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Egyptian state TV interviews newly-elected union of journalists’ chief

BBC Monitoring

Egyptian state TV's Wijhat Naza (Point of View) weekly programme, broadcast on 18 November on Channel 1, interviewed the newly-elected chairman of the Union of Journalists, Makram Muhammad Ahmad.

Asked first to comment on the recent union elections, Ahmad said that it was held "in a perfect way" and witnessed a "very high turnout". He pointed out that the high turnout was due to the fact that "everyone really feels that the profession is in a sharp crisis" and everyone was aware of the "seriousness of the situation".

Ahmad said that "the [newly-elected] board included all political trends", which shows "a high degree of balance".

In an indirect reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, Ahmad said: "Some sides thought that they could make up for the absence of [political] parties affiliated to them by controlling the union, which unfortunately happened in a large number of professional unions that rendered them out of action".

"Journalists were qu! ite aware that they were not ready to sacrifice their union," he said, adding that "their union has to continue, has to stay on, has to be safe and has to avoid falling in the hands of a certain group to the exclusion of another".

He stressed the results of the elections demonstrated that "journalists are unanimous in rejecting the point that the union can become an alternative to a political party".

He stressed the need for "dialogue" between journalists and the government. He said that if such a dialogue failed, "other alternatives" could be adopted. He described recent differences between journalists as a "civil war".

Asked to comment on a widely held view that he supports the government, Ahmad said that he was "obliged" to defend the government decisions that he saw would be "in the interest of the homeland". He added that he was similarly "obliged" to "criticize" the government decisions he was against.

Ahmad spoke about private newspapers, sayi! ng that "they are now to attract the attention of at least part of the readership, 80 per cent of which go to national newspapers". "I think that the presence of these private newspapers will lead to a real press activity, a real competition and will increase the vitality of the national press," he said.

He highlighted the need to improve the financial situation of journalists. "We will not pick the profession up unless we elevate the life, economy and tools of journalists," he said.

Source: Channel 1 TV, Cairo, in Arabic 2015 gmt 18 Nov 07

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