CAIRO: About 200 journalists and opposition activists protested Thursday outside the Journalists’ Syndicate in downtown Cairo against the sacking of Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Dostor, while an emergency board meeting was being held inside.
The results of the meeting had not been announced at press time.
Al-Dostor journalists were mostly absent during the protest.
“I’m here today in solidarity with Eissa and to support … Al-Dostor, which is a very distinguished experience in the history of the Egyptian press,” said Mona Fawzy, journalist at state-run weekly magazine, Sabah El-Khair.
Protesters called for restoring Eissa’s position while shouting anti-regime slogans.
“No Dostor without Eissa,” protesters said.
On Monday evening, Eissa was fired by the paper’s new management after an alleged disagreement between the two sides over publishing an article written by opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei commemorating the Oct. 6 victory.
Following the announcement of Eissa’s sacking, Al-Dostor journalists gathered on Monday evening at the newspaper’s office in support of their editor. They then went to the Journalists’ Syndicate to appeal for his reinstatement.
On Tuesday at dawn, the management reportedly moved the computers — in the absence of reporters — from the newspaper premises in Giza to a temporary location at Al-Wafd party in Dokki.
On Wednesday, the newspaper published from a temporary office inside Al-Wafd party, led by the main newspaper owner Al-Sayed Al-Badawy, without any direct input from reporters. The edition included ElBaradei’s article.
“It’s a very strange situation. We know Al-Badawy as a respectable man and we never expected [such an act] from him … [But] we have to wait and see where the [current] negotiations will take us,” said Youssef El-Masry, Al-Dostor’s correspondent in Kafr El-Sheikh governorate.
“Al-Dostor equals Ibrahim Eissa. If he leaves, there will be no [newspaper] anymore,” El-Masry added.
Analysts and journalists believe that the alleged disagreement wasn’t about ElBaradei’s article. Some claim the fallout between the publisher and the editor has been orchestrated by the regime.
“Sacking Ibrahim Eissa and executive chief editor Ibrahim Mansour represents an attack on the freedom of press in Egypt,” activist and syndicate board member Mohamed Abdel-Qodous told Daily News Egypt.
“Sacking Eissa means terminating Al-Dostor newspaper as a publication that has always exposed corruption,” activist Karima noted.
Some protesters carried Thursday’s edition of Al-Dostor, also published without the staff’s contribution.
“The features page, which has always addressed vital issues in Egyptian society, [has been] turned into a page for useless entertainment articles,” argued Karima El-Hefnawy, member of the Kefaya Movement for Change and the National Association for Change.
The most recent issue of Al-Dostor, Thursday’s, featured several ads of independent Al-Hayat satellite TV channels owned by Al-Badawy.
Both Eissa and Ibrahim Mansour, the paper’s executive chief editor, informed the Higher Press Council that they had nothing to do with recent published editions.
Al-Badawy said in several televised interviews that he offered Eissa a position as columnist for the paper in return for the same salary; but Eissa rejected the offer.
Eissa said in statements following these incidents that the new owners of the newspaper, mainly Al-Badawy and Reda Edward, had recurrently attempted to alter the editorial policy, which stirred tension between the two parties.
On Aug. 23, Al-Badawy bought Al-Dostor newspaper and reportedly paid LE 20 million to owner and founder Essam Ismail Fahmy in return.
At that time, Al-Badawy said no changes will be made to the editorial policy of the newspaper.
Eissa is known for being an outspoken critic of the government and the regime, whether on TV shows he presented on independent satellite TV channels or in his writings.