A new draft law by the Press Syndicate aims at having no less than 95% of journalists working in newspapers registered with the syndicate. The draft was sent on Saturday to the parliament for approval.
Ayman Abdel Megeed, the head of the syndicate’s committee for training and development who is behind the proposed law, asserted in statements to Daily News Egypt on Monday that its purpose was to guarantee job opportunities for registered journalists and protect them against arbitrary dismissals.
“The difficult market condition is also behind journalists losing their jobs. Then, they are unable to find new opportunities, because organisations prefer to hire young unregistered journalists with low salaries and no contracts,” Abdel Megeed said.
If the law is passed, newspaper owners who violate that law could face fines ranging from EGP 100,000 to EGP 1m, he explained.
He revealed another aspect to his proposal, which is to regulate the profession. “Everybody wants to be a journalist whether they studied it or not. The market demand exceeds the need,” said Abdel Megeed.
But as for the status of journalists unregistered with the syndicate, they still work without rights to legal protection or contracts. Under the current, outdated syndicate law, a journalist is required to have practiced the profession before applying for a membership at the syndicate.
Media graduates must present to the syndicate a portfolio of their work for a minimum of one year at a licensed print newspaper (or affiliated website). Non-media graduates have to do this for two years before they can apply to the syndicate.
Non-registered journalists are often employed by news outlets for years, with their right to a contract either fulfilled or not. Abdel Megeed is not unfamiliar with such practices, but he hopes to put an end to them through legal commitment of newspapers to hire or fire journalists within one year.
“Even if they end up dismissed, it would be better for them than being used to work with low salaries and no protection,” he added.
Meanwhile, syndicate board member Mahmoud Kamel denied that the drafted law had been approved by the board before being sent to the parliament. Kamel told Daily News Egypt on Monday that the law was discussed among them, with discussions postponed to a further session.
The board council has been divided since the elections in March. Kamel and other members have repeatedly expressed objections to the syndicate’s management of affairs.
In the meantime, journalists continue to work in difficult financial and personal security circumstances, affecting both registered and unregistered journalists.