The saga of Islam Online (IOL) took an abrupt 11th hour turn Wednesday night–apparently in favor for the more than 200 staffers who walked off their jobs and had mostly resigned themselves to leaving the influential Islamic news website.
Strikers were informed around 9 PM that an emergency meeting had been held for the board and general assembly of the Islamic Message Society, the Qatar-based religious NGO that funds the site and which is headed by the influential Egyptian-born Sheikh Youssef el-Qaradawi. The attendees voted to suspend the authority of two new members, who striking staffers viewed as the primary reasons behind rising newsroom tensions that eventually led to the staff walk-out.
Striker Ahmed Abdel Fattah said Ibrahim el-Ansari, the general manager, and his deputy Ali el-Amady had been temporarily suspended and their authorities revoked.
“Those two are the reasons for all of what has happened to us,” Abdel Fattah said. “They’ve been destroying Islam Online.”
Mohamed Ghafari, a young editor in the English interactive department, said Qaradawi will be appointing two acting managers in transition within few days, till new ones are voted in.
"We [IOL staff] sent a message to Qaradawi already a month ago, before the strike, exposing what the management was doing," Ghafari told Al-Masry Al-Youm. "Qaradawi responded back assuring everyone the Cairo office was to continue. El-Amady and el-Ansari were never transparent and they were sabotaging our work. They should have been removed a long time ago."
Ghafari was also quick to assert "this is not a protest against Qatar as some tried to picture it. It’s not about Qatar and Egypt and whatever rivalries exist between two states. Our site is not a national website; it’s an international website."
Abdel Fattah said his colleagues were jubilant, but he pointed out that no official decision has been announced as the status of the striking staff. “Until that happens, there’s optimism, but cautious optimism.”
Ghafari expressed similar sentiments, saying the sit-in would continue until the Cairo bureau staff regained access to the website administration, after they had been blocked earlier by the Doha-based management.
"We are journalists. We want to do our job: to report," said Ghafari. "We need to regain admin powers to start updating the site again."
The strikers have divided themselves into shifts to ensure the occupation of the IOL building, in the 6th of October City, continued around the clock. On Friday, their families will join in solidarity.