Sunday, October 09, 2005

Letter from an Egyptian journalist on Egyptian press syndicate elections

Dear...., (That's me)

...... I am proud to belong to the Egyptian Syndicate of journalists. This was what I felt after the declaration of the results of the Chairman of the syndicate's elections. What a day! It was not a battle for a post, it was a real elections that the Egyptian simple people have followed after the fake presidential elections that has happened at the same month, September 2005.

The candidates were many at the first battle. Five of them had a real chance. The first was PhD Osama El Gazali Harb, editor in chief of Al Ahram's Alsiasa Al Dawlia (international policies) magazine and member of the ruling political party's policies committee headed by Gamal Mubarak, the president's son.

El Gazali is a nice person and have good connections that may help some journalists, but still unpopular among the majority of journalists, especially for his views and political identity. The second was Ibrahim Higazy, editor in chief of Al Ahram Al Riady( Al Ahram sport) magazine and deputy chairman of the syndicate, who is known to be the loyal follower of Ibrahim Nafie, Al Ahram's establishment board director for over 25 years who was obliged to leave his post recently and is facing investigations concerning corruption.

Hegazi is so blanc and direct concerning his program. He wants journalists to stop standing on the stairs of the syndicate protesting anything or allowing Egyptian's to express their selves in that place which have turned recently to be a hid park for freedom. He asks us to shut up in return to a bribe, 80 Egyptian pounds to be added to our salaries in addition to some silly services. He wants to close all the corruption files that have been opened by the current chairman of the syndicate Galal Arif.

The third is Osama Gaith, who works at Al Ahram's research center. He is a respectable man, but not active within the Syndicate's activites. Those three are from Al Ahram establishment as you see, which is strange because Al Ahram , the biggest publishing house in Egypt usually have one candidate that most of the journalists there vote for him. This time, our colleagues at Al Ahram were feeling betrayed because they have discovered that Nafie have been getting the entire monthly that was supposed to be theirs. The man who have revealed this corruption is Mostapha Bakry, Editor in chief of the independent weekly newspaper "Al Esboo" who was the forth candidate in this elections. Bakry wrote what many Ahramians have never even dreamt of in their nightmares. This was the reason why the direct fight was between Nafie's man, Hegazi and Bakri. They started by sending SMS and papers to the 4500's members who have the right to vote at the syndicate about services in the absence of a strategic program.

Later, they started to attack each others, by sending anonymity documents revealing the black history of each other. Many questioned Bakry's timing to attack Nafie after years of being his alliance. Some said that Bakry was pushed by someone. The certain thing was that the election's was a firry one.

The fifth candidate was moving quietly but surely. Galal Arif, the Chairman who was fighting for a second term in office didn't have neither Hegazi's big campaign budget, generous promises supported by the government, nor Bakry's newspaper covering the campaign. He only have asked people to judge him for the past two years and help him to complete the opening of some files which were not opened for 20 years of pro government chairmans. Galal's program is fighting corruption and reforming journalism conditions. The election's results were a runoff between Gala Arif and Hegazy, who have got the best results.

Three days after that, Egyptian journalists came to their syndicate again for the run off elections. This time Nafie appeared to support Hegazy for their life or death battle. On the other side Gala's slogan for his supporters was "Together against Corruption". We heard about some direct bribes; laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras and apartments. I felt that our syndicate is threatened. We, journalists, had to turn to soldiers defending our syndicate. When the boxes were opened and the judges came to count the votes, I could hear my heart screaming in fear.

I was scared to death. I was not the only one who had these fears. The results came not only to calm us, but also to prove that the Egyptian journalists had awareness equal to this particular historical moment. They sent a clear message: we are not for sale. Galal didn't only win but has won by a huge margin; 800 votes difference between him and Hegazi.

I believe that the Syndicate's elections is not the end, but the real beginning of a change all over Egypt. Let us wait and see.

Yours sincerely,

............ (That's my friend)

Thank you my dear friend for your email. Elections are just a beginning on the path towards a free press. I wish you all the best.


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