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Egypt newsmakers may strike to protest 'vicious attack' on press freedom

The press syndicate is discussing the possibility of voluntarily suspending newspaper publication and television broadcasting in protest at perceived attacks on press freedom by the Islamist-led Shura Council

Ahram Online, Monday 6 Aug 2012
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Egyptian daily newspapers (Photo: Mohamed Nada)
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Deputy head of the press syndicate Gamal Fahmi has announced that editors-in-chief of public and private newspapers, as well as satellite channel senior managers, will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss an escalation in response to what they described as the "vicious attack" on press freedom.

At a conference under the name of "Press Freedom is in Danger" held on Sunday evening at the Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo, Fahmi said that the problem had to be put before public opinion, through periodically withholding the issuance of newspapers and the broadcast of satellite channels in protest over the perceived threat to freedoms in general and press freedom specifically.

The conference was held to discuss possible responses to recent issues regarding press and television broadcast.

The newly-appointed Minister of Investment Osama Saleh had said on Sunday that he intends to withdraw licences of satellite channels which "intentionally" spread rumours, harming investment opportunities in the country.

The conference also discussed the ongoing struggle between the press syndicate and the Shura Council (Egypt's upper house of parliament), as the former accuses the Islamist-led upper house of trying to dominate public newspapers through the sub-committee that is designated to appoint new editors-in-chief.

In June, seven board members of the press syndicate withdrew from a meeting with the speaker of Egypt's Shura Council, Brotherhood MP Ahmed Fahmy, after objecting to the upper house's "excessive" interference in the Supreme Press Council, responsible for appointing editors-in-chief of state-owned media.

The objecting board members demanded a new mandate for the process of selecting key editors, in order to reduce the influence of the Islamist forces who hold the majority of seats in the upper house.

The conference reiterated its support for peaceful strikes and demonstrations by public sector journalists to pressure the Shura Council.

Conference attendees decided that there will be meetings between representatives of the press syndicates, political parties and revolutionary groups, to draft their recommendations on press legislation and submit them to the Constituent Assembly.

A statement signed by almost a thousand journalists was presented at the meeting, accusing the Shura Council of implementing the same controlling tactics used by former president Mubarak's now defunct National Democratic Party.

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