In the first episode of the second season of “Al Bernameg” -- a popular satirical program on television in Egypt -- its host, Dr. Bassem Youssef, spent some time joking that because of the show’s content, it might well be the last of the series.
“You know how freedom of the press is around here,” Youssef said in Arabic. “No, really, we do have freedom of press. They literally said, ‘No pencil shall be broken.’ And they were right, the pencils are safe, despite the TV channels shutting down.”
Those pencils, metaphorical or literal, might not be so safe anymore. This week, the English-language Egypt Independent was closed by the management of Al-Masry Media Corp., which also owns the English-language Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The Egypt Independent staff was originally going to put out a physical copy of its final issue, but management snuffed that idea. So, on their last day, they presented their journalism solely online, covering the “political and economic challenges facing Egyptian media.”
In a her goodbye missive, Egypt Independent writer Noha Moustafa expounded on the deteriorating management at the newspaper, acknowledging that this day had been coming. “I had seen it coming, so I’d started sending my resume everywhere I could,” she wrote. “I had so many interviews in the past three years that I lost count.”
Egypt Independent’s editor-in-chief Lina Attalah did not respond to a request for comment before the publication of this piece, but she told the Lebanese media outlet Now that even the widely reported financial struggles of the paper were only part of the reason for its shuttering. “The economic problems have been there for a long time, but part of the failure of Al-Masry Youm is that they never cared about developing a viable business plan in order to make the newspaper sustainable and not dependent of on the paychecks of the businessmen,” she said.
Attalah also said she was “planning to continue, to set up something new.”
Egypt Independent was established in 2009, and it was known for its critical tone. Al-Akhbar, another Lebanese media outlet, said several issues of Egypt Independent were banned from going to press. Atallah told Al-Akhbar that “the [Egyptian] regime has not been showing commitment to the values of the revolution.”