Egypt: Independent candidate ‘Khaled Balshi’ wins Journalists Syndicate election

Independent candidate Khaled al-Balshi is to head the Journalists Syndicate following his success in a hotly contested set of midterm elections.

​After a heated election race, members of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate chose Khaled Balshi as their new chairman on Friday, according to the Judicial Committee supervising the elections.

Balshi is the editor-in-chief of Darb, a news outlet affiliated with the Socialist Popular Alliance Party to which access is blocked on servers within Egypt.

The committee supervising the elections for the midterm renewal of the Syndicate of Journalists, headed by Counselor Ahmed Morsi announced Khaled El Balshi as the new President of the Journalists Syndicate with 2,450 votes.

Balshi won an outright majority of the votes, the presiding authorities announced on Friday night, and was closely followed by the other prime contender for the role, Khaled al-Miri, editor-in-chief of government-owned news outlet, Akhbar Al-Youm, who received 2,211 votes.

Morsi said that the total attendance reached 5,062 votes, and that the number of valid votes amounted to 4,888 votes, while the number of invalid votes reached 174 votes.

He added that the candidate Sayed Al-Iskandrani received 79 votes, and Ayman Abdel Aziz got 32 votes, Sayed Abdel Moaty 10 votes, Talaat Hashem 4 votes, Abdo Maghribi 38 votes, Mohsen Hashem 33 votes, Mohamed Maghribi 4 votes.

Khaled Balshi’s campaign focused on regaining what he said was the syndicate and journalists’ independence from the government and entities monopolizing the media.

Balshi said his campaign’s main objective was to free Egypt’s press industry from the grip of monopolistic powers and recapture the syndicate’s independence and freedom.

“As long as we beg for financial help from the government, we will remain lacking independence and freedom,” al-Balshi said.

He also deplored that “a beginner journalist’s salary is as low as $38 a month, then goes up to $170 only at the age of retirement, or after 30 years,” al-Balshi said.

“This is completely unfair for a journalist who served 30 years in one publication. I think we all agree that salaries and pensions should be increased commensurate with the inflation rate so that journalists can bear the high cost of living.”

Eleven journalists were seeking chairmanship including al Balshi, while 40 candidates were competing for the board’s six contested seats.

He added that last week that he submitted a written request to Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly demanding that the syndicate’s financial allowance be increased by 40 per cent in line with Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s new package of social support measures, including wage hikes, pension increases, and tax breaks, and in line with the Central Bank of Egypt’s recent core inflation figures showing that inflation jumped as high as 40 per cent in February.

The elections were fully run and supervised by a judicial committee, with its members belonging to the Administrative Prosecution Authority. The syndicate’s general assembly, led by former Chairman Diaa Rashwan, also formed a committee to monitor the ballot.

The general assembly of the syndicate also took a number of decisions in its meeting following the elections on Friday in Cairo including the renewal of its rejection of naturalization of relations with Israel, its call for issuing a freedom of information act and its demand for the release of imprisoned and detained journalists.