criticizing its content. They called it, “the death of the profession of journalism, a waste of every journalist’s dignity, and more importantly, a victory for terrorism through the voluntary abandonment of freedom of opinion and expression.”
In their statement, the editors agreed that media outlets should not cast doubt on the performance of state institutions, including the police, military and judiciary, pledging to “stop publishing statements that support terrorism and undermine state institutions directly or indirectly.”
The declaration came in response to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s call for Egyptians to stand behind him in the fight against terrorism following the recent deadly attacks by militants in the Sinai that killed at least 33 security personnel.
According to organizers, the new movement will include syndicate and non-syndicate members and will focus on the unfair dismissal and detention of journalists. It will also work towards forming a new alliance within the syndicate in preparation for the next election, as many current representatives are perceived to be supporting the state.
Several newspapers have recently dismissed tens of journalists with no warning, and many have complained that the syndicate did not act appropriately in response to the arrests of journalists over the last year and a half.
However, due to outdated membership criteria and the syndicate’s financial dependence on the state, the majority of journalists working in Egypt are not members of the syndicate.