The persistent crisis of Egyptian journalists’ economic and social rights has pushed over 100 journalists to sign a petition to engage in a strike on 10 June to demand those rights. The initiative was launched by prominent journalist and member of the Press Syndicate, Khaled El-Balshy.
In a meeting held at the syndicate with over a dozen journalists on Monday evening, El-Balshy said: “The point of this day is to establish a significant protesting power. We don’t want it to be just a strike, but rather the first step towards further escalation against the exploitation of media institutions.”
Journalists listed their major issues with the newspapers they work for, including low salaries, absence of contracts, and arbitrary dismissal as the source of conflict within their institutions. Those include well-known local newspapers.
The meeting comes as Al-Shorouk newspaper is in the process of making nearly 60 journalists redundant. A journalist on the newspaper’s electronic issue said during the meeting that they held a partial strike for two hours Monday, protesting the dismissal of 18 journalists. “However, the list includes another 40,” the journalist stated.
Journalists are aware, however, of the challenges they are facing in organising a successful protesting campaign. The obstacles include the ability to mobilise other journalists, to act outside one’s institution, in addition to pressure by newspaper managers and owners to stop such action.
That awareness of their weaker position contributes to a strong desire not to fail, especially that they believe newspapers’ heads do not seem threatened at all by the possibility of facing any sort of sanctions.
“That is why we need to develop a strong network of correlation between journalists, so that their solidarity goes beyond their own institutions, since this is a common cause,” El-Balshy added. After that, he called for a group of journalists to head to Al-Shorouk newspaper Tuesday to support their colleagues.
El-Balshy recalled the successful large-scale demonstrations of 2006, in which newspapers abstained from publishing, coinciding with a large demonstration in front of the People’s Assembly.
Over the past two years, the laying-off of journalists in groups has almost become a norm for newspaper like Youm7, Al-Shorouk, Dotmsr and others. Managers are able to manipulate labour laws by not signing contracts with hundred of journalists in need of the job.
Furthermore, Press Syndicate membership requirements, which is a legal protection for journalists, are too complicated and conditioned by the contract, which makes it harder for many to join. This affects particularly those working in digital journalism, as the current laws have not adapted yet to technological advancements in the media.
In the meantime, journalists are also fighting their main external threat which falls under their relationship with the state and more specifically the state’s security body. Subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, physical and verbal assault, journalists have not yet completely succeeded in raising a unified voice against the daily violations against them.