Problems on hold
The title of this editorial derives from an axiom well known to Egyptians: “Raise your head high … You are Egyptian”. The axiom was used during uprisings or revolutions by Egyptians against oppression, to remind of the pride of holding that identity, a pride that warrants championing it.
Today I use this axiom to refer to the mid-term election of the board of the Journalists’ Syndicate, which was held last Friday. I write after the election concluded but before announcement of the names of the winners, because I did not intend that what I write would be taken to imply anything to support or oppose the electoral standing of any of those who contended the election. Today, I congratulate all those who won seats on the board of the Journalists’ Syndicate, aspiring to their success in promoting the honour of the profession and benefitting all journalists.
I broach an issue I finally decided to tackle despite hesitation to do so during former board elections: the electoral promises given by contenders aspiring to win seats on the board. I always stood in doubt about the capacity of the winners to realise their promises to journalists, which they could only achieve if they succeed in passing them through the board. This is why I repeatedly demanded that the election law should be changed to allow candidates of similar outlooks and goals to run together on a list, so that once a list wins we can be sure its members would exert concerted efforts to realise the electoral promises on account of which they were elected to the board. As matters stand, the system of electing candidates on an individual basis gives no opportunity of a voting bloc with significance on the board, hence no guarantee of success in achieving electoral promises.
On to a reading of the electoral promises given so generously by candidates and circulated so widely through leaflets handed to journalists, but which end up trampled under their feet on election day. These promises stand behind my choice of title: “Raise your head high … You’re a journalist”. Excerpts of the promises:
• “Our Syndicate has long been victim of attempts to destroy it. Its status has reached the low point where the only alternative to ‘bad’ is ‘worse’.”
• “Many have garnered your votes with promises they never kept. They vowed to serve you, then closed their doors.”
• “Some of those who won the post of head of the board were intruders. This made matters worse for the interests of journalists.”
• Working to establish a new legislative system to govern the media and the syndicate.
• Reviewing the laws that govern journalism and the media.
• Granting journalists immunity similar to parliamentary immunity.
• “The jungle of legislation that governs journalistic work requires, in order to change, it a board formed of fighters, especially given a parliament that does not lend itself well to passing the legislation we aspire to. We thus need a solid board capable of fearless confrontation and dialogue, the members of which have no qualms about being excluded or losing a post.”
• Confronting legislation that kills journalism and turns papers into government declarations.
• Recovering the role of national [Sate-owned] papers, and liberating them from the dominion imposed on them.
• Bringing back to the syndicate the brilliance it lost under the weight of crises.
• Revoking laws that fetter press freedom.
• Gaining freedom for all imprisoned journalists.
• Founding a perennial system to protect the industry of journalism in Egypt, securing its survival now and growth in the future.
• Finding practical answers to the financial and administrative problems of national, party, and independent papers.
• Supporting the establishment of an industry to manufacture paper and inks in Egypt, so as to offset the huge financial burden of importing them.
• Tackling the unemployment that plagues journalists, through setting up a data base for the unemployed and finding fundamental solutions for them.
• Allocating 5 per cent of advertising revenue to the development of the resources of the syndicate.
• Recovering the dignity of journalists, improving their standard of living, and confronting their silencing through unfair dismissal from their jobs.
• Establishing the right of journalists to a minimum wage of EGP5,000.
• Raising the technology allowance granted to journalists from the current monthly EGP1,700 to EGP2,100.
• Setting the end-of-service allowance granted to journalists in party and independent papers at EGP100,000.
• Founding a journalists’ university, journalists’ hospital, housing, holiday resorts, vehicle ownership programme, social clubs in regions outside Cairo; as well as concluding agreements with doctors of all specialisations to examine journalists and their families free of charge.
• Demanding of the Cabinet the allocation of a ‘journalism’ district in Egypt’s new administrative capital, for papers to erect new headquarters; also to allot a housing district there for journalists.
I extend my heart-felt wishes to the Journalists’ Syndicate board to succeed in achieving these promises.
17 March 2019