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Press competition heats up
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 18 - 02 - 2015

The half-term elections for the Press Syndicate started on 14 February, when candidates were invited to submit their papers for a four-day period ending on 18 February. The committee supervising the elections will then select the final list of candidates running in the elections.
The elections themselves are set to take place on 6 March. Sources at the syndicate said on Monday that more than 40 candidates were competing for the six seats on the syndicate's council and four were running for the post of chairman.
Among candidates competing for the chairmanship are Al-Ahram journalist Abdel-Mohsen Salama and Yehia Qallash of the Al-Gomhouriya newspaper. Diaa Rashwan, the syndicate's current chairman told Al-Ahram Weekly, “I didn't make up my mind yet.”
Main candidates for the Syndicate council are Mokhtar Shoeib, Abdel-Raouf Khalifa, Hussein Al-Zanati and Salah Amer from Al-Ahram, Saad Selim, Hesham Younis and Mohamed Al-Manaili from Al-Gomhouriya, Khaled Meri and Sami Hosni of Al-Akhbar, Amr Badr of Al-Dostour, and Ezzat Shaaban of the Middle East News Agency (MENA).
Candidates are busy campaigning, their election promises ranging from fighting for greater political freedoms to providing more services for journalists.
Many journalists have criticised the syndicate for failing to face up to current challenges. They fear it may fall prey to partisan politics and prove unable to deal with pressing problems such as the imprisonment of journalists.
“The candidates are currently promising journalists to raise their monthly salaries, even though journalists' problems are bigger than just salaries,” Al-Qammash said.
Rashwan conducted a press conference at the Press Syndicate's headquarter presenting to journalists a list with his achievements throughout the past three years. Rashwan who is still hesitant about nominating himself said, “The coming chairman must be up to journalists' expectations.” He underlined the importance of strengthening the syndicate. “A weak syndicate will not be able to achieve anything. I will work on mobilising journalists and making them more active in their syndicate. During my chairmanship of the syndicate it acted as a watchdog in monitoring freedoms,” he said.
He said his agenda included removing restrictions on freedom of expression, ensuring the right of journalists to access information, and freeing jailed journalists.
“Journalism is in danger because journalists and writers are threatened with imprisonment for expressing their views. This is why my main concern in the next term will be focused on putting an end to these violations which are against the constitution,” he added.
Al-Qammash said that three of the current members of the council whose membership had ended, Mohamed Abdel-Qodous, Abeer Al-Saadi, and Hani Emara, would not run in the elections even though they had the right to do so. The remaining three, Hisham Younis, Khaled Meri and Gamal Fahmi, would be standing.
Mohamed Al-Swedi, a journalist at Dar Al-Hilal, argued that none of the current council members should stand again. “All of them previously promised to improve journalists' incomes, but this did not happen. They did not even discuss the issue as they promised,” he said.
“I myself had a problem with the chairman of Dar Al-Hilal, and when I asked the current head of the syndicate for help he refused to assist me,” Al-Swedi added.
The candidates have complained about the little time given for campaigning. Hussein Al-Zanati, a member of Al-Ahram's general assembly, said that three weeks was insufficient for candidates to present their agendas to voters.
“This period is not enough to visit all the publications and to present agendas to colleagues,” Al-Zanati said.
Karem Mahmoud, the syndicate's secretary-general, who confirmed that members of the State Council would participate in the monitoring process, said that campaigns had always lasted three weeks.
“The elections are a festival for all journalists who are able to vote, allowing them to participate in a process that takes place in a transparent atmosphere,” Mahmoud said.
“Social networks like Twitter and Facebook could help candidates present their agendas to voters. It is not like it was in the past when candidates had to visit every single publication in order to win more votes.”
“Things are much easier now, and the candidates can upload their agendas on Facebook or Twitter for all journalists to read,” Mahmoud concluded.

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