Journalists, farmers syndicates withdraw from Egypt's Constituent Assembly

Ahram Online , Tuesday 20 Nov 2012

Syndicates join other political forces in withdrawing from constitution-drafting body which they accuse of ignoring recommendations regarding media freedom

File photo: Gamal Fahmy (Photo: Ahram)

The Journalists Syndicate Council announced Tuesday its withdrawal from Egypt's Constituent Assembly, citing the assembly's refusal to listen to the syndicate's recommendations.

The decision came after an urgent council meeting that resulted in a unanimous vote in favour of withdrawal.

The council criticised what it said were violations of freedom of expression in the current draft constitution. Moreover, it criticised the assembly's disregard for journalists' demands to protect press independence, to prohibit the closing down of media outlets or the confiscation of newspapers.

Last week, Journalists Syndicate Secretary-General Gamal Fahmy threatened to withdraw from the assembly in protest at the draft articles.

Fahmy, who writes for Al-Tahrir newspaper, was among a number of prominent journalists who in August left their columns blank in protest at what they said was an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to control state-owned newspapers and publications.

Tuesday also saw the Farmers Syndicate representative, Mohamed Abdel-Qader, withdraw from the assembly, saying the farmers' constitutional demands were ignored. Those include that the state provides irrigation and reclaimed lands for youth.

On Thursday, representatives of all of Egypt's Churches met and agreed to withdraw from the Islamist-led assembly in protest at a number of articles revealed in the latest draft.

The beleaguered assembly has already suffered a number of withdrawals since 11 June, when the 'Egyptian Bloc' parties – including the Free Egyptians, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the leftist Tagammu Party – initiated a walk-out, followed by the Karama Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party and the Democratic Front Party, to allow greater representation for women, young people and Coptic Christians, while also registering their objection to "Islamist monopolisation" of the assembly.

Meanwhile, the assembly is still facing the risk of dissolution by court order due to a case challenging the constitutionality of the law which set the criteria for choosing its members. The 100 assembly members were chosen by the now-dissolved parliament, which was ruled unconstitutional by the High Constitutional Court (HCC) in mid-June.  

On 23 October, the Supreme Administrative Court referred the lawsuit challenging the assembly's constitutionality to the HCC, which is yet to issue its verdict. It has been claimed that some assembly members are attempting to draft the constitution quickly and submit it for a national referendum before the court issues its verdict.

The first assembly was dissolved in April after a court ruling stated it was not representative of Egyptian society. The same criticism is being directed at the current constitution-drafting body. 

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