In a first meeting of its kind, Egypt parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al received Saturday a delegation from the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate to discuss a number of issues ranging from issuing new media laws to problems facing parliamentary reporters.
The delegation, led by Journalists Syndicate chairman Yehia Qalash, included seven journalists who are members of the syndicate board as well as two media figures who are also MPs — journalists Mohamed Badawi (Al-Ahram) and Radwan Al-Zayati (Al-Gomhouria).
Qalash told reporters that the syndicate delegation visited Abdel-Al to congratulate him on his election as speaker of the House of Representatives and to discuss media laws that should be amended in line with the new constitution.
"We aim to discuss in detail laws prepared by the Journalists Syndicate and other experts on media affairs in Egypt and stress that these draft laws are the ones that reflect the wish of the majority of journalists and media people in Egypt," said Qalash, warning that "any alternative government-drafted laws in this respect would be a step in the wrong direction."
Qalash explained that seven articles in the new constitution deal with media affairs, stating that new laws giving greater freedoms to journalists and media people should be passed and that prison sentences in publication offences should be eliminated.
Qalash said two laws, the first with 230 articles entitled the "Law on Regulating the Press and the Media." and the second with four articles entitled the "Law on Amending Articles Related to Crimes of Publication in the Penal Code," were drafted upon coordination between the Journalists Syndicate and a government legislative reform committee.
"I would like to remind that speaker Abdel-Al was a member of this committee that played a positive role in drafting this law," said Qalash.
Qalash said his meeting with Abdel-Al also reviewed the conditions of journalists in detention and problems facing parliamentary reporters.
"We know that parliamentary reporters do not have good facilities to perform their very difficult task of covering parliament's news, and that this task will be much more difficult when the number of parliament's committees increase to 30," said Qalash.
Parliamentary reporters complain that they lack good internet facilities, while the space allowed to them to cover plenary sessions from parliament's balcony has become very limited.
Mahmoud Nafadi, chairman of the division of parliamentary reporters, told Qalash that "the number of parliamentary reporters increased to 140, with each four allocated just one desk to use their iPads to send reports to their newspapers and magazines, not to mention that as few as 12 seats in parliament's balcony were granted to as many as 140 reporters to cover the House's sittings."