In Protest Of Draft Constitution, Egyptian Media Goes On Strike For A Free Press

  @christopherzarac.zara@ibtimes.com on December 05 2012 9:49 AM
Protest In Tahrir Square
Anti-Mursi protesters chant slogans in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Reuters

This revolution will not be televised -- or printed.

Five Egyptian television networks and 12 newspapers announced Tuesday that they are going on strike to protest the country’s recently drafted constitution, which they say lacks protections for journalists. Egyptian news website Ahram Online reports that the stations will go dark on Wednesday, while the papers did not print an issue on Tuesday.   

The Egyptian draft constitution was passed on Friday by the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly. The document will be voted on in a referendum on Dec. 15. Egyptian media outlets say they want an article barring the imprisonment of journalists in cases related to freedom of expression. The constitution, as it stands now, contains no such protection.

The strike also includes some, but not all, of Egypt’s online media. At some organizations, a handful of Web journalists will continue working so that they can cover the strike, Ahram reports. A single reporter is expected to post updates to Ahram’s Arabic website, one of the biggest news sites in Egypt. In a Tuesday statement, the website stressed that it was not acting as a scab by working through the strike.

“In view of our particular status as a Web-based news outlet ... we will maintain our updates throughout this crucial day of protest, not in contravention of the strike action, but in full solidarity with it,” the website posted.

According to the New York Times, the website of the Egypt Independent on Tuesday morning offered only a short statement against a black background. “You are reading this message because Egypt Independent objects to continued restrictions on media liberties, especially after hundreds of Egyptians gave their lives for freedom and dignity,” the statement read.

The website was back to normal by Tuesday afternoon.

In mid-November, as Egypt’s constitution was being drafted, the executive council of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate withdrew its representatives during the Constituent Assembly, stating that its recommendations for free-press protections were being ignored.

Meanwhile, the draft constitution has also stirred the ire of secular and anti-Islamic groups, who took to Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Tuesday to protest President Mohamed Morsi. The Times reports that those protesters were met with tear gas. 

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