CAIRO: More than 30 of the temporarily banned Al-Wafd newspaper journalists sat-in on Sunday in front of the High Committee for Journalists, protesting the halt of their daily publication.
In front of the committee’s headquarters, reporters staged a silent and peaceful protest that lasted around three hours, during which members of the committee were assessing Al-Wafd’s case. The journalists, mostly holding banners saying “No for Al-Wafd’s Ban, awaited the committee’s statement that was expected to decide the newspaper’s fate. They were joined by other journalists and press seniors sympathetic to their cause.
The committee, after long negotiations, decided to release the paper for print, saying that the decades-old newspaper would be reissued with the position of the managing director left blank, until the internal strife between Al-Wafd’s party leaders is resolved.
The “historic halt of the publication in question, lasting for four days, was initiated by Noaman Gomaa, the currently overthrown chairman of the Al-Wafd Party. His decision to temporarily ban the newspaper – dismissing both its managing editor and editor-in-chief – came after internal in-fighting with senior members Mahmoud Abaza and Mounir Fakhr Abdel-Nour reached its peak.
Two weeks ago, the two senior members – supported by a younger generation of Al-Wafd members – staged an “internal revolution against the chairman of Al-Wafd, accusing him of being “an authoritarian and deeming him responsible for the lack of democracy in the party. The younger generation wanted him out, especially after Al-Wafd performed poorly in all national elections and has failed to maintain its position as a key opposition group. Abaza said that fresh blood was needed within the party’s rank and a new chairman would be selected within 60 days of Gomaa’s removal.
However, Gomaa refused to surrender easily. Backed by the prosecutor general and senior supporters, Gomaa gained access to the Dokki headquarters. The headquarters, used by both senior rivals, looked more like a military camp; each leader protected by a heavy police presence.
When the newspaper’s editor refused to comply with Gomaa’s request to list his name as the party chairman and the managing director of the party’s newspaper on the front page, Gomaa reportedly fired him and 13 other reporters. Some of the reporters claimed that Gomaa also blocked their salaries.
However, in an official statement issued on Sunday, a Gomaa representative refuted claims – circulated in press reports – that the latter dismissed reporters. The representative also said that the reporters received their salaries regularly. The halt, according to Gomaa, was essential to keep the party’s stand “neutral during the ongoing conflicts.
Gomaa also filed a court case against Abaza. The Administrative Court Case decision – due next Saturday – is expected to resolve the strife over the presidency of the party.
Following committee’s statements, Al-Wafd journalists – present on the scene – reportedly promised to file a case against Gomaa for what they called the “unconstitutional and “unfair ban of their newspaper.
The case of Al-Wafd foreshadows other changes – whether forced or voluntarily – in other parties, whose older generations have monopolized their highest positions and dominated most party decisions.
Similar changes are expected to take place in the ruling National Democratic Party, which has suffered from internal problems for months. On Monday, President Hosni Mubarak announced that “key changes will take place in the NDP, especially in the Policy Committee.
The president’s announcement came after several senior members of the party, including former parliamentarian Hossam Badaway, told the press that a strong wave of “reformation is taking place in the party’s ranks; claiming that the NDP needs to change “from head to toe in order to transform its frail image.