Sunday, May 08, 2016

Egypt's Parliament to Discuss Crisis Between Journalists Syndicate and Interior Ministry
Gamal Essam El-Din
Ahram Online
Saturday 7 May 2016

Egyptian speaker of parliament Ali Abdel-Al is expected to devote part of Sunday's plenary session to discussing the current crisis between the Journalists Syndicate and the Interior Ministry

Members of parliament told parliamentary correspondents Saturday that they have directed a number of "information requests" to prime minister Sherif Ismail, asking him to answer questions about the current crisis between the Journalists Syndicate and the Interior Ministry.

MPs also said they have asked parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al to open these "requests" for a debate during Sunday's plenary session.

Mostafa Bakri, an independent MP and journalist, told reporters that parliament speaker Abdel-Al has approved to open a debate on the crisis.

"As far as I know a government official will attend Sunday's plenary session to answer questions and requests submitted by MPs on this subject," Bakri said.

Bakri declined to indicate whether the interior minister will be the government official in attendance to answer the questions.

"Regardless, he will be an interior ministry official," Bakri noted.

Parliament's Sunday morning session was originally scheduled to review seven agreements, with two of them on generating electricity, both between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the European Investment Bank.

Other agreements include a loan from Italy to support small-scale Egyptian industries, and a grant from the Kuwaiti Development Fund to help Egypt provide assistance to Syrian refugees who fled the war-torn country.

Bakri said the information requests on the crisis between the Journalists' Syndicate and the interior ministry would be discussed before the debate on the above agreements.

"It will be up to speaker Abdel-Al to determine when these requests will be discussed on Sunday," said Bakri.

Other MPs such Saad Al-Gammal, chairman of parliament's Arab Affairs Committee and head of the pro-government parliamentary bloc entitled In Support of Egypt, disclosed Saturday that he and many MPs submitted information requests on the crisis.

During a debate held by the Arab Affairs Committee on Saturday, many MPs focused their anger on the board of the Press Syndicate, taking it to task for the eruption of the crisis.

Ahmed Al-Sharaawi, an independent MP and a former police officer, launched scathing attack against the Press Syndicate, accusing board members of trying their best to sow "seeds of sedition" between President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the Egyptian people.

"The Journalists Syndicate believes that their building is a shrine that is above the law," said Sharaawi, adding that, "during Sunday's plenary session, [Sharaawi] will urge other MPs to reject that the Journalists Syndicate stands in violation of the country's laws."

In comment, Al-Gammal, a former leading official of former president Hosni Mubarak's ruling party, argued that "while two former presidents, and a former agriculture minister were sentenced to prison, the Journalists Syndicate refused to implement the orders of the prosecution-general and the judiciary."

Al-Gammal praised the interior ministry for "implementing the law" during the raid that resulted in the arrest of two journalists last week. "The ministry has the right to arrest two persons who hid in the syndicate building," said Al-Gammal.

Al-Gammal, however, said he and other MPs do not plan to turn parliament's plenary session on Sunday into "attacks against journalists and the media."

"In this respect, I see that there is a pressing need that the new laws on the media include harsh penalties against those who breach the code of media ethics," said Al-Gammal.

Mohamed Khaled Al-Hashash, a Menoufiya governorate MP affiliated with the In Support of Egypt bloc, also joined forces and accused the Journalists Syndicate of exploiting the recent border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia revolving around two Red Sea islands – Tiran and Sanafir – to mislead the public and drive a wedge between El-Sisi and Egyptians.

MP Shadi Abul-Ela, an independent MP from the upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, said his information request aims to bring two men in charge of guarding the Journalists Syndicate to testify before parliament.

"The two security guards told MP Mostafa Bakri on his TV talk show on Friday that the head of the Press Syndicate, Yehia Qalash, exerted pressure on them to tell prosecutors that security forces had stormed the Syndicate building," said Abul-Ela.

In contrast to the hostile attitude toward the Journalists Syndicate among pro-regime MPs, most of the leftist MPs in parliament are supportive of the syndicate, denouncing what they call the interior ministry's repressive measures against the media and journalists.

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