More than 480 journalists have signed a petition condemning a meeting late October with fellow chief editors of state and privately-owned newspapers in which they declared abstention from attacking the regime and siding with the state in face of terrorism.
Titled “Gagging is a victory for terrorism,” the statement said the outcome of the meeting by newspapers chiefs at Al-Wafd newspaper on 26 October represents “a setback for press freedom and an intentional killing of the profession, and ruining of the dignity of every Egyptian journalist.” It added that the stance expressed by journalists in the meeting was a “voluntary renunciation of the freedom of opinion… and a submission to an authority that still wreaks havoc on freedoms and persecutes journalists through its security services and proteges in the profession.”
During the October meeting, which which came two days after a deadly terrorist attack that killed 31 security personnel in North Sinai, the chief editors agreed to cease what they called “instigations” against the state, its army and police services, and siding with them in their battle against terrorism.
The recent statement came after El-Wady news chief editor, Khaled al-Balshy, called for a meeting on Saturday at the Journalists Syndicate to take an action against the development.
“Confronting terrorism is achieved by giving freedom,” Balshy told Egypt Independent, labeling the October meeting as an attempt to “nationalize journalism under the pretext of combating terrorism.” He said if the press is denied its freedoms, the executive authorities would lose an important tool in its fight against terrorism, arguing that the press sometimes serves as a terrorist alert for security services.
Balshy added that the number of signatories to the petition, including journalists from state-run newspapers, has jumped from 300 to more than 480, predicting it to reach 500.
The conclusions declared in the October meeting by press editors represented “an end to opposition in support for a yet unclear action plan by the regime,” Balshy maintained, adding they seek to make newspapers as the army’s Morale Affairs Authority.
Meanwhile, Egypt has slipped one place in the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index due to increasing harassment of journalists since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsy in 3 July 2013.
*Correction: The original meeting of the newspaper editors-in-chief was not jointly held with the government.