A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the Press Syndicate in Downtown Cairo Sunday afternoon to mark the launch of their campaign against what they call mass unfair dismissals from Egypt’s media outlets, a member of the campaign told Daily News Egypt.
Wael Abdelaziz, an organiser within the campaign and journalist with privately-owned newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabaa, said that in the past year they believe around 800 staff members from numerous newspapers have been unfairly suspended from their posts.
“Recently we’ve learned about, about 134 dismissed from Al-Youm Al-Sabaa, 160 from Al-Ahram, 30 from Al-Dostour, 76 from DotMsr, 12 from Aagel, 18 from Al-Shorouk, and four from Al-Masry Al-Youm; adding up to around 800 in total in the past year.”
Abdelaziz is the spokesperson for the new campaign that seeks to challenge the wave of dismissals, and the movement is calling itself the Association for Suspended Journalists.
“The reasons for their dismissals vary from one press institution to the other, but usually they say it is because they are cutting costs. At Al-Youm Al-Sabaa, Editor-in-Chief Khaled Salah said that all the suspended workers were interns and their durations were over. But In subsequent legal disputes, it was proven that they were properly employed and had the cards and salary information to prove it,” Abdelaziz said.
However, the campaign feels there may be more of a political motive behind those dismissed and the reasons behind the decisions. “These are institutions that benefitted from young journalists in very tough times, using their youth to cover difficult events when there was instability and mass movements. Now there is stability and they seem to no longer need them,” Abdelaziz suggested.
The campaign has three demands. Two are directed at the Press Syndicate, calling on them to oblige its member institutions to announce the names of those they have dismissed, and secondly to open up membership wider and become a third party in employment contracts. Thirdly, they are asking the government to review the draft of the new labour law that allows organisations to easily suspend employees.
“The syndicate only stands up for its members; the majority of dismissed workers are not members and so they won’t receive any help. Regulations to join the syndicate for prospective individuals and organisations are old and restrictive,” Abdelaziz said.
“The numbers today were small, but today was just a launching event and we still had representatives from every newspaper where journalists were suspended. We will see how it goes from now and escalate our demands and actions depending on the response we get.”