‘A DANGEROUS VIOLATION AND FLAGRANT AGGRESSION’ – IFJ condemns suspension of Egyptian editor


THE International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the suspension of Jamal Abdel Rahim, editor in chief of daily El Joumhouryia, by the Chairman of the Egyptian Shura Council.

The suspension came after the state-owned paper published news on the travel-ban of former defence minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and General Sami Anan, both under investigation for corruption.

The Egyptian Journalists Syndicate (EJS) has strongly condemned the suspension describing it as ‘a dangerous precedent and a violation of both the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate law and the Press and Publications law’.

It also said the decision was a flagrant aggression against the authority of the union as the only body authorised to investigate professional misconduct, in accordance with Article 34 of the Press Law.

The Shura Council will discuss the case during its session at the beginning of November, and take a final decision.

The IFJ considers the government’s interference in journalists’ affairs as deplorable.

‘We support the Egyptian Syndicate and the journalists in their fight against intimidation and interference of journalists’ work, and call on the Egyptian authorities to reinstate the suspended editor,’ said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.

This decision is considered politically motivated, and based on the change of the newspaper’s editorial line with the appointment of Jamal Abdel Rahim as editor in chief two months ago.

Other newspapers in Egypt – both state-owned and private – covered the same story, prior to and after Al Joumhourya’s report without being targeted.

The EJS, which is calling for an urgent general assembly on Sunday 18 November to discuss attacks on the press, media independence, the country’s new constitution and its media related provisions said the intimidation campaign against journalists will not deviate journalists from their demands, including: a new Constitution that guarantees press freedom, the abolishment of jail sentences for press offences, an end to newspapers closures, and the creation of a national council that manages the affairs of the press and enjoys full autonomy from the state.

Meanwhile, workers at the Ain Sokhna Port have called off their 12-day long strike and returned to work after reaching a settlement with the Dubai Ports World company, the Ministry of Manpower, Suez Governorate and the presidential envoy.

However, the strikers’ chief demand of reinstating eight sacked co-workers is still being addressed.

Mohamed Fouad, President’s Mohamed Mursi’s legal affairs adviser, and Dispute Settlement Secretary of the Ministry of Manpower Nahed al-Ashri were able to reach an agreement with management and strikers to re-open the strategic Red Sea port – offering them concessions and pledges to meet their demands.

One of the eight sacked workers agreed to terminate his contract with the company and accepted a monetary compensation, while the seven others are being reinstated pending an administrative disciplinary hearing from DP World regarding their role in ‘inciting strikes’ at the port.

Meanwhile a joint panel has been formed – consisting of the governor of Suez, Suez’s security chief, DP World management representatives, and workers’ representatives – to address the rest of the demands and grievances raised by workers in this strike and in previous strikes.

This latest strike, which translated into a complete work stoppage, came about following the sacking of eight workers on 12 October and escalated into an acrimonious dispute that threatened to damage not only DP World, but the wider Egyptian economy.

The 2,000 DP World workers have ceased all work at the strategic port, bringing DP World to a standstill.

More than 800 were involved occupying the port in shifts, said Ayman Abdallah, one of the workers who was dismissed.

Since last year, port workers have also been demanding job security, full-time contracts for full-time work, overdue profit-sharing payments, periodic bonuses, hazard compensation and improved working conditions.

The failure to realize these demands, coupled with the dismissal of eight workers earlier this month, led workers to launch their open-ended strike.

The workers who were dismissed produced a memorandum of understanding signed by DP World officials, the Red Sea governor, and the Manpower Ministry, stating: ‘No workers are to be harassed or laid off because of the aforementioned demands.’

DP World officials claim they laid off the eight workers in compliance with the Unified Labour Law 12/2003. The sacked workers disagree.

Speaking at the headquarters of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Mohamed Abdel Ghany — one of the eight fired workers — commented, ‘We received notices from DP World claiming that we were fired due to our incompetence as workers.

‘Why are we today deemed to be incompetent?’ asked Abdel Ghany, who has been employed at the port for the past 16 years.

‘It is because they have no other excuse with which to fire us, and they’re not willing to admit that they fired us because we helped organise an independent union at our workplace, or that we helped organise the strike.’

Abdallah, who has been employed at the port for 14 years, agreed. ‘Why did they hold on to us for more than a decade?’ he asked.

Abdallah argued that this was a punitive measure taken by DP World against the eight workers in light of their organising.

‘Such punitive sackings are a blatant violation of the Labour Law,’ he said.

A third dismissed worker, Osama Saad, said they were fired because they were ‘the eight most vocal workers at the port’.

‘Our co-workers are striking in solidarity with us and demanding our reinstatement,’ he said.

‘Yet they are striking not merely for our sake, but out of fear and a sense of insecurity that they too may be fired in the future for demanding their rights.’

Regarding lost revenue, DP World officials have said the port lost LE120 million in the first eight days of the strike alone — averaging LE15 million of losses each day.

Commenting on the millions of pounds of lost revenue, Abdallah said that if the company had heeded the workers’ demands, it would only cost them about LE10 million.

‘Instead they (were) resisting, and have led us to strike, and in doing so have incurred more than LE120 million in losses,’ he said.

With more than 60 terminals across six continents, DP World is the world’s third largest port operator.

‘The government talks about protecting investors, but these are not investors — they are colonizers,’ Saad said.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services has warned that a ‘full conspiracy against trade union freedom’ is under way.

It stated: ‘During a session held on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 the government declared its intention to intensify its campaign against trade unions freedom.

‘The campaign has reached a seriously upsetting stage when the government has approved to amend law 35/1976 instead of enacting the new law that should guarantee Egyptian labour rights.

‘All through the past two months, the labour and trade union realm has witnessed continuing manoeuvres and manipulations against labour liberties.

‘Same as the old regime used to, the government kept disclosing amendments then negate them all.

‘Wide discussions have been misleadingly conducted to convey a message that a social dialogue is taking place.

‘Nevertheless, everyone has been surprised with a pre-made law formulated solely at the backstage.

‘The new Egyptian government and the Minister of Manpower and Immigration are intentionally trying to abort the long history of the Egyptian labour struggle.

‘Following the same practices of the pre January, 2011 revolution, the government and the Minister are depriving the Egyptian labourers of their social rights they became close to through the Egyptian revolution.

‘The Moslem Brothers deny labourers and other social classes’ rights to defend their interests.

‘They are against their trials to strengthen their negotiation power.

‘Moslem Brothers are completely in harmony with the formal union institution; the Egyptian Trade Union Federation.

‘They use the same old approach and keep claiming that independent unions are harming labourers’ unity and thus they are fighting for keeping the federation as a tool for labours’ oppression.

‘The Moslem Brothers deny labour’s right to choose and form their unions independently.

‘They claim they are against pluralism for the sake of unity while they are prosecuting labour and preparing a law to squash labours’ right to protest and diminish the whole labour movement.

‘The Moslem Brothers want to keep the formal union institution and the sole ruling party while replacing current leaders with theirs.

‘Accordingly, it is logical that they use the president’s exceptional legislative powers.’

‘Finally, it is worth mentioning that law 35/1976 and its amendments have already fallen when the old regime had promised to cancel it for the sake of enacting a law which abides by international labour criteria.

‘It has fallen by the admission of the post revolution governments which have authorised issuing a new law for unions’ freedom.

‘It has fallen by the acknowledgments of all stakeholders who have participated in the inclusive social dialogue conducted by the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration on June and July 2011.

‘This notorious law has fallen, and the current government should be responsible for the consequences of its revival, knowing that history never goes backward.’