Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1356, (10 - 16 August 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Issues of freedom

Mona El-Nahhas on the crisis sparked by the dismissal of four journalists from Al-Youm Al-Sabei

 

Abdel-Wahed; Safwat; Mekled
Abdel-Wahed; Safwat; Mekled

In a statement issued on 2 August Maher Abdel-Wahed, Medhat Safwat, Abdel-Rahman Mekled and Samar Salama said they were arbitrarily dismissed for expressing their views after working for Al-Youm Al-Sabei for 10 years.

On 26 July the four journalists were summoned to the office of the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Khaled Salah who informed them that they would be dismissed.

“To our surprise, Salah told us that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is the current owner of the newspaper and that the new board of directors had asked Salah to fire us,” they said. When asked about the reasons behind their sacking Salah said it was due to the position they had taken over the ceding to Saudi Arabia of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

Abdel-Wahed, Safwat, Mekled and Salama were among 1,600 journalists who signed a statement in June calling for a sit-in at the Press Syndicate’s headquarters to protest the handing of the islands to Saudi Arabia.

The four journalists have filed a complaint about their sacking with the labour authorities and on 29 July informed Press Syndicate council members of what had happened. They are demanding an investigation be opened into the circumstances of their dismissal, and the Press Syndicate council has condemned the measure taken against the four.

Salah says the response of the four former employees represents an unacceptable escalation. They claim that when they asked the editor-in-chief for written confirmation of their sacking Salah summoned security personnel who ejected them from the newspaper building since when they have been banned from entering the newspaper’s premises.

During a meeting of the Press Syndicate council on 30 July, Chairman Abdel-Mohsen Salama was mandated to negotiate with Salah and the board of Al-Youm Al-Sabei. Salama later said he had asked for a 10-day deadline to settle the issue.

Syndicate members have the right to express their views freely so long as such expression is conducted in a peaceful way and does not contradict with the rules of the profession, said Salama. He pointed out that the law and the constitution guarantee freedom of thought and expression before adding that many Al-Ahram journalists were among the signatories of the protest statement and no action had been taken against them.

“Should Salah not respond positively he will be summoned before an investigative committee at the syndicate,” council member Mohamed Saad Abdel-Hafez said on Monday. “If the content of the complaint presented by the four journalists proves to be true, Salah may face a one-month suspension of his syndicate membership.”

Al-Youm Al-Sabei’s legal advisor Anwar Al-Refaai revealed on 1 August that he intends to file a counter-complaint before the syndicate asking for the four journalists to be investigated by a disciplinary committee for professional infringements. Al-Refaai has accused the four of deliberately damaging the reputation of the newspaper and of maintaining a work relationship with a Lebanese press institution affiliated to the Iranian-funded Hizbullah. According to Al-Refaai, the four journalists are using the name of the president to distract attention from their violations. Al-Youm Al-Sabei will not cave in to such political blackmail, he added.

The plight of the four journalists has stirred sympathy among NGOs, several of which issued statements backing them.

The Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms issued a statement on 1 August supporting the journalists who it said had been dismissed for expressing their views in a clear violation of the law and the constitution.”

The Front to Defend Journalists issued a statement on 4 August condemning the dismissal of the four journalists which it described as “an unprecedented aggression on journalists’ rights of expression”.

“The editor-in-chief’s use of the name of the president actively undermines the press,” the front said. It called on the Press Syndicate to interfere and ensure the four journalists retain their rights.

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