Egyptian journalist attempts suicide to protest newspaper closure

Egyptian journalist attempts suicide to protest newspaper closure
An Egyptian journalist attempted suicide on Sunday in Cairo to protest at the closure of a print newspaper where he works.
3 min read
31 August, 2015
A journalist attempted to commit suicide in protest to the closure of Tahrir newspaper [YouTube]

A journalist working at the Cairo-based Tahrir newspaper has attempted to commit suicide on Sunday in front of the Journalists' Syndicate in protest to the decision to stop issuing the print edition of the newspaper, according to local media.

A short video released by local newspaper al-Watan News showed the journalist, Sherif el-Baramouni, taking his clothes off and pouring gasoline all over his body in an attempt to set himself on fire, before his colleagues and fellow protesters stopped him as he yelled and resisted their help.

Last week, the Tahrir board announced the decision to stop issuing its print edition in order to "put an end to the continuous and accumulating losses", and instead, "focus and expand on digital journalism".

The decision is effective starting 1 September 2015, and it affects more than 300 employees, all of whom will be dismissed, and for whom the print edition was the only source of income.

"We were surprised to hear about the conspiracy; the decision to close down the newspaper", Baramouny told al-Watan News shortly after his colleagues thwarted his suicide attempt.

"The owner basically said that he failed in running the newspaper, and that he needed to close it down due to financial losses."

"This is not my problem", he added, addressing the owner of the newspaper, "you need to restructure and redistribute salaries instead".

"Newspapers are not a commercial venture; they belong to the readers and to the people".
- Journalists' Syndicate statement

The Journalists' Syndicate held an urgent meeting on Sunday and issued a statement condemning the "arbitrary" and "unconstitutional" closure decision.

"Newspapers are not a commercial venture", the statement said, "They belong to the readers and to the people".

The Syndicate's board also said they were preparing a blacklist of newspaper owners and businessmen who oppose freedom of the press in order to expose their use of media and journalism to serve their own interests.

In response, Tahrir owner and head of the Conservative Party, Akmal Qurtam, issued a statement on Monday, saying that the condemning statement issued by the Journalists' Syndicate was "inciting", and described it as "verbal and intellectual thuggery".

"When the Syndicate says that certain newspapers serve the interests of businessmen, it is offending the journalists who work there by implicitly saying they follow orders," he said, "and this has never been the case in Tahrir, nor will it ever be".

Seddiq el-Issawi, an editor at Tahrir, told local newspaper el-Mesryoon last week that the closure decision came after the newspaper started opposing the current regime about two months ago, changing its pro-regime position that had been in place since its establishment in 2013.

However, Issawi added that according to Qurtam, the decision to close the newspaper was based on financial difficulties, amounting to more 50 million Egyptian Pounds (approximately $6.3 million).

On Sunday, the under-secretary of the Journalists' Syndicate, Gamal Abdel Rehim, told talk show host Lamis al-Hadidi in a live phone interview that the Syndicate was surprised by the decision to stop Tahrir's print edition.

Abdel Rehim added that there must be laws regulating the issuing of newspapers to ensure their owners have enough money to keep them running.

However, he said, the Syndicate cannot hold the owners of newspapers accountable because they are not members in it.