Friday 15 March saw a first for Watani, the election of one of its journalists, Hanan Fikry, to the board of the Journalists’ Syndicate. Five other candidates also made it to the board now chaired by the newly-elected Diaa Rashwan.
Watani today has a member on the board of the venerable syndicate in charge of journalism and journalist affairs. It is expected for the syndicate to assume a significant role in this critical period in Egypt’s history, and Ms Fikry, as board member, should be part of that.
Ms Fikry’s election carries several implications: she is a Copt, a woman, and she works for an independent paper. True, she is not the first woman, the first Copt, or the first journalist working for an independent paper to make it to the syndicate board; but her achievement is especially meaningful at this time since it marks a move against the predominant Islamist tide that has had Egypt in its grip since the January 2011 Revolution. This tide has ever since been harsh on women, Copts, and the independent media.
The results of the Journalists’ Syndicate board elections should act as a beacon of hope for those who are grieved at Egypt’s painful political, economic and security decline. The depressive reality of the current scene should not make us despair of ever overcoming it. The ray of light at the end of the tunnel clearly indicates that Egyptians are fully aware of what they aspire for, and have not lost the will to fight to regain their Egypt of the legendary gentleness and moderation. Egypt is a nation that has always embraced all her children, and will never be an easy win for any political or religious faction, group or clan that wishes to impose its hegemony and marginalise the ‘others’.
Egyptians have voiced the message loud and clear. The recent student union elections and, now, the Journalists’ Syndicate elections—in both of which the Islamists incurred heavy losses—have proved the strength of Egyptian will. I expect more of the same to come.
Even though profession syndicates care fore and foremost for the welfare and wellbeing of the members of the profession, the Journalists’ Syndicate in specific is intricately linked to politics. Whereas syndicates of professionals such as doctors, engineers, pharmacists or traders might afford to separate themselves from politics proper, it is a practical impossibility for the Journalists’ Syndicate to exclusively concern itself with the profession of journalism and the interests of journalists and leave politics to the political parties and movements, to the ruling and opposition forces.
Journalism has a crucial role to play where the critical issue of public awareness is concerned, since it spots, scrutinises and analyses all what goes on. Journalism has it in its power to build public awareness, and it can also deceive and mislead it. It is not for nothing then that journalism has been frequently defined as the fourth authority next to the legislative, executive and judicial authorities. In this capacity, journalism is indispensible and irreplaceable. Communities should secure the conditions that spawn strong, independent journalists’ syndicates able to act as watchdogs and whistle blowers whenever the need arises. That role is impossible to achieve if the syndicate falls in the hands of a political stream that does not honour freedom or equality.
Congratulations to the new Journalists’ Syndicate board headed by Mr Rashwan, to its old and new members, and to Ms Fikry. Ahead lies the delicate task of uniting ranks in harmony to serve national and professional interests. But first must come the demanding and direly needed job of putting the Journalists’ Syndicate house in order. For this to be tackled in a body hard to separate from politics, political differences and ideological conflicts should be swept aside.
24 March 2013