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Presses fall silent as Daily News Egypt closes

The management of English-language Daily News Egypt calls time after seven years of service.  Writers hope to keep website alive in defiance.

One of the standout features in the past 14 months since the popular uprising that ousted Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak has been the emergence of a media that was outspoken, critical and -equally as important –  instrumental in providing a platform for activists and advocates to air their thoughts, beliefs and views. From citizen journalists and bloggers to editors, writers and activists the media scene was flourishing like never before.

Most of the English language publications in the country tended to lean more favourably; style and content wise, to those more commonly known as the glossies – local variants on your Hello‘s, Vogues, Elle et al. But when it came to the broadsheets, though the numbers were not high the content was as good as any of their global counterparts.

A bombshell was dropped on 22 April: The editorial team of one of Egypt’s best English dailies and the country’s first independent one, the Daily News Egypt (DNE), announced that the weekend edition of the paper would be its last.

A web posting ‘Final Words’ from the small group who tirelessly worked to ensure the daily copy made it to the printers read: “Last Thursday the editorial staff of Daily News Egypt was informed, quite abruptly, that our last issue was going to be the one which was published Saturday-Sunday, April 20-21, 2012. After seven years of providing hard breaking news and analysis on Egypt, and being the only independent English-language printed daily in the country, we regret to inform our loyal readers that, as far as the current editorial staff was informed, the paper will no longer be published.”

The paper, which published both a print edition and website, is affiliated with the International Herald Tribune and enjoyed a niche market within the country’s English reading community.

The paper’s managing company, Egypt Media Services said the reason behind the closure is mainly financial with no other reasons emerging until now.

According to Issandr El Imrani of the Arabist blog/news site “…the paper’s owners were thinking of doing so (shutting down the paper) for a few months now, as the newspaper was losing money and the shareholders could not justify investing more into it in the context of a bad economy. The DNE’s business model largely relied on institutional sales to hotels, with guests getting the paper under their door in the morning. With the hit tourism took after the 2011 uprising, combined with dwindling advertising sales, this model was hard to make viable.”

“Its shareholders are successful business people with bigger interests elsewhere, and not newspaper people. They’d invested in the paper because they thought it would be good to promote a certain type of liberalism, and because they thought it was a promising business opportunity in a country whose GDP was steadily growing. Now they faced all sorts of problems in their other businesses, and the DNE represented a steady continuous investment just to keep going — not counting the additional investment that would be necessary to try to get it to generate more income, especially from the web, a question the newspaper industry the world over is still trying to grapple with.”

In terms of Egypt and in regards to the political climate and turmoil the country has witnessed in the past year, the closure of the DNE represents a massive loss. It was the voice that insisted on being heard and one that reflected the minds and thoughts of those who took the battle against Mubarak and his cronies to the streets and continue to do so against the ruling military. Its reporters faced crackdowns and threats by authorities yet refused to buckle and toe the line. It gave freelancers both local and international the space in which to publish their musings, features, and reports on a a myriad of issues from news, views, analysis and politics to the local art and music scene; highlighting all that was good, bad and downright ugly in Egypt and the region.

The pressing issue for the staff of the paper is the website where for seven years they painstakingly built a database and archives that reflects all the hard work and dedication put into making the DNE the paper it is, well it’s in the hands of the owners. “We have specifically and repeatedly requested from the management of the owning company, Egyptian Media Services, to keep the website alive, even if it means that we, the current editors and reporters, have to finance it ourselves. Both ethically and morally, we believe we should be given priority on its ownership.” One would hope the owning company will agree to such a suggestion and that they will also contribute to its upkeep.

The Arab world needs publications such as the DNE; in their own way they are the system of checks and balances and accountability most countries in this part of the world do not exercise on official levels.

 

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