The head of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate, Mamdouh Alwali, has expressed his dismay over his country’s loss of the presidency for the Arab Journalists Union, claiming it was a result of “divisions,” after the top-spot went to Kuwaiti Governor Sheikh Dr Ibrahim Al-Duaij Al-Sabah, the organisation's first ever president from a Gulf state.
Al-Wali meanwhile claimed that some within the industry have tried to transform Egypt's Syndicate into an arena ripe for political conflict, adding that threats to withdraw confidence in his leadership do not bother him.
Arabstoday spoke to the controversial media baron in an exclusive interview.
Some accused you of being the main reason for losing the Arab Journalists Union presidency. What is your response?
Firstly I would like to express my deep sorrow for Egypt losing the presidency, especially since Egypt has held the position for many years. However, I’m not the reason for that loss. I’m not the one who showed up our divisions and differences in front of Arab delegations during the opening session of the conference, prompting some to doubt our ability to manage important union affairs.
So what is the real reason for losing the Union presidency then?
The main reason is the divisions being exploited by a number of people, which some prominent journalists -- including Makram Mohamed Ahmed -- have already reported on. Some are trying to underestimate my achievements in the profession for electoral purposes, but I am sure that journalists are well aware exactly who supports their true interests.
Members of the Press Syndicate Council claimed your affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood was actually the main reason behind Arab delegations’ opposition to your candidacy. Any comment?
That isn’t true. Everyone knows my professional history and being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood has never been a weakness. A number of Arab delegations asked me to run for the position of Vice-President of the Union, knowing that Gamal Abdel Rahim intended to run for it.
What about the investigation into your wasting 75,000 EGP of union funds?
This investigation is an attempt to hijack the Syndicate for political gain – by fabricating problems, inventing laws and then attributing it all back to my organisation. The only body responsible for accountancy for the head of the Journalists Syndicate is in fact the General Assembly of Journalists, not the Syndicate. The upcoming election will be a good opportunity to resolve some of these issues.
Some have accused you of not standing up for your colleagues, particularly after your stance on the Gamal Abdel Rahim issue and the death of Husseini Abudev
I did not give up on anybody. I mourned the loss of our colleague, Hussieni Aboudef, in a statement and I approved an exceptional pension for him as well.
As for Jamal Abdul Rahim, he made a mistake and should be held responsible for it.
You were absent from Syndicate meetings more than once when these incidents were discussed. Why?
Emergency circumstances forced me to be absent from these meetings, so I commissioned the Syndicate's Assistant-Secretary, Hani Emarra, to draft a statement explaining my point of view regarding Jamal Abdel Rahim. I also conducted several phone calls with the head of the Shura Council, Dr Ahmed Fahmy, to end the problem but he was out of the country, so we postponed our meeting in the end.
There are frequent threats to withdraw confidence in your leadership, claiming you have fallen short of fulfilling Syndicate targets.
The midterm elections are around the corner. I don’t care about the threats because I want to leave office, particularly after the accumulation of all these problems recently.
But saying that I didn’t do this job well, that’s simply not true. I’m the one who has increased journalists’ allowances and pensions. I tried to resolve all sorts of problems – including the Al-Ahram controversy, stressing journalists’ rights to obtain financial dues. I even tried to end problems associated with journalists on partisan newspapers but they rejected all of the solutions I proposed, preferring demands that are difficult to actually implement on the ground.
What about what happened during the last General Assembly meeting?
What happened was just another attempt by some to turn to the Journalists Syndicate into a political arena. That is not what the Syndicate should be, I completely stand by that. The organisation should be a platform for all views, regardless of ideology.
Some have accused you of trying to undermine the General Assembly, especially since your non-attendance at a preparatory meeting.
I am not obliged to attend all of the preparatory meetings. But I did support most of the points discussed by the General Assembly during those meetings.
Why did you describe the meeting as ‘void’ then?
It was void because it violated the laws of the Syndicate.
When will the Syndicate start paying technology allowances to journalists?
I cannot set a specific date -- or amount -- but I can confirm that I was promised by the Finance Minister, Dr Momtaz Saeed, that the Ministry will be allocating about 35 million EGP every year to meet the required increase for Syndicate members.