Egypt’s journalist union elects government critic as chief


Egypt’s journalists’ union has elected government critic Khaled Elbalshy as its leader, amid a government crackdown on the press and systematic persecution of journalists.

“It’s a breath of hope,” said Lina Attalah, editor-in-chief of Mada Masr, an online newspaper among hundreds of news sites blocked by the authorities.

Elbalshy, editor-in-chief of Darb, a news outlet affiliated with the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, was elected on Friday with almost half of the votes cast, the union said on Saturday.

In a country where political elections provide “no real representation”, the journalists’ union has decided that “there is no one who can represent us better than Khaled Elbalshy”, said Attalah, who is waiting for his trial for “guilty” pro-government legislators i. August 2022.

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In 2016, Elbalshy, then head of the union’s freedoms committee, was detained along with the union’s leader in a police raid after two fugitive opposition reporters staged a sit-in at the union’s offices.

“It is a historic day for Egyptian journalists, Khaled Elbalshy won more votes than the candidate promoted by the state despite all his support,” journalist Rasha Azzab wrote on Twitter.

The liberal opposition party Dostour proposed an election that includes “hope for change after years of being stifled by monopoly”.

Around 20 journalists are currently languishing in prison and many are awaiting trial, according to the campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In September 2018, Attalah and three other Mada Masr journalists – Rana Mamdouh, Sara Seif Eddin and Beesan Kassab – were accused of slander and defamation, using social media to harass government party members, and publishing false news whose aim was to disturb the peace of the community and harm the welfare of the community.

Egypt was ranked 168 out of 180 countries on RSF’s 2022 press freedom index.

“Pluralism basically does not exist in Egypt,” RSF said, calling the country “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists”.

An estimated 65,000 political prisoners have been jailed since the 2013 ouster of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president.

Egyptian prisons are notorious for cruel and inhumane conditions. Abuses have long been reported by prisoners throughout Egypt, including systemic torture and life-threatening conditions.

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