Following a long, often contentious campaign, Abdel-Mohsen Salama of the daily Al-Ahram was elected the new head of the Egyptian Press Syndicate. It was Salama’s second attempt at capturing the high-profile post.
According to the committee which supervised the elections, Salama was elected by syndicate members on Friday 17 March after receiving 2,457 out of 4,523 valid votes. His main rival for the post, former head of the syndicate Yehia Qallash, received 1,890 votes.
After his victory, Salama thanked members of the General Assembly for the confidence they showed in him. He also thanked Qallash for his service and said that he would use the experience he gained during his tenure.
“Long live the struggle of journalists”, Salama chanted following the announcement of the election results yesterday.
“Long live the unity of journalists,” Salama said.
“I will work on the syndicate’s files and serve all journalists without discrimination,” Salama said. He stated that he would restore the prestige of the Press Syndicate and the dignity of journalists.
Salama, who ran for the presidency of the syndicate in 2013 but lost to Diaa Rashwan, also vowed to provide the services he promised to journalists during his electoral campaign.
“I am running to save journalism and to work on recapturing the prestige of the syndicate and its journalists,” Salama told Al-Ahram Weekly during his electoral campaign.
He promised to raise the training and technology allowance given monthly to journalists which currently stands at LE1,150. He also pledged to raise pensions.
On a hectic day, seven candidates vied for the syndicate’s leadership: Salama, who is managing editor at Al-Ahram, Yehia Qallash, Sayed Al-Eskandarani and Naima Rashed from the daily Al-Gomhouriya, Jehan Shaarawi from Al-Ahram, Islam Kamal from Rose Al-Youssef and Talaat Hashem from Misr Al-Fatah. Going into the vote, Salama and Qallash were the heavy favourites.
Six journalists among 70 were elected to the syndicate’s council: Gamal Abdel-Rehim, Hussein Al-Zanati, Mohamed Kharaga, Mohamed Saad Abdel-Hafiz, Ayman Abdel-Meguid and Amr Badr.
Abdel-Rehim, in addition to Qallash and former council member Khaled Al-Balshi, were sentenced to two years in prison and freed on bail pending an appeal. The final verdict is to be issued on 25 March. They were tried on charges of harbouring two suspects. Badr, who is now a board member, was one of them.
The case is linked to protests against the agreement signed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April last year which ceded Egypt’s control over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Riyadh. Journalists Badr and Mahmoud Al-Sakka opposed the agreement. To protest against an arrest warrant issued against them on charges of organising unlicensed demonstrations against the islands deal, the two, who work for the news Website Yanayer (January), announced they would hold a sit-in at the headquarters of the Press Syndicate. They then sought refuge in the syndicate’s headquarters where they were arrested.
On 29 May Qallash, Al-Balshi and Abdel-Rehim were summoned for questioning and eventually charged with harbouring the two fugitives. Badr and Al-Sakka said that using the syndicate as sanctuary was part of a long-standing tradition by which Egyptian journalists seek the syndicate’s help when facing legal problems related to their work.
Badr was released from custody after he was detained for almost four months.
The elections were postponed on 3 March due to a lack of quorum as only 1,300 journalists attended the assembly to vote, far fewer than the 50 per cent attendance required.