In what has become a yearly tradition, Watani’s editorial family was last Monday invited to participate in a referendum on whether the editor-in-chief should carry on in his position or should leave. The last time I tackled this Watani practice was on 11 February 2018 in an editorial under the title “Watani’s poll on its editor-in-chief”. But this was not the last time the annual referendum was conducted; Watani reporters were polled on the matter in February 2019 but I could not write then about it because other events took precedence as far as public interest was concerned. Back then, Egypt’s journalists were preparing for the election of a new board for the Journalists’ Syndicate, and this was followed by a public referendum on constitutional amendments. So there was no chance to tackle the Watani poll.
The tradition started in February 2011 in the wake of the public uprising of Egyptians against authority and their demand for change. Back then, the wrathful uprising boiled over into most of Egypt’s institutions; waves of rebellious anger raged among employees, demanding change.
This wrathful period took its toll; the rampant rebellion was clear to all of us who lived through it. Even though it was never manifested in Watani, I could not throw it behind my back. The sense that I, as Editor-in-Chief, needed confirmation of the degree of acceptance and harmony that existed between me and my editorial team, grew by the day. I needed to assess the positives and negatives in that relation before they would pile up and threaten to blow out of proportion in a call for change, as had taken place in so many other institutions.
Some may wonder about the outcome of a vote of confidence or no-confidence in the editor-in-chief. In State-owned papers, the post is filled through official decision by sovereign authority, but in privately owned papers the chief editor is appointed by the board of directors. I sensed, however, that the board of directors’ assignment is not sufficient accreditation for an editor-in-chief; it has to be supplemented with confidence from the editorial team that he leads and works with. The editor-in-chief must gain the conviction and contentment of his team to ensure the concord and collaboration required for successful implementation of the editorial policies drawn. Hence the idea of the referendum on whether the editor-in-chief should stay or leave, regardless of the legitimacy of his assignment to the post.
This referendum has now become a yearly tradition, even though no law or bylaw requires it. I continue to highlight it so that it becomes a Watani legacy embedded in the consciences of all future editors-in-chief and editorial teams who carry the torch. The uninterrupted yearly tradition is confirmation of the right of the editorial team to bestow their professional accreditation on their leader or to withdraw it from him or her. In case the editor-in-chief gets a vote of confidence, he or she should invest it to develop common convictions and shared understandings that would reflect on the quality of the work, and produce contentment and success. If the editorial team withdraws its confidence, the editor-in-chief should take the no-confidence vote to the board that appointed him, for it to take the necessary measures to appoint a new editor-in-chief in his stead.
Throughout the last nine years, Watani’s editorial family has given me their vote of confidence, in a direct secret ballot. An independent committee has always been in charge of the referendum. Today, I am honoured to announce the results of the 17 February 2020 referendum as follows:
Number of Watani members with the right to vote in the referendum: 118.
Number of those who voted: 86
Turnout: 73 per cent.
Number of those who voted for the editor-in-chief to “stay”: 77; that is 89.5 per cent.
Number of those who voted for the editor-in-chief to “leave”: 9; that is 10.5 per cent.
I thank Watani’s editorial family for their confidence, wish the paper a bright future, and hope the referendum legacy becomes a standing tradition.
20 February 2020