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Listening Post

Silencing an independent Egyptian voice

How the Egypt Independent, one of the country's most respected privately-owned print publications, gets shut down.

Last Modified: 13 Jul 2013 11:08
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In 2011, Egypt's year of revolutionary change, Egypt Independent, the country’s first independent, English-language weekly, published its inaugural print edition. The idea behind it was "to serve as an insightful digest of the country's dynamic times".

It started life online, as a digital sister publication for the country’s flagship independent paper, Al-Masry Al-Youm. Known for challenging the country’s status quo with contentious editorials, the paper blossomed during the revolution.

It weathered the storms of both the SCAF regime era and the initial stages of the Mohamed Morsi government.

But Egypt Independent's days were numbered.

This past month the editorial team was told the paper was being closed down. Its last edition never even made to the newsstand. Management cited financial reasons for the closure but the editorial staff - a questioning bunch by nature - almost all say they had suspicions the motive went beyond economics.

For the past two years much of the Egyptian media have walked a fine line – navigating the post Mubarak, interim military regime era, and then, adjusting to new media rules laid down by President Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government.

Throughout, Egypt Independent says it refused to temper its coverage. Editor-in-chief Lina Attalah was determined the paper should push boundaries wherever possible. She said she took pride in its long editorial pieces on controversial topics, and that she expected her reporters to not just relay the facts but to contextualise and often take a position.

But it is a complicated balancing act in post-revolutionary Egypt, and Attalah and her team may have crossed the line.

One of the paper's harshest critics was Abdel Moneim Saeed, the managing editor of Al Masry Al Youm, who described the publication as a hub of leftist, activist journalism. He and others have argued that Egyptian politics is still sensitive, so news media outlets should be building bridges not burning them.

Egypt Independent says it tried to be part of that re-education. For the time being it has failed, but its editor-in-chief remains optimistic about the future of journalism in Egypt.

The Listening Post’s Flo Phillips reports on a day in the death of the Egypt Independent.

"The media landscape in Egypt right now is incarcerated in a binary whereby the predominant voices are those of state run media as opposed to privately owned media. And none of these, neither of these are truly autonomous and independent media. And this is what we truly need."

Lina Attalah, the chief editor of the Egypt Independent

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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