CAIRO: Over 120 journalists from daily independent Al-Dostor newspaper started an open strike Tuesday evening at the Journalists’ Syndicate in response to the procrastination of the newspaper’s owner to meet them and discuss their demands.
The journalists divided the strike into two 12-hour shifts in a bid to object to the recent crisis that broke out between Al-Dostor’s new owners on the one hand and the staff and the sacked editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa on the other.
According to the reporters, the newspaper’s main owner Reda Edward was expected to meet with them on Monday in the presence of Journalists’ Syndicate Chairman Makram Mohamed Ahmed and the board members. However, at the last minute, Reda apologized saying he will not attend the meeting.
“Another meeting was scheduled for Tuesday. Yet Edward never showed up. Neither did he apologize for not being there,” assistant chief editor Mohamed Fawzy told Daily News Egypt.
Edward held a meeting on Saturday with the newspaper’s staff in the presence of Ahmed during which he initially approved the journalists’ nine demands.
However, he expressed some reservations about two requests: reinstating Eissa, and forming a new board with two staff journalists as members and setting a system for the payroll.
The reporters claimed that following the meeting, Edward rejected the two requests and criticized them during a telephone interview with Mehwar TV’s talk show “90 Minutes.”
“Four hours [after the meeting], he … criticized [us on air] saying that he would not allow some ‘kids’ to be board members,” the journalists said in a statement Saturday.
Edward had previously said in several media statements that he would never allow Eissa to reclaim his position.
Following his sacking on Oct. 4, Eissa alleged in media statements that the new management had recurrently attempted to alter the editorial policy of the newspaper, which stirred tension between the two sides.
Edward later said that advertisers were the ones who called for firing Eissa as a reaction to the “repulsive” words used in the newspaper stories, denying that he attempted to interfere in the editorial policy.
Edward could not be reached for comment until press time.
Since the crisis began, the new management has been publishing the newspaper from a new location without the input of the staff reporters. Both reporters and readers believe that the recent issues have nothing to do with Al-Dostor’s editorial policy.
“This current so-called Al-Dostor is nothing but a farce,” Fawzy said.
None of Al-Dostor’s reporters have contributed to the latest issues after Eissa was sacked.
“Even our colleagues who thought of giving it a shot and tried to work with the new management found no encouraging environment,” journalist Radwan Adam said.
According to syndicate board member Abeer Saady, “the newspaper’s owners have broken three press laws so far.”
“By sacking Eissa, the owners broke Article 17 of the press law which dictates that the syndicate must be notified prior to sacking any journalist. And in this case, it’s the chief editor himself,” Saady told Daily News Egypt.
“They should have informed us that there was a problem so we intercede between the two parties. And in case no agreement is reached, Eissa should have been notified to leave within three months and offered satisfactory compensation,” she added.
Abeer further pointed out that the management’s alleged interference in the editorial policy violates Articles 13 and 14 of the press law.
Saady vowed full support to Al-Dostor’s staff.
“[As a last resort], in case the situation remains unsolved, the syndicate can [file a complaint] before the Higher Press Council … and file a lawsuit against the owners,” she said.
“We will support Al-Dostor’s journalists till the end,” Saady concluded.