Abdel Hamid stands in a short line in front of the subway ticket window, then gets an unreduced ticket, which he goes along with on the day when the bonds of affection between journalists and the government were ripped apart, after the inflammatory General Assembly decisions of journalists that met in May 2016.
Various privileges that journalists enjoyed – including being satisfied with paying half the value of tickets for public transport – but these were gradually diminished by government decisions over the past years.
The journalists’ relationship with the government escalated to the point of putting obstacles in front of the work of journalists, and officials severely insulting journalists during press conferences and coverage.
Abdul Hamid remembers the day of May 4, 2016, considering that the day the state considered that “the press has become an opponent,” withdrawing from them privileges that helped them perform their work, according to what he told Al-Jazeera Net.
The sense of bitterness from government intransigence against journalists appears to prevail among them, and is prominent in their publications within closed groups on Facebook, not only complaining about the intransigence of the authority, but also of its preference for television programs over newspapers, including the government, and complaints about the decline of the role of the press in general by entering the media. New competition for newspapers.
On the other hand, other journalists believe that what happened on this date, which journalists call “the Day of the Public Dignity of Journalists”, was the least possible response to the Ministry of Interior’s storming of the Journalists Syndicate headquarters, in violation of the laws, to arrest two journalists who were present there, and it appeared today an opportunity to restore the status of the profession. , As it should be.
In his candidacy for the Journalists Syndicate website, the journalist Karim Yahya said, “On top of the systematic practices of corrupting journalists and nationalizing the press, the privileges that were offered to them, including the seasonal increases in allowances and accompanying the elections, were as if they were a bribe to elect the government candidate.”
Egypt ranks 166 out of a total of 180 countries, according to the global ranking of press freedom.
For his part, journalist Hazem Hassan believes that the government no longer sees newspapers as important to it, and in the past it viewed it as one of its tools to influence the masses.
Hassan went on to his speech to Al-Jazeera Net by saying that journalists bear part of what happened to the profession, as some of them continued fleeting gains at the expense of the profession.
For his part, the press publisher Hisham Qassem considered that the authority’s tendency to muzzle and nationalize the press is clear, but the journalists themselves bear part of that by bowing to the low government ceiling, and some of them – whom he calls little cunning foxes – shocked him personally by becoming more royal than the king.
Qasim added that it has become the prevailing belief that the relationship with the security services is a point of ascension and advancement, in light of the Journalists Syndicate’s complete submission to power due to the demand for services, as he described it.
The crisis of alternatives
And in his speech to the island, does not see Qassem in the new media a threat to the press, but in addition to them, pointing to the existence of global models were able to overcome the problem of the new media competition for the press, and made a profit from it, as the reader, not the advertiser is the source of profit, could Egyptian newspapers To succeed if it has the administrative cadres who are aware of the economic feasibility of a successful commercial model for the media.
He considered that the influence of “Talk Show” programs is limited to the category of its recipients, most of whom are limited in culture and education, and without a specific intellectual or political position. The influence of power broadcasters may disappear completely among these in a free climate, stressing that “Talk Show” programs cannot be a substitute for the press. The regime is now seeking to achieve it on very fragile grounds.
The spokesman expressed his belief that social media platforms have turned into a temporary alternative to journalism in this stifling climate of freedoms, despite the police prosecutions of ordinary individuals who write their opinions on them.
In Hisham Kassem’s estimation, these platforms can play an important role in a hoped-for free climate in Egypt, as platforms for popular participation in knowing the news and assessing the reaction, and helping the renaissance of the press again by promoting its materials, but they will never be a substitute for the press that people resort to for documentation From the news.
The month of the relationship split
Observers considered May 2016 the most inflammatory year in the relationship of the press with the authority throughout its history in Egypt, after the police stormed the Syndicate building, on the first of this month, hours before World Press Freedom Day, and during the union celebrations of its diamond anniversary.
The journalists called for a general assembly on the fourth of the same month, and ended with recommendations that the Ministry of Interior should respect the law, prevent the publication of the name or picture of the Minister of Interior at the time, and demand President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to apologize and dismiss the minister, and the release of all prisoners of conscience from prisons and journalists imprisoned in publishing cases.
Newspapers at that time were blackened, and journalists considered themselves in an open sit-in until demands were met, or the matter escalated into a general strike.
Days after the General Assembly, the former and late head of the Journalists Syndicate, Makram Muhammad Ahmed, led journalists and editors-in-chief of a number of newspapers – they later obtained more positions and privileges, including membership in the Senate – to dissent against the decisions of the General Assembly, under the name of the Front for Correcting Path.
The head of the Journalists Syndicate – at the time of the storming – Yahya Qalash comments on that, saying, “It will not change the reality of what happened to all those who were assigned to implement the scheme to sabotage the path that they falsely called correcting the path,” according to Qalash’s description on his Facebook page.
Qalash considered that all the bleak conditions reached by the profession and the Syndicate came after “some squads of the track movie took over the positions and sat on chairs, without conscience and competence.”
It is noteworthy that Qalash himself was arrested during the crisis with two members of the Syndicate Council, on charges of harboring wanted journalists.
The absence of freedom
In this context, the former Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of the Press, Qutb Al-Arabi, confirms that the fundamental reason for the decline of the press in Egypt is the absence of freedoms and the control of power over the media, before the relationship worsened, as the authority harbored evil for the press since the first day of the July 2013 coup, then Newspapers and their websites have become standardized publications, with very few exceptions that have an umbrella of protection from outside, and they are generally blocked.
Al-Arabi attributed – in his speech to Al-Jazeera Net – the Egyptians ’reluctance to follow the silenced Egyptian newspapers to the availability of new windows for expression, as well as the emergence of foreign opposition media.
He believes that this is reflected in the numbers of newspapers’ distribution, which now distribute less than 200 thousand copies per day, according to the available numbers, and television programs that have become dependent on the reviewing capabilities of the presenter without real content have not replaced them, as the announcer repeats what is dictated to him by the officer in charge of media, and all In his own way of performing, as per his description.