By Nouran El-Behairy
The Press Syndicate held an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss what members described as interference by the Shura Council in the affairs of the press, moves which are seen as potentially leading to the Islamisation or “Brotherhooding” of state-owned newspapers in Egypt.
Several journalists said they would organise protests outside of Al-Ahram newspaper and march to the Shura Council to denounce the council’s employment criteria, which they believe is encroachment on the freedoms granted to the press.
The conflict over the criterion may be further complicated if the Supreme Administrative Court considers dismantling the Shura Council as it did with the People’s Assembly, which would make the employment criterion for editors-in-chief would be null and void.
The council’s criteria states that applicants for the position of Editor-in-Chief of state-owned newspapers must have at least 15 years experience, with 10 uninterrupted years of service.
Candidates have to be under the age of 60 and not engaged in “corrupting political life.”
The candidates similarly must not support normalising relations with Israel.
Applicants must also have a clean disciplinary record, with no prior experience working as media advisors to the former regime.
Abd el Wahab Ads, deputy editor-in-chief of El Gomhoria state-owned newspaper, told the Daily News he was against the criterion because it was direct interference with the powers of the syndicate.
“I’m against the idea of journalists going to the Shura council carrying their files and applying for being the Editor-in-Chief because it’s not a job, it’s an assignment by the Shura Council,” Ads said.
“The Supreme Press Council, which is an organ of the Shura, has all the files and the information needed on all the journalists.”
The Shura Council announced that the applicants have a week from July 3 to submit their applications.
A 14-member committee made up of six members of the Shura Council, four veteran journalists and four mass communication professors will consider the applications.
The final selection however will be made by another committee formed solely by members of the Shura Council.
“This clash happened because journalists believe that the Shura Council wants to appoint editors-in-chief who are loyal to the Brotherhood,” Ads said.
Ads and other journalists suggested privatising state-owned newspapers in order to avoid further escalation between the Shura and the syndicate.
“51 percent of the stocks or value of the newspaper should belong to the employees and the rest will be for public subscription,” Ads said.
“This will grant the state-owned institutions autonomy.”