Text of report by Saudi-owned leading pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat website on 10 January
[Report by Isam Fadl, from Cairo: "Bush's Scheduled Visit to Egypt Ignites Disputes Within the Journalists Association"]
The scheduled visit by US President George Bush to Egypt has ignited disputes within the new council of the Egyptian Journalists Association. Some members support the option of staging a demonstration against the visit inside the entrance of the association, while others set up the condition of obtaining a prior permission to demonstrate in protest against the expected visit next Monday, 14 January. The members of the new council, who were elected some two months ago, have set up the condition of obtaining a prior permission before staging any demonstration, which is different from the situation under the previous council that has a Muslim Brotherhood and Nasserite majority.
Muslim Brotherhood member Muhammad Abd-al-Quddus, in his capacity as chairman of the association freedoms committee, has called on the opposition political! powers and parties to participate in a demonstration in protest against Bush's visit to Egypt that will be held on the same day of the scheduled visit, 14 January, "on the steps of the Journalists Association." The steps of the association have become famous during the past four years for being used as a protest pulpit by the opposition. This has made the new members of the association council accuse Abd-al-Quddus of adopting unilateral stances; they say that it is inadmissible to stage a demonstration "on the steps of the association" without permission from the council.
Muhammad Abd-al-Quddus, who has been elected to the new council, and who has been known in the recent years for organizing demonstrations in cooperation with opposition forces such as Kifayah and the Muslim Brotherhood, says that demonstrating against Bush's visit does not need permission from anybody. He explains to Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the demonstration "expresses a national pan-Arab issue that ! no one can dispute. I have addressed the invitation in the name of the freedoms committee to all the opposition political powers and parties to participate. I am practicing my right as the rapporteur of the freedoms committee, and I insist on organizing the demonstration."
Member of the association council and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Salah Abd-al-Maqsud, takes the side of demonstrating against Bush's visit. He says that he is in favour of setting up controls for demonstrating on the steps of the association in a way that fulfils its national role, with prior permission from the association council, and provided that the demonstration is organized in a civilized way without insults, and without hindering the traffic.
Member of the association council and rapporteur of the association's Arab affairs committee, Jamal Fahmi, who supports the Nasserite tendency, launches a fierce attack on the council of his association. He says that the issue of demonstrating on the steps of the association was discussed at the first meeting ! of the current council, and that the meeting witnessed disagreement in viewpoints between one group supporting the demonstrations, and another considering it part of its national duty to liberate the association's steps from demonstrators, as if these steps were occupied. Fahmi says, "The steps of the Journalists Association belong to all the Egyptians. We are an association based on freedom of opinion, and we defend freedom of expression."