Coming up on about a week now, it was announced throughout the world that Egypt’s main independent English language news source, Egypt Independent, was to stop publication.
This loss is particularly painful for me. I wrote several editorials for the Egypt Independent, and it was an important location for me both physically and intellectually during the Revolution and beyond. I am heartbroken .. . .
American news outlets such as New York Times and the Wallstreet Journal spoke of the media outlet positively, citing that as it’s name suggested, was the country’s only true independent voice that reflected the expression of the revolutionary voices (Stack, 2013). In the last four years, Stack explains, the staff chronicled the waning days of the Mubarak regime, the outbreak of revolution in their own country and across the Arab world, military rule and most recently the administration of the first democratically elected Islamist leader of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. The staff, which has been notably critical of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, believes that it was shut down by the self-censorship of its sister paper Al-Masry Al-Youm (Habib, 2013). Investors of the paper and the sister company’s chairman, Abdel Moneim, cited financial difficulties for the reason of the closure and has not commented about the accusations that the closure was political. The Muslim Brotherhood also declined to comment on the situation (Habib, 2013). Egypt Independent is the second independent English-language publication to shut down in Egypt in the past year as The Daily News Egypt abruptly closed after a seven year run when investors also claimed unbearable financial losses (Stack, 2013).
On April 23, 2013 the latest edition of the paper, in fact it’s 50th edition, was sent to the presses and Al-Marsy Al-Youm “pulled the plug”, which the outlets editor in chief Lina Attalah stated she believed it was due to the editions’ scathing critiques of not just the government, but criticism of the parent company’s management and self-censorship (Habib, 2013). Since President Morsi has taken office, the prosecutor general has summoned several journalist on charges of “insulting” the president. The administration is accused of intimidating reporters and inciting violence against them (Habib, 2013). This is not the first major incident of censorship or confrontation between the two media companies. In late 2011, Egypt Independent then referred to as- “Al-Marsy Al-Youm English Edition” broke partially away from its then-parent company as its content was “squashed” for being too critical of the government. During this confrontation, Egypt Independent announced the break and expressed they felt the revolution was incomplete and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule was increasingly heavy handed. Supporters of the newspaper expressed their dismay of the recent closing. “After the revolution there was a flood of people who expressed what they wanted…but we’re beginning to see that this change wasn’t real and that we were fooled,” said Habiba Effat, 22 year old from Cairo (Habib, 2013).
In a short statement called “Egypt Independent 2009-2013” the news outlet explained that they were not going down without a fight and pushed their last issue online and in PDF format. The explained that this issue continued their standards of critical journalism, discussing issues that reflected the county’s challenges as well as those facing Egyptian media.
“Four years after the birth of Egypt Independent, the management of Al-Masry Media Corporation has informed our editorial team that our print and online news operation is being shut down. Because we owe it to our readers, we decided to put together a closing edition, which would have been available on 25 April, to explain the conditions under which a strong voice of independent and progressive journalism in Egypt is being terminated. The management, however, withheld the printing of this edition. While the print house received the final proofs on 23 April, management ordered a last-minute stoppage after scrutinizing the issue’s content. In keeping with our practice of critical journalism, we use our final issue to reflect on the political and economic challenges facing Egyptian media, including in our own institution” (Egypt Independent, 2013)
The articles in the last edition were understandably full of anger but also reflection. The staff spoke about the vision of the paper that denoted a commitment to professionalism and civil rights. They explained they were trying to be more than a “mouth-piece” for the state and the political parties (Stack, 2013). Attalah and other Egypt Independent discussed the closure via social media. Attalah that she considered one of the key questions for professional journalists to be, “How do we become active mediators as opposed to silent vehicles of information?” (Stack, 2013). Attalah promised that her staff would continue their work in some new form and that their leaders had not seen the last of them.
More news on the shutdown