Journalists launch front to defend media freedoms

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The front is part of an ongoing campaign against a statement pledging allegiance to the state that was signed by the editors of several major newspapers last month, in which the editors announced they would implement self-imposed censorship measures.

The editors pledged that media outlets would cast no doubt on the performance of state institutions, including the police, military and judiciary, as part of their promise to “stop publishing statements that support terrorism and undermine state institutions directly or indirectly.”

The Front to Defend Journalists and the Rights of Citizens' founding statement declares, “The decision to form this front came in what could be the worst conditions in the history of Egyptian journalism, as it faces threats from the dictatorship of the executive power, the violence of terrorist groups and the vandalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to the dangers of field work after January 25 and June 30, which resulted in the deaths of 11 colleagues and the injury and arrest of dozens.”

Journalists Syndicate board member Khaled al-Balshy told Mada Masr that the front would fight against a recent wave of firing journalists at several publications, and would also combat ongoing violations against media professionals, such as physical assaults and arrests.

The group plans to lobby for the annulment of a regulation requiring reporters to get security permits to work in certain areas, such as Sinai, and will push to amend laws that curtail the rights of self-expression and the circulation of information, Balshy said.

Furthermore, the front aims to amend Journalists Syndicate regulations to guarantee more freedoms and protection for journalists.

Last week, Balshy spearheaded a statement signed by 600 fellow journalists condemning the editors’ declaration of allegiance to the state. Their statement also condemned Journalists Syndicate head Diaa Rashwan’s participation in the meeting that led to the controversial declaration.

However, Rashwan defended himself against such rebukes, claiming that he only attended the meeting with the editors but did not sign the resulting statement.

The first event organized by the front will be a press conference on the unfair dismissal of journalists, to be held on November 17.