Egypt's Journalists Syndicate rejects plans for press chamber

Ahram Online , Sunday 9 Nov 2014

A plan for a press chamber led by privately-owned newspapers is illegal and unconstitutional, says syndicate

Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate building (Photo: Mohamed Nada)

Egypt's Journalists Syndicate rejected plans by chief editors of privately-owned newspapers to establish a "chamber of the press" to represent their interests and coordinate between them.

The syndicate described the plans as "dangerous" and against the legal and constitutional principles of journalism in Egypt.

The plans "include journalists in a matter of no relevance to them, but are solely the business of newspaper owners, and in this there is a suspect and dangerous confusion between two very distinct groups (the journalists and the owners)," a statement by the syndicate read.

Egyptian law prohibits a journalist to be an owner or shareholder of any newspaper, the statement reminded, and said the meeting clearly breached it.

The meeting – which included representatives of Al-Watan, Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al-Youm Al-Sabea, Al-Bawabah News and other papers – produced a statement signed by seven chief editors confirming that they will start with the necessary legal procedures to establish an industry chamber for privately-owned newspapers, as "press is a national industry, with vital credit within the Egyptian economy."

They said the chamber will be responsible for coordination between different press corporations in matters related to improving the press industry, such as printing, distribution, advertising and investments. In addition, the chamber is to represent privately-owned newspapers before authorities and in public debate.

The Journalists Syndicate attacked the initiative, accusing it of attempting to introducing division between journalists by categorising them into ones working for private, publicly-owned or party-affiliated newspapers.

The syndicate said it already offers methods of organisation for journalists and warned syndicate members who signed the statement, as such an action doesn't comply with syndicate regulations.

"The syndicate has long fought fierce battles in defense of the profession, press freedom and general freedoms in this nation, and we will not allow those who are behind this arrogant and reckless assault on Egyptian media to achieve their pernicious goals," the syndicate's statement said.

It concluded with an accusation of "members of the government" of being "silent to the degree of complicity" with some businessmen, which "begs many questions."

The step to establish a press industry chamber comes shortly after a broader meeting was held last month between 17 Egyptian chief editors – many of whom are initiating the press chamber – to decide the country's future journalistic framework following a major militant attack that killed over 30 army personnel in North Sinai.

The chief editors signed a statement at the end of the meeting, confirming they will not publish any material that "shows support to terrorism" or includes assaults on army, police and the judiciary. The statement also pledged full support to the project of a "modern state, carried out and led by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi."

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