Head of Egypt’s Press Syndicate Diaa Rashwan has rejected being described as a “pro-state candidate” for the upcoming syndicate election.
Rashwan’s remarks came during a televised interview with Amr Adib on the Al-Hekaya programme, broadcast on MBC Masr on Sunday.
He said that, contrary to statements, he has held his position before the 25 January 2011 Revolution, and under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Rashwan said, “We all are people of the state, but we are not the children of the government.”
He added that the government does not need, and should not have, a candidate in the Press Syndicate, which is the platform for freedom.
Rashwan pointed out that the first president of the State Information Service (SIS) was also the head of Press Syndicate.
He added that the Supreme Administrative Court has issued a final ruling that he is still a registered journalist, despite the fact that he has taken over the management of the SIS which is mostly concerned with monitoring foreign media working in Egypt.
He also said the Egyptian press, in particular, has been going through a crisis over the past 10 years, but pointed to some of the achievements the Press Syndicate has under its belt. This includes setting up the medical insurance project for about 27,000 journalists and their families.
Rashwan spoke about his achievements over the past two years, saying that he was honoured to be selected as Head of the Press Syndicate by his colleagues two years ago, and in the two years preceding that.
“There are many crises, especially during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has caused some problems, and some newspapers have stopped printing,” Rashwan said.
In the past year, there has been cooperation between the Egyptian state, represented by the Ministry of Health and Population, and the Press Syndicate in providing treatment for coronavirus sufferers.
Rashwan said that the syndicate has spent about EGP 27m during the past two years to finance the medical insurance of registered journalists, with a deficit of EGP 17m, and created a “medical aid” fund of nearly EGP 3m.
“We were able to provide PCR tests to our colleagues as part of this, and with the coronavirus still with us, these services are likely to continue,” Rashwan said.
He confirmed that the support provided by the state during the past two years was greater than in any previous period. It has also provided much in the way of moral support, Rashwan said, adding that, contrary to rumours, the state is keen on the press and journalists.
“The closure of the newspapers has led to a number of unemployed journalists, and the Syndicate did not stand idly by,” Rashwan said, “The Minister of Social Solidarity was contacted to resolve the dismissed journalists’ crisis, as four newspapers closed down, and the Press Syndicate succeeded in making fair settlements for the colleagues working at these publications.”
He pointed out that the union and its current council succeeded in solving the Al-Masry Al-Youm crisis, after dispensing with some colleagues, and a settlement was reached between them.
He added that the Press Syndicate has been putting in place legal representation, and appealing to the legal authorities, for the release of 25 journalists over the past two years.
Dozens of notes have been submitted to the General Prosecutor, Rashwan said, demanding the release of those journalists who remain imprisoned.
The Journalists Syndicate confirmed that colleagues have been imprisoned for issues such as broadcasting false news or other issues, rather than for expressing an opinion. On this, the syndicate has not been idle, and has supported colleagues, indicating that the level of freedoms would improve further.