CAIRO: Several Al-Dostor journalists were fired on Thursday, which the independent daily’s owner says was due to missing work for a number of days surpassing that which is legally permitted.
Al-Dostor owner Reda Edward told Daily News Egypt that six staff journalists were fired along with four freelancers.
“I fired them because they didn’t come to work for many days, more than is legally permitted, and they incited other staff journalists against me and the other owners,” he added.
Journalists’ Syndicate board member Gamal Fahmy had said that 10 journalists were fired, but Edward says the four freelancers were “not officially [employed] by the newspaper.”
“The [syndicate] board will have an emergency meeting on Saturday to take the necessary procedures against [Edward’s] decision,” Fahmy told Daily News Egypt, in an escalation of the newspaper’s ongoing crisis.
Fahmy described Edward’s decision as a form of “bullying.”
“He [Edward] has no legal authority to fire employees — officially he’s not even the current owner of Al-Dostor,” Fahmy added.
According to Fahmy, after perusing the official ownership documents of Al-Dostor, the syndicate found that Edward has not been officially registered as the company owner.
However, Edward said, “What the board of the Journalists Syndicate is saying is complete nonsense.
“I have an ownership contract proving that I am one of the legal owners of the newspaper,” adding that he obtained the legal ownership documents on Oct. 4.
“For the first time the syndicate is inciting journalists not to go to work,” Edward said.
Fahmy accused the Higher Press Council of overlooking the violations committed by the owners of Al-Dostor in a bid to change the newspapers outspoken criticism of the government.
“When a whole newspaper is allowed to be issued illegally, that shows a great deal of corruption from the authorities,” Fahmy said.
During the meeting on Saturday, he said, board members will issue warnings against the “mercenary” journalists who are assisting Edward in issuing the paper everyday at a time with the original staff is on strike.
“They could be fired for violating Article 1 of the Press Law, which stipulates respecting the ethics of comradeship and never deliberately harming a colleague,” he added. “If these so called journalists weren’t working for Edward, he would be forced to comply with the original staff’s demands.”
Around 120 journalists from Al- Dostor began an open strike against the owners on Oct. 12, which they will continue until their nine demands are met.
The journalists’ demands include the return of sacked editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa and executive chief editor Ibrahim Mansour, to be represented on the board by at least two of their colleagues and that the newspaper’s management not interfere with its editorial policy.
The head of the Journalists’ Syndicate Makram Mohamed Ahmed held several meetings with Edward and previous owner of Al-Dostor and head of Al-Wafd Party, Al-Sayed Al-Badawy, in a bid to mend the rift between the owners and journalists as well as convince Edward to comply with the journalists’ demands — but to no avail.
“(Ahmed) is very disappointed with the owners’ actions,” according to Fahmy.
The crisis began when Eissa, an outspoken critic of the current regime, was fired approximately one month after the paper come under the ownership of Al-Badawy and Edward, who is also the chairman of a chain of international schools.
A few days after Eissa was fired, Al-Badawy sold his shares in the newspaper to Edward and has repeatedly told the media that he was not behind Eissa’s job termination.
In several media interviews, Eissa alleged said that the new management frequently interfered in the editorial policy of the newspaper, which stirred tension between the two parties.
The staff members of the newspaper were quick to voice their full support for the newspaper’s editors. Since the crisis began, the new management has been publishing the newspaper from an outside location without any input from Al-Dostor’s staff reporters. These issues have been published despite the lack of a chief editor in charge of running the newspaper.
The newspaper’s journalists still control its official website and use it to clarify their situation.
“There have been several from hackers to hack Al-Dostor’s website lately to silence our voices,” one Al-Dostor journalist, Radwan Adam, told Daily News Egypt. “But we have (experts) working to prevent that,” he added.