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Press syndicate ready to reach 'friendly ‎solution' with police, says ‎parliament media committee

The board of Egypt's press syndicate will be invited to ‎a meeting with parliament's Media and Culture ‎Committee after accepting a 'friendly solution' with ‎the interior ministry

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 11 May 2016
Press Syndicate	 (AP)
Press Syndicate (AP)

MPs affiliated with the Egyptian parliament's Media and ‎Culture Committee told reporters Wednesday that ‎there are indications that the ongoing crisis between ‎the press syndicate and the interior ministry will soon reach a "friendly solution."

The crisis erupted after police officers ‎raided the syndicate's headquarters in downtown ‎Cairo on 1 May to arrest two journalists accused of "publishing false news" and "inciting the ‎overthrow of the regime."‎

Osama Sharshar, an independent MP and a member ‎of the Media and Culture Committee, said to ‎reporters that the board of the syndicate told a ‎parliamentary delegation Tuesday that it stands in ‎respect of all state institutions and is now ready to ‎reach a solution with the interior ministry.

‎‎"Members of the board told the 10-member ‎delegation that visited the syndicate's ‎headquarters Tuesday that they accept that ‎parliament's Media and Culture Committee is acting on their behalf to ‎find an ideal solution to the crisis with the interior ministry," said Sharshar.‎

Other members of parliament's media committee told reporters that "the board of the press syndicate is expected to be invited for a meeting ‎with the committee to discuss the crisis."‎

Former information minister Osama Heikal, who heads parliament's media committee, told reporters that "the committee's ‎MPs and board of the press syndicate will be the ‎only ones who will attend the meeting."

"Prime ‎Minister Sherif Ismail told me that no interior ‎ministry official can attend the meeting because the ‎whole issue is now under investigation by judicial ‎authorities," said Heikal.‎

However, Khaled Youssef, a film director and member of the ‎media committee, told reporters that "it is necessary ‎that an interior ministry official attend the meeting ‎so that each can tell their side of the story and reach ‎common ground."‎

Acting upon the request of parliament at the end of a ‎plenary session on Sunday, the Media and Culture ‎Committee decided to send a 10-member delegation ‎to meet with the board of the press syndicate on ‎Tuesday.

"The delegation was warmly welcomed by ‎the board and our meeting with them lasted three ‎hours," said MP Youssef.‎

In a meeting on Wednesday morning, the Media and ‎Culture Committee led by Heikal reviewed the ‎results of the delegation's visit to the press syndicate ‎headquarters.

Sharshar told Ahram Online that ‎‎"we told the board of the syndicate it was very good ‎and encouraging that they postponed a general ‎assembly meeting that was planned for Tuesday to ‎discuss possible escalatory action against the interior ‎ministry."‎

Heikal told reporters that parliament speaker Ali ‎Abdel-Al had received two letters from the board of ‎the press syndicate and the interior ministry, with ‎each telling its part of the story.

The interior ‎ministry letter had accused the chairman of the press ‎committee, Yehia Qallash, of allowing two ‎wanted journalists to hide ‎in the syndicate building.

"When we contacted him ‎and asked about this he did not seem to care, saying ‎he was too busy to do anything about it," said the ‎interior ministry's letter.‎

For his part, Qallash defended himself in another ‎letter to Abdel-Al, stressing that he highly ‎appreciates parliament's attempts to find a solution ‎for the crisis with the interior ministry.

"I just want ‎to stress that we respect the rule of the law, and for ‎this reason we decided to stand against the interior ‎ministry when a security force stormed the ‎headquarters in violation of Article 70 of the press ‎syndicate law (no. 76/1970) which stipulates ‎that its building can be searched only by a ‎prosecution official and in the presence of the head ‎of the syndicate or someone delegated to act on his ‎behalf."‎

MPs now believe that the syndicate's decision to ‎suspend its general assembly, Qallash's letter to ‎parliament and the syndicate board's acceptance to ‎attend a meeting with parliament's Media and ‎Culture Committee could really do a lot to contain ‎the crisis.‎

Heikal said he urged the press syndicate's board to ‎do everything possible to contain the anger of MPs, ‎who criticised in a plenary session on Sunday the syndicate's ‎demand that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ‎apologise and that interior minister Magdi Abdel-‎Ghaffar be sacked.

"They must also know that there ‎is a little sympathy on the part of the public opinion ‎with them," said Heikal, adding that "I told Qallash ‎on the phone that the committee is neutral and that ‎the syndicate must show greater flexibility and ‎refrain from taking any escalatory steps in order to ‎create an environment favourable to a settlement of ‎the crisis."‎

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