Press Syndicate elections: Canvasing colleagues

Gamal Essam El-Din , Friday 3 Mar 2023

Journalists vote for a new chairman of the Press Syndicate on Friday.

Khaled Miri - Khaled El-Balshy


Elections for a new chairman of the Press Syndicate will be held on 3 March. The syndicate has 12,000 members and for the vote to be valid a quorum of 50 per cent plus one is required, meaning more than 6,000 journalists will be required to turn out and cast a ballot. Should this not happen, a second ballot will be scheduled for 17 March, with a reduced quorum of 25 per cent.

Candidates for syndicate chairman and for six seats on the board could register between 11-15 February. Eleven journalists are seeking to be elected chairman of the syndicate, and 40 candidates are competing for the board’s six contested seats.

Candidates for the post of the chairman of the syndicate include Khaled Meiri, editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Akhbar, Ayman Abdel-Aziz and Ali Al-Gammal from Al-Ahram, Nora Rashed and Sayed Al-Iskandrani from Al-Gomhouriya, and freelance journalists Khaled Al-Balshi and Abul-Seoud Mohamed.

Journalists hoping to secure a seat on the board include Amr Badr (Al-Dostour), Sami Abdel-Radi (Al-Watan), Hossam Al-Seweifi (Al-Fagr), Gamal Abdel-Rehim (Al-Gomhouriya), Abdel-Raouf Khalifa (Al-Ahram), Hisham Younis (Al-Ahram), Mohamed Shabana (Al-Ahram), Qotb Al-Dawi (Al-Ghad) and Wafaa Bakri (Al-Masry Al-Youm).

The election is being held against a backdrop of runaway inflation. As a result, the campaigns of most candidates have focused on raising the salaries and pensions of journalists.

Meiri has said his close ties with the government, and particularly the Finance Ministry, will help him increase journalists’ pensions from LE2,500 to LE 3,000 a month. He also said that “it is very important that journalists get free integrated medical services and that these services be available at the syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo and cover journalists and their families.”

Meiri also claimed to have Finance Minister Mohamed Maait’s approval to raise the syndicate’s monthly financial allowance by LE600 per journalist to LE3,370.

“It is in the interest of journalists that the Press Syndicate maintains good relations and strong connections with the state and government officials and that there should be bridges between the two,” said Meiri.

While canvasing for support, Meiri said his platform also extends to protecting press freedoms and promised to “do my best to change laws to prevent the jailing of journalists for publication offences”.

He said one of the first things he would do if elected is “to organise a conference on the problems facing journalism and the newspaper industry in Egypt.”

He noted the challenges facing the newspaper industry in the age of digital communication are the same the world over, with new media technology influencing all aspects of traditional media, including subscriptions, readership, circulation, and advertising revenues.

“The possibility to access information and receive instant updates via the Internet threatens the existence of traditional newspapers. There should be a conference to review the challenges facing newspapers and assess how publishers can use digital technology to expand readership and maximise subscription and advertising revenues,” he said.

He wants to upgrade the syndicate’s training centre so that it “provides useful information to newspaper publishers, journalists, advertisers, and readers on news delivery in the age of digital communication” and argued that “by utilising digital technology and maintaining print editions, publishers can provide credible news and information to increase their distribution and attract advertisers.”

Meiri visited Al-Ahram press establishment last week where he met Chairman of the Board Abdel-Mohsen Salama and Editor-in-Chief Alaa Thabet.

“Meiri is a good candidate who can not only provide good services but address journalists’ concerns and find solutions for their problems,” said Thabet.

Other candidates say that maintaining good relations with the government and state officials is not enough to solve the problems journalists face.

“Journalists are not only feeling the pinch of higher living costs, they are also hampered by a lack of press freedom. The syndicate’s new chairman and board needs to be strong enough to protect journalists from repressive measures,” said Amr Badr who is standing for a seat on the board.

“Begging for financial assistance from the government compromises journalists’ dignity and independence. The Press Syndicate already has a final court ruling which states that the syndicate’s monthly allowance should be increased to LE5,000 per journalist, a figure that should be increased by the rate of inflation on an annual basis,” said Badr.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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