By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: Journalists at state-owned newspapers and magazines protested Sunday in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate demanding that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces replace the chief editors and managing editors of their organizations.
Protesting journalists chanted slogans accusing the editors-in-chief of “corruption” and “hypocrisy” as evident in their transformed editorial policies following the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak.
“We are demanding that the military council change the leaderships of our newspapers and magazines because they turned these national institutions into their private property to pursue their own interests,” said Abdel Gawad Abu Kap, journalist at Sabah El-Kheir magazine.
“Egyptian [state] media went from the extreme right to the extreme left to conform with the revolution,” he added.
The protestors announced the establishment of a national committee for fighting corruption and pushing for reform in Egyptian media, comprising a number of public figures whose names will be announced Friday.
Gamal Abdel Rehim, a board member at the Journalists’ Syndicate and reporter at Al-Gomhuria newspaper, filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General against Shoura Council speaker and head of the Supreme Press Council, Safwat El-Sherif, calling for an investigation into his activities and banning him from traveling.
“El-Sherif is responsible for the collapse of these institutions as he used to receive gifts worth millions of pounds to keep chief editors in their posts and turn a blind eye on corruption,” Abdel Rehim alleged.
“I have the reports of the Central Auditing Agency and will present it to the prosecution,” he added.
State-run newspapers and magazines are overseen by the Shoura Council. Daily News Egypt was unable to reach El-Sherif or members of the council by time of press.
“How can we restore trust in our newspaper with the same leadership [still in place]? The newspaper’s sales and advertisements have plummeted,” said Ahmed Ibrahim, a journalist at Al-Ahram.
“They either apologize to the public for their professional incompetence or they should be changed by the military council,” he added.
Four military policemen surrounded the office of Osama Saraya, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram daily, when it was rumored that reporters were planning a protest in front of his office.
“We were told by the deputy editor, Abdel Azim Darwish, that they were sent by the Prosecutor General to ensure that work isn’t hindered due to a planned protest by journalists,” said Sabah Hamamou, deputy editor of the business section at Al-Ahram.
“We, the group for change at Al-Ahram, were planning to present our demands in a very peaceful and civilized way, but it seems that wrong information was conveyed that we may attack him,” she added.
Later in the day, the military police were asked by Darwish to leave the fourth floor, where Saraya’s office is, and return to the ground floor.
According to Hamamou, Saraya’s office manager attempted to smuggle a number of boxes allegedly full of documents outside Al-Ahram building on Friday but was prevented by journalists and the building’s security before military police arrived.
It is rumored that the documents included correspondences between Saraya and editors of other state-owned newspapers and Mubarak, asking him to crack down on independent newspapers, as well as work-related and personal documents.
“There is a decree banning the removal of any documents from newspaper buildings. So when security personnel refused to allow the boxes from being carried out of the building and the office manager insisted, we called the military police,” Hamamou said.
“We formed a committee to inspect the boxes but found nothing condemning Saraya and the boxes were sent to the Administrative Monitoring Authority,” she added.
Journalists are calling for a general assembly to be convened at the Journalists’ Syndicate on Feb. 28 to decide on a date to hold new elections to replace current syndicate chief Makram Mohamed Ahmed.