Dozens of journalists suggested on Sunday that another Press Syndicate General Assembly be held to resolve the dispute between the syndicate and the Interior Ministry.
The meeting was held at Al-Ahram newspaper headquarters on Sunday. The choice of location was met with criticism from journalists who announced on social media their refusal to cover the meeting. They said it incites division in the press community.
At the meeting, in the absence of Press Syndicate President Yehia Qalash, a number recommendations were announced, some of which are conflicting with the recommendations formally announced by the syndicate on Saturday.
The meeting was led by an array of senior former and current editors-in-chief of both private and state-run newspapers and syndicate members, including notably the former syndicate chief during the Mubarak era, Makram Mohamed Makram.
During the 2011 revolution, Makram made several televised statements through state media channels criticising the uprising and demonstrations against the Mubarak regime.
Majority of the attendees voted to mandate Makram to draft a list of recommendations on their behalf after further closed discussions. The attending journalists also suggested that the legality of the resignation of the Press Syndicate’s board be looked into.
Member of Parliament Haitham Al-Hariry retracted his urgent statement on the Press Syndicate conflict, according to parliament’s official website.
He reportedly said the time is not right to discuss this issue when there is continued bloodshed, referring to the terrorist attack against police officers that took place in Helwan on Saturday.
Several Press Syndicate board members refused to comment on the Al-Ahram meeting. According to one board member, this is to avoid any misunderstanding that could potentially result in complicating the crisis.
However, the board member said the council is in a state of continuous assembly and will further discuss the issue.
Five Press Syndicate board members attended the meeting—Hatem Zakaria, Ibrahim Abou Keila, Khaled Miry, Mohamed Shabana, and Alaa Thabet—to share their insights on the recent predicament. However, they did not formally represent the syndicate board.
The Press Syndicate announced on Saturday in an official statement that their scheduled general assembly on Tuesday is postponed until the following Tuesday to give room for further discussions and listen to all recommendations whether from MPs or from other sources who seek to resolve the issue in a way that preserves journalists’ rights.
“Journalists have never been above the rule of law. Conversely, their main battle is defending the enforcement of law, which was violated by storming into the syndicate headquarters,” the statement read.
According to Article 70 of the Press Syndicate’s internal regulations, police forces cannot inspect the syndicate except in the attendance of a member of the prosecution and its head.
Moreover, both articles 76 and 77 of the 2014 Constitution state that storming any syndicate is a crime and its perpetrators must be punished according to the penal code.
A police force of at least 40 officers stormed the syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo on Sunday night and arrested Yanair Gate’s editor-in-chief Amr Badr and journalist Mahmoud Al-Saqa.
The incident enraged the media community, leading to immediate calls for the minister of interior to resign. Syndicate head Yehia Qalash was among the first to call for the minister to step down.