CAIRO: About 80 journalists at Al-Badeel weekly newspaper have started a sit-in at the paper’s Cairo offices, when this week’s edition was not issued.
In April financial problems forced the newspaper’s management to turn the paper from a daily to a weekly.
The sit-in began on Wednesday in response to a demand made by Al-Badeel’s executive board that the paper’s writers submit resignations and renounce claims to their financial entitlements in return for the paper to continue to issue a weekly edition.
According to Ahmed Harbiya, an Al-Badeel journalist participating in the sit-in, the executive board on Thursday afternoon made a new offer, asking that half the journalists resign so that the weekly publication of the newspaper would continue.
Harbiya told Daily News Egypt that he and his colleagues were willing to forego their claims to redundancy pay “so that the money would be used to publish the paper and on condition that we as journalists run the paper.
“Money was never the paper’s objective, Harbiya added.
Harbiya says that journalists have been receiving basic salaries of between LE 250 and LE 500 since the paper’s financial crisis hit.
Journalists say that they have submitted numerous proposals to the paper’s executive board detailing ways in which the paper can survive the financial crisis, even offering to only receive half their salaries temporarily to have it published on a weekly basis.
In a press statement Al-Badeel journalists accuse the paper’s management of “tarrying in deciding the fate of both the newspaper and its writers. It also reveals divisions between the paper’s management and its editorial staff.
“Management has been trying to hold the editorial team responsible for Al-Badeel’s failure ever since the crisis started and it stopped being printed daily, despite the fact that the journalistic community has testified to the paper’s editorial quality. When it became clear to everyone that the editing was the sole accomplishment of the Al-Badeel experiment, management then tried to blame the paper’s failure alternately on readers, and on national [political] movements, the statement reads.
The statement derisively refers to the “leftist management’s way of celebrating Labor Day in May “by making 22 employees redundant.
Harbiya said that the laying off of these employees “does not bode well for the future because it is an integral part of the paper/
The statement is critical of the executive board’s treatment of journalists “after months of patience, adversity and solidarity with the executive board.
Commenting on the executive board proposal that journalists submit resignations, Al-Badeel editor Khaled El-Balshi told Daily News Egypt that “while journalists are willing to help in any way possible, they are in no way willing to relinquish their rights. This is what the newspaper stands for: standing up for people’s rights.
Al-Badeel, created in 2008, extensively covered political movements and popular protests such as labor strikes and demonstrations.
El-Balshi thinks that the paper’s problems “are not that grave; since the newspaper is weekly not daily I think that we can overcome the financial issues.
Harbeya meanwhile says that he thinks that it is unlikely that the paper will return to issuing a daily edition. “We are only aiming at making the paper survive as a weekly .
A general meeting is scheduled for Saturday, five days before Al-Badeel’s license expires on July 7. -Additional reporting by Sara Elkamel.