Censorship, financial woes lead to Egypt newspaper shutdown

An article on the shutdown of Egypt Independent, an English-language newspaper, published in Al-Akhbar English in April 2013.

English-language publication Egypt Independent published its last issue on Thursday, after a series of financial problems and internal conflicts led newspaper al-Masry al-Youm to shut down the print and online publication.

Al-Masry al-Youm justified closing Egypt Independent – created in 2009 as the English version of the Arabic newspaper, but which had gained growing editorial independence over the years – over its economic struggles.

But the staff of Egypt Independent said that the two publication’s editorial fallout, and the self-censorship encouraged by the owners and investors of al-Masry al-Youm contributed to the decision.

“The change (between the two publications) was more than nominal, and the conversations surrounding it were important in framing our practice and interrogating the notion of independence in a universe where knowledge production is polarized toward certain centers of power,” journalist Heba Afify wrote in Egypt Independent’s last issue.

Several print issues of Egypt Independent, including the final one, were banned from publication by al-Masry al-Youm for their critical tone. The last issue was made available online.

Egypt Independent Editor-in-Chief Lina Atallah told Al-Akhbar that her team was informed in February that the publication would shut down. The publication obtained a temporary grace period where it attempted to cut costs and raise revenue, but was told last week that the closure was imminent.

Egypt Independent was a victim of economic issues and the pressures of investors, Atallah said, and she called for a third model of media financing not dependent on business or political funds.

“These have been difficult times for independent media in Egypt,” Atallah said. “The regime has not been showing commitment to the values of the revolution.”

The closure of Egypt Independent means the loss of a particular Egyptian insight on the news for foreigners, Atallah said.

“No one will be mediating Egypt’s stories to the outside world,” she said. “There are a lot of international outlets, but they lack the context of a local newspaper.”

According to Atallah, of the 35 employees of Egypt Independent, six have been offered jobs at al-Masry al-Youm, while the others will be laid off.

But in her final editorial for Egypt Independent, Atallah expressed optimism for the future.

“We leave you with the hope of coming back soon, stronger and unbeaten, ready to incessantly travel to uncharted territories of storytelling,” she wrote.

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