Problems on hold
The recent midterm elections of the Journalists Syndicate board of directors brought in Yehia Qallash as the new syndicate head. The curtain thus fell over the run-up to the elections, including legal battles which resulted in a court ruling cancelling the midterm elections and requiring full board elections instead, and a counter ruling that declared the midterm elections legal. The electoral campaigning, which I choose to shed light on today, involved various perspectives and ambitions, more often than not so divergent as to be sure to confuse anyone. It makes one wonder what common ground would unite the board as it runs the affairs of journalists, fulfills their aspirations, and promotes the profession of journalism.
The only demands over which all candidates were unanimous were the banning of prison sentences for journalists in publishing cases, and the increase in the training allowance the syndicate grants its members. As I see them, these demands were a mere play on the sentiments of journalists for the candidates to win board seats. Other than that, the candidates offered all-too-divergent policies. This left journalists bewildered at how these candidates can succeed in putting into action the policies they proposed once they win seats on the board. Would they have to renege on their electoral promises, or will they struggle to keep them while their colleagues on the board try to keep other, different promises? Will the board be rife with internal conflict as each candidate struggles to fulfill the electoral platform over which he or she won their seats? In which case the only victims will be journalists and journalism.
I do not mean to project a negative pessimistic view; I merely cite what happens when candidates with divergent views get democratically elected to boards of directors while they lack mutual coordination on their various perspectives, agendas and policies. It is no secret that such boards end up as arenas of conflict and struggles. In case of the journalists, how can they hold any member of the board accountable for not implementing what he pledged on his electoral platform when he fails to persuade the other members of the board—who got elected on other, totally different platforms—to endorse his views?
While campaigning for the elections, many candidates came to visit us at Watani to rally our support. I discussed with several of them the viability of the individual candidacy system and what chance it had to work in the favour of journalists. I suggested that candidates must work to find common ground among themselves, and should accordingly run on competing lists that include candidates with harmonious views. They can thus pledge to commit themselves to a bunch of policies which they would work to achieve if they make it to the board. Each list may also include a candidate for the head of syndicate. This way journalists would be able to choose between different lists and compare policies and agendas, instead of finding themselves facing a huge number of individual names backed by their journalistic credit or political affiliation, but not necessarily what they offer journalists and journalism.
I am not here suggesting a change in the syndicate election law from an individual to a list candidacy, though this could be viable. I am offering a practical proposal to achieve coordination among the candidates with more or less similar views, with the aim of promoting policies and agendas instead of personal capacities. Only thus can the board be united on the heart of one man, as the Arabic saying goes.
In fact, this is what I did prior to the recent Journalists Syndicate’s elections. I read the fliers that the candidates handed out while campaigning, and grouped the candidates who shared the same views and called for similar policies. I then prepared for myself a list which I considered harmonious, and I voted for the names included on it. Granted, not all the candidates I voted for won. The question that still begs an answer is: will the syndicate board work as a united front during the upcoming phase? Or will the journalists be the victims?
29 March 2015