Fatemah Farag, Executive Editor of Welab El Balad Media Services, has introduced a new kind of media in Egypt: hyperlocal weekly papers that are accountable to their readership and allow their readers to be part of the editorial process.
Last year’s revolution unleashed tremendous energy that led to a flood of political debate. “You now can’t go anywhere without being engaged in political debate,” she said, in contrast to the apathy and lack of concern under the former government. She was speaking at the 19th World Editors Forum in Kiev last week.
Traditional news is in deep crisis, Farag said, as years of malpractice have come to the fore. And the provinces, which had for many years been marginalized in national news, took centre stage.
All these factors have led to an explosion of new initiatives, from new publications to graffiti, to puppet shows – any way to express ideas.
Welab El Balad’s response has been to produce very local, community-based newspapers with a low cost business model. A print product is essential, Farag said: “what is legitimate, what is credible, is print.”
The three pillars of journalism that the papers aim to uphold are respect for truth, respect for the citizen and respect for humanity.
The company produces four weekly papers, in four different communities across Egypt: