Problems on hold
Membership in the Journalists’ Syndicate is the aim of all who work in the field of journalism. As the umbrella institution which regulates and monitors the profession, it closely observes the performance of its members and their adherence to the code of honour of journalism, in addition to offering them and their families countless services and benefits. More importantly, the syndicate takes it upon itself to protect and defend its members against any oppression they may fall prey to, whether in the course of their journalistic work or owing to tyranny exercised by influential special interest groups or persons.
As with all professional syndicates, the Journalists’ Syndicate sets the standards and requirements of approved journalistic performance, establishing thus the basis of assessment of journalists who wish to join the syndicate. Candidates for membership are assessed according to the standard of their published works, their awareness of events and their general knowledge. It is self-evident that gaining membership in the Journalists’ Syndicate is no simple task; only those who fully qualify may be allowed in.
Last week an uproar erupted once the results of the latest syndicate entrance exams were announced and it was declared that a number of the candidates for membership had not been accepted. Those who missed the chance to join reacted violently to the decision to exclude them—albeit temporarily—from the syndicate, as though it went without saying that all candidates should be accepted unconditionally, implying that they were victims of discrimination.
The behaviour of the unaccepted candidates was unprecedented. It was not as though these candidates had been forever denied membership; in a few months time they would be allowed to re-apply to join the syndicate. So why the exceptionally violent reaction? Regretfully, the answer to that question points at a set of flawed practices that have come to dominate the profession over the recent years, and that have rendered membership in the syndicate an urgent need for journalists.
Major among these practices is the generous monthly bonus in excess of EGP500 granted by the syndicate to its members. That sum, when added to the journalist’s salary, would go a long way to make life easier for any person or family. For this reason, some papers offer free-lance journalists inferior salaries in exchange for appointing them as in-house journalists, granting them thus the pre-requisite to apply for syndicate membership. This explains the urgent need to gain that coveted membership.
I would suggest that the Journalists’ Syndicate should revise its policy concerning the bonus, so that its value would be proportional to a journalist’s seniority and experience. This would be an appropriate practice; it is natural that a newly graduated journalist should be paid less than a senior one, and should get paid more as he or she gains more experience. It would moreover make it impossible to pressure junior journalists into accepting inferior salaries on the pretext that they would win generous bonuses.
It would seem as though the Journalists’ Syndicate has placed itself in the position of the wealthy young woman who would never know if a suitor desires her for herself or for her money.