A second round of elections is expected to take place at the Press Syndicate on Friday. This time, candidates assured they would visit various newspapers and present their programmes to journalists, in order to avoid a shortage in the general assembly’s legal quota like in the first incomplete round on 3 March.
In order for the general assembly to be completed the first time, 50% + 1 member eligible to vote were required to attend. With more than 10,000 voting members, the quota was not achieved. In the upcoming round, only 25 percent of members are required to attend the general assembly.
A new leader for the syndicate should be elected, as well as six members of the syndicate’s council. Qallash faces a tough competition while re-running for the position of the syndicate head, his main adversary being Abdel Mohsen Salama. Both candidates have indirectly made claims against each other, resulting in the portrayal of Qallash as a political opponent of the state and Salama as the state’s spokesperson.
Elections come during critical times for the syndicate, particularly a week before the trial of three top leaders, including current president Yehia Qallash, secretary-general Gamal Abdel Reheem, and deputy president Khaled El-Balshy.
The trio faces an appeals court, which will decide on 25 March regarding a previous two-year prison sentence, on charges of harbouring wanted journalists inside the syndicate. The case had sparked wide controversy among press freedom defenders after police forces stormed the syndicate on 1 May.
Once attendance is complete, elections will take place in 22 polling stations at the syndicate’s headquarters in Cairo and one polling station in the syndicate’s branch in Alexandria. Elections will witness judicial supervision in coordination with the State Council.
Polling stations will close at 7pm. Results should be announced the same night. In case of a tie on the position of syndicate head, a second round of elections will take place the following day.
Amid several political and economic challenges facing the press community, and the media field in general, Daily News Egypt spoke to candidates Qallash and Salama, in addition to a number of current and potential members of the council.
Qallash shed light on constitutional guarantees to press freedom, which still need to be translated into laws, including finding a solution to end journalists’ imprisonment in publishing crimes.
Salama focused on establishing new communication channels with state bodies, expressing discontent with the current council’s escalation against the state, particularly in dealing with the aftermath of the police raid on the syndicate.
Candidates further explained their stances and visions on economic challenges, including the issues of salaries and allowances.
Furthermore, labour rights of journalists, including contracts were tackled with candidates, especially in light of increasing collective arbitrary dismissals.