Al-Dostor staff rejects agreement negotiated by syndicate head

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By Marwa Al-A’asar

CAIRO: A proposed settlement to end the ongoing Al-Dostor standoff has been rejected by around half the independent daily’s staff.

Owner of Al-Dostor Reda Edward and Journalists’ Syndicate Chairman Makram Mohamed Ahmed signed Monday a settlement meant to end the ongoing crisis between staff and the paper’s new management. However, more than 60 journalists — about 50 percent of the staff — have reportedly rejected the agreement altogether, deciding instead to continue their open strike inside the syndicate.

“We were not a party in this agreement … [which] did not consider our demands,” journalist Mohamed Mahdy told Daily News Egypt.

“The agreement only included two of our demands, hiring the interns and setting a payroll system,” he added.

The journalists’ nine requests presented earlier last month included the return of sacked chief editor Ibrahim Eissa and executive editor-in-chief Ibrahim Mansour, the staff being represented on the board by two members as well as maintaining the editorial policy of the newspaper.

“There are no items in the agreement that guarantee the [consistency] of the editorial policy,” journalist Hazem Fouad argued. “After signing the agreement, [Ahmed]… did not listen to us … saying that … [we] should manage the situation [ourselves] with Edward [from now on],” Mahdy noted.

Last week, 10 journalists were reportedly fired by Edward due to missing work for more days than what is legally permitted. Edward also accused them of inciting their colleagues against him and the other owners.

On Saturday, the syndicate board held an emergency meeting in a bid to contain the situation. Following the meeting, Ahmed, accompanied by two syndicate officials, reportedly visited Edward at his office and outlined a number of terms to be included in the agreement.

“We were surprised [to hear] that Edward visited Ahmed and they signed the agreement in secret without getting back to us first,” Fouad said.

“When a number of journalists shouted slogans against [Ahmed after the agreement was signed], he told them ‘go and find somebody else to get your rights then,’” Fouad recalled.

According to syndicate board member Gamal Fahmy, “the journalists have the right to reject the agreement since it did not [meet their demands].”

“The problem is that the syndicate chairman should have listened to [the colleagues] with regards to the memo they presented,” which outlined their requests, Fahmy added.

The crisis first erupted in October when the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa, an outspoken critic of the current regime, was fired almost one month after the paper come under the ownership of Al-Sayed Al-Badawy, the head of Al-Wafd opposition party, and Edward, also the chairman of a chain of international schools.

A few days after Eissa was fired, Al-Badawy sold his shares in the newspaper to Edward and has repeatedly told the media that he was not behind Eissa’s job termination. Since the crisis began, the new management has been publishing the newspaper from a new location without the direct input of Al-Dostor’s reporters.

In several media interviews, Eissa alleged that the new management frequently interfered in the editorial policy of the newspaper, which stirred tension between the two parties.


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