Journalists conducting an extended sit-in at the Syndicate headquarters submitted a request Monday to the Syndicate Council for an emergency general assembly meeting to discuss ways of enforcing the resolutions of the May 4 meeting.
The extraordinary general assembly meeting on May 4 was convened to discuss ways of responding to the unprecedented police raid on the Syndicate headquarters on May 1, and the arrest of two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud al-Saqqa, from inside the building. The meeting was attended by more than two thousand journalists, who formally adopted a number of resolutions, including: The resignation of the interior minister, an official apology from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a number of escalations by local media outlets.
The request for a follow-up general assembly meeting came just hours after a group calling themselves “The Journalistic Family,” made up of a few dozen pro-government journalists, convened at the offices of the state-owned Al-Ahram News Corporation on Sunday. This group also called for a general assembly meeting, not to address police violations, but to discuss issuing a vote of no confidence against the Journalists Syndicate Council, and to call for early elections to replace members of the Council. Calls for such change were headed by the “Correcting the Path Front,” in direct coordination with officials from Al-Ahram, along with five members of the Journalists Syndicate Council, including Mohamed Shabana, Alaa Thabet, Hatem Abu Keela and Khaled Meeri.
This pro-government coalition issued a statement criticizing the Journalists Syndicate Council’s policies, arguing that it acts like a political party. The Council “must not have a monopoly over the Syndicate, or use the Syndicate as a pulpit for its proclamations,” the statement read. The group emphasized the importance of separating the Syndicate Council from the General Assembly to ensure leading members of the Syndicate do not impose their will on Egypt’s journalists. Resolutions issued by the Council’s emergency general assembly meetings are not binding, as they are with regular general assembly resolutions, the statement asserted.
The laws and bylaws regulating the Journalists Syndicate do not contain any provisions allowing the General Assembly to withdraw confidence from the Council, says Council member Mahmoud Kamel. “It is the right of any 100 or more members — who have the right to vote – to call for an extraordinary General Assembly meeting, and the Syndicate Council has to respond within a month,” he adds.
Rank-and-file Syndicate members are not permitted to add issues for discussion to the agenda of an extraordinary general assembly meeting, other than what was initially proposed, Kamel explains. The Syndicate Council, however, has the right to add additional items at its discretion.
Former President of the Journalists Syndicate under Hosni Mubarak, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, criticized the Syndicate Council during The Journalistic Family meeting Sunday, calling for all its members to resign over “crisis mismanagement policies.”
Shabana says he was surprised by the May 4 resolutions. He claims they include actions and counter-measures that were not agreed upon.
Another member of the Syndicate Council, who requested anonymity, told Mada Masr that Syndicate Council elections have been proposed this month amid a number of threats of resignations by pro-state council members. “Some of the council members who threatened to resign have also warned of the possibility of state sequestration of the Syndicate, due to the resolutions issued by its general assembly,” the anonymous member added.
On Saturday the Journalists Syndicate Council announced the postponement of a general assembly meeting scheduled for May 10 by a week, in response to proposed mediation efforts by members of parliament. The Syndicate Council issued another statement on Saturday, announcing it is “not at odds with state institutions,” and stressing its “respect for the president of the republic.”
“The Syndicate’s laws do not stipulate the right of General Assembly members to withdraw confidence from the Council. Members who resign are to be replaced by the second highest scoring candidates from the previous Council elections, as long as the number of resignations is not more than three at any one time,” the anonymous member explains, adding, “In cases where more than three council members have resigned, elections are to be held for these seats.”
Conflict has been palpable within the ranks of the Syndicate, with pro-state journalists and editors refusing to abide by the General Assembly resolutions adopted on May 4, the anonymous source asserted. Although he declined to identify any of them, another council member said the Chief Editor of the privately owned Youm7 news portal, Khaled Salah, is among them. Youm7 published an article Sunday titled, “Ten failures of the Journalists Syndicate crisis,” criticizing the Syndicate’s stances against the Interior Ministry.
Another opponent of the General Assembly’s resolutions is the staunchly pro-Sisi media personality, Mostafa Bakry, who is also a member of parliament. Bakry sought to link the Syndicate’s position against the Interior Ministry to the deadly ambush on police forces in Cairo’s southern district of Helwan on Sunday.
Some leading figures within the syndicate have recently received threats and warnings, the anonymous Council member says.
Syndicate Council member Gamal Abdel Rahim suggests “the harsh criticisms from these five council members should result in their resignation from the Council,” although he adds, “It is the right of any of them to attend and take part in Syndicate meetings.”