A number of Egyptian journalists have launched a petition to safeguard a "free press that opposes terrorism as well as despotism".
The move comes in rejection to a statement signed last week by the chief editors of most of Egypt's newspapers, in which they said they won't publish material that "shows support to terrorism, directly or indirectly", while also confirming their "refusal to doubts in state institutions and insults to the army, police and judiciary".
Saturday's petition – so far signed by nearly 400 Egyptian journalists, working in media outlets run by the previously mentioned chief editors – was proposed by Khaled El-Balshi, a member of the high board of the Journalists Syndicate and chief editor of Albedaiah newspaper.
A meeting over the matter was held by more than 40 journalists at the press syndicate on Saturday evening, according to El-Balshi.
He told Ahram Online that he thinks the chief editors' statement is a reflection of their evident closeness to Egypt's president and prime minister, who he says have been annoyed by the media's coverage of recent events in the country.
"The state has a clear stance against the media, thinking that it was behind 25 January and 30 June," said El-Balshi, referring to the mass protests which ousted presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi in 2011 and 2013, respectively. "The truth is that the regime's policies were behind the uprisings … policies that are very similar to those adopted now".
The petition deemed the chief editors' statement a "setback to the freedom of press", a "return to the eras of suppression" and "above all, support to terrorism by voluntarily abandoning freedom of opinion and expression".
Just as the petition called last week's statement a declaration of defeat by terrorism, El-Balshi explained that countering terrorism comes through "scandalising it" by revealing information – instead of restricting facts.
The petition wasn't widely covered in Egyptian media, he said, adding that the journalists will meet on Wednesday to discuss the next step in their programme.
In Reporters Without Borders' 2014 press freedom index, Egypt was ranked the 159th out of 180 countries, while Egyptian NGOs mentioned that more than eight journalists are currently imprisoned on the grounds of circulating false news or protesting and sabotaging public property.