Al-Masry Al Youm English: New kid on the block in Egyptian media

Big plans appear to be in the pipeline in Cairo for the revamped English-language version of the leading Egyptian independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. The initial web portal was launched two months ago and hopes are to launch a print edition by the end of the year. MENASSAT visited their offices in Cairo.
Egypt Masry Lyom
Leading Egyptian independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm hopes to launch a print edition in the near future

CAIRO, August 18, 2009 (MENASSAT) — Egypt’s English-language media has a new rival that aims to grow in size and scope at a rapid pace. Two months after its official launching on the web, Al-Masry Al-Youm’s new English edition has a staff of ten full-time writers and editors and plans are to recruit more people in the coming months.  A full-time desk dedicated to translating news from the original Arabic Al-Masry El-Youm is also under way.

Similar to its Arabic counterpart, Al-Masry Al-Youm's English edition provides an independent perspective on Egyptian politics and society. Its web portal currently offers boosted coverage of human rights issues, workers’ strikes and features a growing arts and culture section, including book and film reviews among other coverage.

In Wednesday’s edition, the portal carried pieces on the continued strikes of Egyptian justice experts, a rights group's calls for US President Barack Obama to press Egypt over human rights conditions in the country during President Mubarak’s visit to Washington, and a report on young Egyptians migrating to Europe. 

In addition to print reports, a shared multimedia desk between the Arabic and English editions provides readers with video footage on a variety of topics including protests against police brutality, brawls in the Cairo subway, and the mass-killing of Egyptian pigs by police forces during the initial swine flu hysteria a few months ago.

“Essentially what we want here is to bring the best of Al-Masry Al-Youm to an English reading audience,” Chief Editor of Al-Masry Al Youm’s English edition, Fatemah Farag, told MENASSAT.

The original Arabic-language Al-Masry Al-Youm, which translates into “The Daily Egyptian,” has, since its launch a few years ago, become Egypt’s leading independent newspaper, with over 200,000 readers across the country per day.

Other English-language publications include Daily News Egypt, a privately funded independent daily launched in 2005, distributed with the International Herald Tribune or sold on its own at a cheaper price, the Egyptian Gazette, the English-language mouthpiece of the Egyptian government, and Al-Ahram Weekly, a weekly publication that's been around forever, affiliated with Egypt's state-run Al Ahram newspaper.

The target groups for Al-Masry Al-Youm's new English counterpart, said Farag, are primarily Egyptians living abroad who may not be comfortable reading Arabic, as well as foreigners in the region, and think tanks. 

Al-Masry Al-Youm’s new English edition initially began as part of an initiative to revamp the previous English-language version of the original Arabic newspaper, whose main task was to bring readers translated reports of the most important news articles published by the paper. Soon after, the portal started producing its own news in addition to carrying translated news from Al-Masry Al-Youm Arabic. 

The paper then began to hire full-time writers in April, approximately two months before the launch of the web portal -- which Farag says was unfortunately overshadowed by technical difficulties. But, she adds, a new version of the site is currently being developed. 

The content produced by Al-Masry Al-Youm’s English edition has proved popular with the original Arabic edition to the extent that it has requested the English editorial desk submit their articles for translation into Arabic, illustrating a potentially strong future mutual partnership between the two editions. 

Reports on human rights issues appear to be in particular demand.

“A couple of our recent human rights stories were translated for the Arabic edition,” said Farag. 

The team of writers at Al-Masry Al-Youm’s English edition includes both Egyptians and foreigners. Two important criteria for writing for the publication, says Farag, are a good knowledge of Egypt and ––for the foreign reporters–– a working knowledge of Arabic. 

Currently only available online, hopes are that Al-Masry Al-Youm will become available to readers in a print edition in the near future. 

However, registering a newspaper in Egypt can sometimes be a time-consuming bureaucratic nightmare. But Farag has faith in the project, saying she is “pretty confident it will happen.” 

If not, another option would be to register the paper in Cyprus like a number of previous independent Egyptian newspapers did in the past. 

And about the censors? Any problems with the authorities as of yet?

“None”, Farag responds. 

“The English language press (in Egypt) offers different parameters. It’s freer. But of course we have our red lines too,” she adds.

Included in Farag’s future plans are also the launching of a special file dedicated to Egypt’s protest movement, a political section, and a section for broader global topics such as environmental issues that would connect the publication with the broader region and the rest of the world. 

“We will make the best out of our assets,” Farag concluded with confidence.