The challenges facing traditional journalism worldwide are also affecting the English-language press in Egypt, said the editor -in-chief of the Daily News Egypt.
Maher Hamoud said despite challenges facing the only independent English-language newspaper left in Egypt, an efficient use of online media can help the struggling industry.
In an interview with Al Arabiya News, Hamoud spoke about the performance of the Daily News Egypt amid the country’s political and economic problems.
Q. How is the English-language press, including the Daily News Egypt, surviving financially amid a population that is predominantly Arabic-speaking?
It is very difficult, especially because we are 100% financially independent. We do not receive any government support or international aid, like some other publications do. We are a fully Egyptian media business project that survives on revenues from advertising. Since the Egyptian economy is not doing well, we are going through financial challenges as well.
Being an English-language publication in an Arabic-speaking country is of course a challenge, but we overcome this through two advertising strategies. First for print, which focuses on tailored advertising of products and services targeting the business sector, and the upper-middle and higher classes of Egyptian society. Second for our website, which also targets regional and international audiences.
We are suffering financially like most newspapers in the world, but we have not reached a very dangerous level yet. Hopefully we will not, since it is the only English-language independent daily newspaper in Egypt.
Q. What does the future hold for this industry?
More challenges, I believe. Traditional journalism in general is going through many difficulties and radical transformations all over the world. The English-speaking media in Egypt is not apart from that.
However, we do have extra challenges given that our audience is either a minority within our society, or an international one that does not live in the same country and still has to be addressed both content-wise and advertising-wise. It is definitely not an easy business, but I believe the solution lies in efficiently and profitably using and developing online media business models.
Q. Is there a crackdown on journalists in Egypt, or is this hyped up by international media?
I would answer yes to both parts of the question. There is definitely a crackdown on journalists in Egypt, but it has always existed, albeit to lesser degrees. What we see now is unprecedented, even in comparison to how it was under former President Hosni Mubarak.
On the other hand, there is also a much greater focus on the issue of deteriorating media freedoms in Egypt today, following the arrests and random accusations against foreign journalists that started a few months ago.
Q. After the military-backed ouster of President Mohammad Mursi last July, how would you evaluate the performance of the Egyptian media?
From the mid-2000s until the fall of Mursi, I used to believe that there were two types of media in Egypt: state-run, and a steadily-developing independent one. The state-run media is the same as always since its foundation decades ago. It is the obedient slave of whoever takes control of power, whether it was Mubarak, Mursi, or field marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It has a history of being the most mistrusted source of news.
However, I believe now that the most accurate label for “independent media” should be “private,” in the sense that it is not owned by the state, but represents the state's interests in a very fact-twisting manner. It is all about business interests and political affiliations. I am talking about the Arabic-language media here, which shapes public opinion.
Q. The country’s English-language media has always been at the forefront of covering human rights abuses and censorship issues. Is that still the case, or is it becoming more difficult?
It is still the case, more so given the increase in human rights violations recently. And yes, it is becoming more difficult, not necessarily because of publishing such stories, which makes us look critical of the current regime. The biggest challenge is access to information, given the current undemocratic and over-nationalistic atmosphere.
Q. How can your newspaper manage in an atmosphere where Egyptians seek media that is consistent with their own views, which are largely supportive of the current authorities?
First, we stick to professional journalism, which is about covering the news objectively and accurately, and maintaining the balance between conflicting political groups as much as possible, whether our audience likes it or not. Second, since we are an English-language newspaper, the majority of our audience is either highly-educated Egyptians who can read English, or readers abroad. Both audiences appreciate our professional and tough job.