Eleven candidates are running for the Press Syndicate’s presidency and 53 journalists are contesting six board seats in next month’s mid-term elections.
The current head of the Press Syndicate, Al-Ahram Chairman Abdel-Mohsen Salama, will not be competing for a second term. Instead, he says, he will focus on his duties as the chair of Al-Ahram’s board.
“I decided not to stand in order to underline the principle of the rotation of power,” said Salama. The outgoing syndicate chairman said he looked forward to cooperating with his successor and wished him success in his duties.
Salama spoke as he accompanied Diaa Rashwan, among the most prominent of the 11 candidates, as he canvassed Al-Ahram journalists.
State Information Service (SIS) head Rashwan won the Press Syndicate’s top post in 2013, when his main competitor was Salama. In 2015 Rashwan failed to win a second term, losing to Yehia Qallash. In 2017, Salama defeated Qallash, receiving 2,457 votes against Qallash’s 1,890.
During his tour of Al-Ahram publications on Sunday Rashwan said he was committed to improving the financial conditions of journalists and promised an increase in their monthly technology allowance.
“The allowance will be increased by 25 per cent starting in July, though I will do my best to increase it earlier if possible,” Rashwan said.
Rashwan has already asked Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait to increase the allowance, and a 25 per cent raise has been incorporated in the forthcoming budget.
Rashwan also promised to increase pensions, currently set at LE1,450, by at least 20 per cent, and to negotiate with the minister of housing to resume construction of the journalists’ housing project in 6 October city.
“The syndicate will not see divisions, be they religious or partisan, under my tenure. I will work to strengthen unity in the syndicate and adopt constructive dialogue on public issues,” Rashwan said.
Rashwan said he was committed to allowing journalists working for online news services to join the syndicate. Currently membership is limited to those working for print publications.
“We are not embarking on a new mission. What the syndicate has achieved is the result of the work of former heads and I thank Salama for his tenure,” said Rashwan.
In a statement issued before the announcement he would not be standing for re-election Salama listed his achievements, including increasing journalists’ allowances from LE1,380 to LE1,680, and pensions from LE1,150 to LE1,450.
The training institute of journalists which is based in the syndicate’s headquarters was renovated during Salama’s tenure, and a protocol has been signed with the Ministry of Military Production to build a hospital for journalists in 6 October city.
The Electoral Commission was due to announce a final list of the candidates on Tuesday 19 February.
Electoral Commission head Gamal Abdel-Rehim said the syndicate was still waiting for the response of the State Council to its request to assign 23 voting supervisors to oversee the poll and count.
Refaat Rashad, managing editor of Al-Akhbar, is the best known of Rashwan’s 10 adversaries.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 February, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Press Syndicate poll