Egypt's press union: A 'venue to express anger' at govt
For many years, Egypt’s Syndicate of Journalists has been a venue for Egyptians to voice their grievances against the government.

In recent days, the syndicate, a professional association recognized by the state, grabbed headlines after hundreds of journalists demonstrated against a police raid on their headquarters to arrest two reporters.

Syndicate officials have decried the raid -- the first in the syndicate’s history -- as a "blatant assault on journalists’ dignity" and have demanded the interior minister’s dismissal.

The interior ministry, for its part, said the arrest of the two journalists had been carried out in accordance with the law and in line with a warrant issued by Egypt’s prosecutor-general.

In 1941, the syndicate was officially established by a royal decree after more than 50 years of journalists’ struggle with the government to acquire that right.

The first syndicate council was appointed the same year under journalist Mahmoud Abul-Fath.

In 1947, Abul-Fath laid the cornerstone for the current headquarters of the press syndicate in central Cairo, which was officially opened in March 1949.

"At the time, the building accommodated around 400 journalists,” leftist journalist Hussein Abdel-Raziq told Anadolu Agency.

In 1954, the syndicate’s council was dissolved by Egypt’s revolutionary council, which came to power in 1952 after ousting the country’s king.

In 1960, former President Gamal Abdel-Nasser nationalized the Egyptian press in an effort to steer coverage toward the country's socioeconomic issues and galvanize public support for his socialist measures.

In 1970, President Anwar Sadat came to power in Egypt following Abdel-Nasser’s death.

In 1973, the syndicate’s electoral system was changed, allowing the syndicate’s chairman to be elected directly by the council members every two years.

The members themselves are elected separately every four years, with a renewal period every two years.

"Sadat has adopted an open policy toward the press,” Hussein Amin, an Egyptian academic, told Anadolu Agency. "His policies toward the media, however, were marked with contradictions; while he lifted some aspects of censorship, he maintained the government’s control over the media.”

The era of President Hosni Mubarak, who came to power in 1981, saw several protests by journalists to defend press freedoms in Egypt.

In 1995, the press syndicate rose up against a law enacted by parliament, which was meant to restrict press freedoms.

In 2002, the syndicate’s building was rebuilt by former syndicate chairman Ibrahim Nafae.

"Since then, the building has become a magnet for all Egyptians, who have grievances,” veteran journalist Qotb al-Arabi told Anadolu Agency.

Syndicate council member Abdul-Souad Mohamed recalled that the syndicate’s headquarters saw several protests against restrictions of press freedoms during Mubarak’s era.

"The headquarters was a gathering point for demonstrations meant to defend press freedoms,” he said. "The syndicate’s building has also played a major role in the January revolution [against Mubarak].”

During the one-year rule of Mohamed Morsi, who came to power in 2012, the syndicate’s building saw several demonstrations against Egypt’s first freely elected president, who was ousted in a military coup in 2013 after serving only one year in office.

In April 2016, the syndicate’s building saw mass protests against a decision by the government of President Abdel-Fattah el Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Morsi, to transfer the sovereignty of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian government has defended the move, saying that Egypt had assumed control of the two islands in 1950 amid concerns that they might be seized by Israel.

The controversial maritime border readjustment, which was announced during a recent visit by Saudi King Salman to Egypt, has sparked public outrage and accusations that el Sisi was "selling” Egyptian territory to Saudi Arabia, which was a major supporter of Morsi’s 2013 ouster.

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Last Modified: 2016-05-06 18:31:52
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