BEIRUT: Nearly two years after the death of long-time Journalists Union president Melhem Karam, the body looks set to elect a successor by the end of this month.
The union’s council met Thursday to set an election date, which is likely to fall between May 17 and 23, according to Elias Aoun, a prominent member of the Press Federation.
A statement announcing the official date and location of the polls will be issued in the next few days.
Nearly 850 journalists officially registered in the union are eligible to vote for the 12-member council, which will in turn elect its president, deputy, secretary general and treasurer.
Aoun, a council member for more than 35 years, told The Daily Star that council candidates currently have an agreement to elect him as a consensus figure to head the new council.
“We’re not competing for the post. We are working hand in hand, and the only competition is over the formulation and implementation of an action plan to best serve the interests of the union and its members,” Aoun said.
Before submitting his candidacy, Aoun will be required by union law to resign from his post as secretary-general of the Press Federation, which represents the owners of Lebanese publications. Aoun also heads the federation’s division of non-political periodicals.
Aoun said he has decided to leave his posts to take on the challenging task of reviving the Journalists Union.
Habib Shalouq and Joseph Qoseify earlier announced their intention to succeed Karam. Qoseify told the daily An-Nahar that he has a platform aimed at restructuring the union but added that he would support the election of a consensus candidate.
Media activists have long complained that journalists’ interests have been neglected by the union.
Among Aoun’s proposed reforms are improving social security and health care benefits.
“We will defend the rights of journalists by claiming their rights in cooperation with the government,” he said.
He added that he would also introduce other improvements to the union’s administrative structure, citing union efforts to secure a new headquarters.
“Overall, we are seeking to rejuvenate the union, which is the backbone of journalism,” Aoun said.
The council’s mandate expires next month, and there are currently only nine members on the 12-member board, following Karam’s death and the resignation of two other members.