Reuniting journalists and preserving their professional dignity are the main pillars of the electoral programme of the renowned journalist Diaa Rashwan running for the presidency of Press Syndicate in the current mid-term election of 2019.
Rashwan, currently the chairperson of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), said during his electoral campaign tour to Daily News Egypt that unity of journalists will make them stronger and able to negotiate with any entity, and that they should work on improving the journalism’s image in the society.
“The syndicate will be an umbrella for all journalists, and the next council will gather all those who practise the profession without divisions,” said Rashwan.
As for the relation with the state, he said that “our freedom will be the judge between us and the state,” and also vowed to undertake escalatory measures if the freedom of the press is violated.
Journalists are currently experiencing the worst work conditions in the past 100 years, which necessitates communicating with all the state entities and the Egyptian society to restore the journalists’ prestige and improve the existing image which has been greatly distorted during the last period.
Rashwan also spoke about his journalism journey and the challenges of the profession in Egypt, and why he chose to return again to compete over leadership of the syndicate. In March 2013, Rashwan was elected as the head of the Egyptian Press Syndicate, however, he failed to secure a second term in 2015.
For the past two years, 450 websites have been blocked in Egypt. Rashwan commented on this issue, saying that we have a Supreme Media Council which is the entity responsible for solving the issue, and we will contact them to find possible solutions.
During his talk, the renowned journalist repeatedly stressed on the necessity of journalists’ participation in the upcoming general assembly to choose their representatives, criticising last Friday’s low turnout of only 8% of the registered journalists who are eligible to vote.
Rashwan called on the journalists to go to the syndicate, not to support a certain candidate, but to show that “we have a strong and united entity which can negotiate for our demands.”
He added that he would submit a draft law to allow the syndicate members to vote online, which will make the syndicate the first in Egypt to do so. He also stated that some journalists who are covering telecommunications sector asked him to create a call centre for the syndicate to serve journalists, allowing citizens to report journalists who violates any law or writes false information which go against media ethics.
During his meeting with several journalists in Daily News Egypt, many expressed their rejection to the recent press and media laws. Rashwan commented that two years ago he worked within a 50-member committee on drafting a unified media law, with 90% of which was included in the three new media laws, adding that journalists can still send their comments to him to discuss satisfying solutions. As for the law of circulation of information, Rashwan said that there is already a draft law and he will work on introducing it to parliament after discussions.
Furthermore, Rashwan said the syndicate can lease working spaces in its headquarters for newspapers at reasonable prices.
He said he will work on reforming the health care system of journalists, offering three possible mechanisms: partnering with other syndicates to have a unified health care system, providing different health care segments with escalating fees, or contracting with a major health insurance company.
He noted that the health care system currently requires funding of EGP 12m, noting that the Press Syndicate is the only one among 25 other unions who receives a large financial aid from the state unlike other syndicates that receive between EGP 20,000-25,000 annually.
Moreover, speaking on how Rashwan will handle the issue of detained journalists, he said that it is important to condemn such cases, but he prefers prompt action rather than denouncing. He pointed out that the past days witnessed the release of some detained journalists, and promised to seek communication with state institutions to prevent the imprisonment of journalists.
Journalists working on online news websites are still attempting to become syndicate members. Rashwan said that he visited headquarters of online portals Sada El-Balad and Masrawy and vowed to work on the issue.
He urged that they can receive their right in registration only after they get united, suggesting that representatives of online news websites should talk with legal experts in order to find a solution for their cases, especially that the Constitution recognised them already.
Rashwan asserted that he will not make any changes regarding the syndicate’s law right now until the situation of the press is under control, and that if any journalist has a “suggestion regarding registering online journalists, I can forward it to the concerned committee.”
Rashwan refused to link his election with the expected increase in journalists’ allowances, noting that the Ministry of Finance will increase the value of allowances starting from July to reach EGP 2,100, but he will communicate with concerned state officials to apply the new increase in May.
Moreover, Rashwan said that he would submit a draft law to the parliament to allow the syndicate to obtain 5% fee on advertising in newspapers in order to increase the syndicate’s resources.