Journalists hope for a sign that the syndicate retains ultimate power
CAIRO: Journalism is renowned for being a profession that at times lands those working in it in trouble. Unveiling information, criticizing authority and searching for news always brings journalists problems. But sometimes journalists make their own brand of trouble by taking the easy route to popularity by attacking figures or publishing fake news. But how often does this happen?
The Supreme Journalism Council held a meeting Monday, Aug. 21 to discuss the report prepared by the journalism practice committee during the period between June 15 and August 15 to address this question. The report was prepared by experts under the presidency of Dr. Farouk Abu Zeid. Safwat El-Sherif headed the meeting.
The Supreme Journalism Council was founded under law 96 for the year 1996. The law states that the council is an independent organization working for journalistic freedom within the framework of national unity and civil peace. The law also states that the head of this council is the head of the Shura (Consultative) Council.
The council’s responsibility, according to the law, is to give its opinion on all projects related to journalism. It should also observe and evaluate what is published in newspapers and report upon it. Additionally, the council is responsible for some extra work in regulating the price of publications, quantity of paper for each publication and other related matters.
The report prepared by the practice committee and discussed by the council details the common errors found in Egyptian journalism, such as personal attacks and bilateral clashes between journalists, accompanied by the use of improper words and expressions.
The most relevant matter discussed in the report is what the report classifies as a break from professional rules in which a private newspaper offended the president. The report on the situation was sent to the syndicate with a request that they takes a decision on the matter and take the necessary legal steps, employing journalism and syndicate laws.
Renowned journalist and TV presenter Magdy Mehanna commented on the report. I didn t read the report but the syndicate has to thoroughly review and study the report and see if what it mentions is right or wrong. If there are violations, it should confess them. If not, it should say that the report is mistaken.
The council clearly has the authority to make reports on journalism performance and notify the syndicate of violations, but Mehanna points out that it is the syndicate’s responsibility to take action. Under the law 96 for the year 1996 that controls journalism practice in Egypt, the syndicate is the only authority over journalists. The report may be right sometimes and also it may be wrong – or even made for political reasons, Mehanna added.
Many people see this law and the council as a way to impose supervision and censorship on journalists, including those who write in national newspapers. Ibrahim Dawood, a journalist with Al-Ahram national newspaper, shares this view. This council should be cancelled; it has a censorship role at a time when the government talks about freedom and open markets in economy. But when it comes to journalism they deal with it with a 1950s mentality, he said.
There are some violations in talking about the president, but he should not be upset by them as they came with good intention, which is a keenness to have better performance by the regime. I hope the syndicate is more powerful than the council and will study the report professionally, said Dawood about the report.
Local journalism has undergone great changes over the past two years. There are now more private and opposition publications working to increase understanding of events. Dawood commented on the development of Egyptian journalism and free speech.
The government didn t give any freedom to journalists. They fought for it and took it by their hands. When I see many security forces in demonstrations I feel optimistic about the future, as I know now that the regime is afraid of these people. The same when they try to obstruct Egyptian free journalism.
Despite the optimistic outlook for Egyptian journalism, the flaws cannot be overlooked. There are many violations in both national and private journalism. The supreme council should deal with both in the same manner, Mehanna said.
Dawood further detailed these violations. I see an unexplained anger in the opposition newspapers. I think there are many optimistic things that have happened in the field and this was because of brave journalists. We should give hope to people, not keep this unhealthy pessimistic attitude, he said. Most of the newspapers now are concerned with opinion articles for their famous journalists, which are not proper journalism. I think journalists should only show the news and leave the opinion to specialists.
Journalists throughout the country await the decision of the syndicate, hoping that it will confirm the syndicate in its position as the ultimate power over the profession of journalism.