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."