Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

That was my day yesterday. The editorial team behind Daily News Egypt was to get one more slap on the face Tuesday.

I hate to discuss this. We always resisted being the story, even when the paper was censored. But it’s difficult to remain mum for no good reason.

I thought we were dealing with respectful people. I thought the owners of the paper would sustain a shred of decency, but I was proven wrong.

We went to pick up our salaries for April, which we were told by the owners we should be grateful to take. While employees in other departments took theirs, an order was made to exclude the journalists and editors. The reason? “A problem with one of the investors with the editor over ‘passwords’”. But we left everything including access to our virtual profiles and emails at the office before we were effectively kicked out. No one asked me for any “passwords” until I went to get my salary. And even if a “problem” persists, why punish a team of 15 for a problem with one person?

Well, the “passwords” seem like a mere excuse to me. The editorial team is the one that led the move to file a complaint at the labor office, after being told by the owners and the liquidator (who also served as the supervising accountant and auditor for the company over the years) that court is our only option to get the outstanding financial rights.

Like the sudden closure of the DNE website for a couple of days last month, the owners seem to be making decisions affecting the paper and its staff based on any phone conversation they don’t like. Ironically, when we reminded the owners they owe us and the whole staff financial rights more than just salaries, they told us to talk to the liquidator they appointed because legally they had no control over the company assets anymore. This “control” is only effective when they want to change something.

It was heartbreaking to see the tears in my colleagues’ eyes, shocked by this spat of humiliation. Journalists have repeatedly put their lives at the line to get the story out and everyone has sacrificed a lot personally and professionally to get around the ever scarce resources. On Tuesday, we kept reminding each other to keep our chins up; this situation didn’t reflect on us as much as those who forced it on us.

I really expected it to go gracefully, or at least with less drama. Instead, we have to deal with erratic and spiteful decisions. Shame!

Read the statement by the staff over Tuesday’s events. (It’s mirrored on all of our individual blogs).

Make sure to read DNE business reporter Reem Abdellatif’s take on the investors of the paper here.

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The Inside Story from DNE Staff

The original editorial staff of Daily News Egypt (which you can now follow on @OriginalDNE) would like to inform our loyal readers of the latest developments since the paper stopped printing. We had chosen to not go public with the story and our ordeal out of decency but were today pushed to speak out because we have been denied our most basic right, the salaries for the month of April.

Since we were informed of the owning company’s termination (Egyptian Media Services, which published Daily News Egypt), we were told that we have no financial rights pending, even though this is in violation of the Labor Law. We were informed, however, that we will be paid our full salaries for the month of April. This was noted in the termination letter we were handed on April 22, 2012, in which we were also informed that it would be our last working day. On that day we took our belongings from the office and handed in anything we had,such as a video camera, etc. The next day the locks on the office door were changed.

We left the office and decided to pursue legal action since the company’s liquidator told us we had no rights to severance packages for years of service ranging from two to seven, and this can only be resolved with a court order, thus encouraging us to file a complaint at the labor office for our financial rights. We did so, preceded by a complaint at the Dokki police station on April 24 and have been talking to a lawyer to pursue next steps.

We waited till the beginning of May to obtain our salaries. When we found out that the salaries were ready at the office, we went there to pick them up only to be informed that the editorial staff will not be paid. Other departments in the company got paid.

The owners allege that we have passwords that we have not handed in. This is untrue as everything we had access to was left at the office when we were told it was our last day, including passwords to the wire services which are even written on a whiteboard in the news room. They have full access to all usernames and passwords from our work PCs.

We are not holding any passwords hostage. We want to take this chance to inform our readers and followers that the original DNE staff is no longer affiliated with this brand. We are however, sticking together and forming a new venture.

Please follow us on @OriginalDNE and stay tuned. Your support is highly appreciated.

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Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

Daily News Egypt website is back

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Daily News Egypt website is back

The Daily News Egypt website is back up with a new message from the shareholders of the owning company, Egyptian Media Services. The company also prints and distributes the International Herald Tribune. For years, DNE has been distributed with the IHT.

The IHT is looking for a local partner to resume printing in Egypt soon.

Farewell Note from the Shareholders of EMS

It is with great sadness that we were forced to close the doors of The Daily News Egypt, Cairo’s preeminent and only independent English language newspaper.

The DNE was conceived seven years ago when a group of Egypt loving business people, got together to achieve a single objective – raise the standard of English language journalismin Egypt and make it relevant to the times.  We did this with considerable anxiety. It was clear back then that media was a high-risk business, and the newspaper industry worldwide seemed to be struggling.  Moreover, wewere launching an English paper in a country where so few spoke the language; there was no doubt that we would struggle with low readership figures. However, we were committed from an intellectual, cultural and emotional point of view. An English daily would be so important for Egypt, especially when the only available alternative was a state-owned newspaper.  The DNE would take its place in a country where tourism was a key sector, and cater to its young population, expats, visitors and bilingual speakers in a way like never before.  Indeed, we had romantic notions for what this newspaper could be and proceeded despite the business hurdles and risks.

We believed in the Editor and the Writers, who were very passionate about their work.  We could not be more proud of the recognition they achieved, especially post-Revolution, and the outstanding body of work they leave as their legacy in a digital archive for future readers.  Given the dramatic political and social events that unfolded in Egypt consistently since January 2011, The DNE archives will be read by people around the world interested in learning more about the nation’s history and struggle.

We injected millions of pounds into The Daily News Egypt during the course of its life, and never took a single penny out.  We never claimed expenses, salaries, dividends, royalties or payment of any kind.  Our objective was for the newspaper to eventually cover its costs.  In 2009 the company nearly broke even, after years of the investors having to constantly re-inject capital into the business.  This turning point was important for the owners who had been funding the company from their personal capital with no clear sign of when the financial burden would end.

The short-lived stability was to end in 2011 with the Revolution.  The events in Egypt were so large in scale that the investors agreed, once again, to carry the business through the hard times.  Advertising revenues were down a whopping 75% in 2011.Despite that, investors managed all concerns on the business side so that DNE’s staff could focus on reporting the events to the world from the front-line.  We witnessed our team flourish, performing their journalistic roles with impressive professionalism and credibility.  The investors made sure the team was able to work freely without having to deal with the mounting pressures of the business; salaries and bills were always paid on time and without fail.  Needless to say, the investors faced monthly losses in the hundreds of thousands so that the newspaper could continue its work.  Around this time, and as a preemptive move against the possibility of the newspaper having to close down, negotiations were initiated with individuals, companies and media groups to save the paper. No stone was left unturned, but sadly no offers were made either.  The concern at this grave stage was purely the welfare of the employees and the preservation of the product. None of the investors expected a recovery of their investment, nor did they even suggest it. After months of grueling negotiations, last-ditch efforts and desperate measures the funds – and time – had run out.

The decision to close down was not taken lightly. On the contrary, it was painful and difficult.  The investors supported the newspaper until it was simply not possible to do so any longer.  Our pride in what we built remains, however, and both the commercial and editorial teamsof The Daily News Egyptare a credit to journalism and Egypt.  We wish everyone associated with The Daily News Egypt the best of luck in their future projects. Creating this newspaper with them has been a great experience.

Egyptian Media Services

And here’s a link to the final note posted by the DNE staff, from the DNE website. Let’s hope it continues existing.

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Daily News: eulogies, thank yous and endings

Here’s what our readers and friends had to say about Daily News Egypt’s closure. Thank you for the kind words.

Maurice Chamma/Adrift on the Nile: Eulogy for the Daily News Egypt.

Arabist: Thank you, Daily News Egypt.

Mohamed El Dahshan: Curtain falls on the Daily News Egypt.

Poetechnique (authored by my best friend and DNE Business Editor Amira Salah-Ahmed): Lights out at DNE.

From the News:

Egypt Independent: Daily News Egypt leaves a legacy of independent journalism.

Foreign Policy – Passport blog: The death of a newspaper.


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Daily News Egypt website is back

Daily News Egypt offline

Daily News Egypt offline

It’s shocking. Daily News Egypt is now offline. As we are trying to deal with the closure of the paper, we are dealt another blow. We specifically asked the owners to keep it alive. The staff offered to pay for the hosting of the website, or buy it, so that the 7-year archive doesn’t go down the drain. It’s seven years of our work and also a comprehensive archive of Egypt’s news in English during a pivotal period of the country’s political and social history. But alas, the owners’ promises to consider our request — because it also made sense — were obviously not serious.

There is more to say, and I’ll eventually write a lengthy post about the DNE family. But it’s been a long and sad day. The closure has been overwhelming, even though messages of support have made it bearable.

Until then, here’s the last editorial we wrote. There are numerous cache files and archived pages, thanks to our loyal readers and friends. Here’s a link to one.

Daily News Egypt: Final words
By   Daily News Egypt Editorial Staff April 22, 2012, 2:46 pm
Last Thursday the editorial staff of Daily News Egypt was informed, quite abruptly, that our last issue was going to be the one which was published Saturday-Sunday, April 20-21, 2012.After seven years of providing hard breaking news and analysis on Egypt, and being the only independent English-language printed daily in the country, we regret to inform our loyal readers that, as far as the current editorial staff was informed, the paper will no longer be published.As for the website, a valuable archive of the past seven years of Egypt’s history — in politics, business, society, arts, culture and lifestyle; in text, images and videos which the dedicated editorial staff has developed and maintained, we are unfortunately not certain of its fate.

We have specifically and repeatedly requested from the management of the owning company, Egyptian Media Services, to keep the website alive, even if it means that we, the current editors and reporters, have to finance it ourselves. Both ethically and morally, we believe we should be given priority on its ownership.

The team at Daily News Egypt has put their hearts into the paper, working effortlessly and tirelessly together to produce objective, reliable, timely content, always in an amazing work atmosphere of professionalism combined with a friendly and supportive spirit.

Knowing that this is rare to find, the editorial staff of the paper has stuck it out through numerous trials and tribulations. From scarce resources to budget cuts to obstacles that we’ve overcome together, to uncertain days and nights at the office covering the revolution, never at the expense of the content we provide to readers.

We’ve grown, in a very organic manner, from merely producing a newspaper to also putting out a website with excellent multimedia content as well as developing a strong social media presence and following, all with the same limited staff.

And the staff members we sadly lost along the way have found greener pastures in the most prestigious news organizations like Al Jazeera, Reuters, CNN and Bloomberg, which ultimately makes us all very proud.

It would be an understatement to say that the editorial team is attached to DNE and to each other; we think of ourselves as a family more than merely colleagues, including those who have come and gone, and especially including our loyal freelancers, contributors and interns.

It’s our deep regret to have to disband for the time being and not be able to produce the paper anymore. But we’d like to thank you, our loyal readers, for your support and consistently positive feedback over the years.

Rania Al Malky, Chief Editor
Sarah El Sirgany, Deputy Editor
Amira Salah-Ahmed, Business Editor
Dalia Rabie, Features Editor
Joseph Fahim, Culture Editor
Heba Elkayal, Lifestyle Editor
Safaa Abdoun, Features Writer / Reporter
Heba Fahmy, News Reporter
Heba Hesham, News Reporter
Mai Shams El Din, News Reporter / Editorial Assistant
Reem Abdellatif, Business Reporter
Farah Saafan, Video Journalist
Abdel Azim Saafan, Graphic Designer
Osama Taher, Graphic Designer
Hassan Ibrahim, Photographer

The team behind Daily News Egypt – CNN report

CNN interviewed the staff of Daily News Egypt in March. Our women-dominated newsroom seemed fit for CNN’s report on International Women’s Day.

Report prepared by our friend and former colleague Ian Lee.

Egypt: Women after the revolution

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xpb8nl<br /><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpb8nl_egypt-women-after-the-revolution_news&#8221; target=”_blank”>Egypt: Women after the revolution</a> <i>by <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/CNN_International&#8221; target=”_blank”>CNN_International</a></i>

Resilience: The Seif-Soueif family

Today, Dr. Laila Soueif’s hunger strike enters its sixth day. I visited her on Wednesday, as supporters filled her family’s Dokki apartment to show solidarity.  Her son, activist and blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, has been remanded in custody pending investigation into accusations of inciting violence on Oct. 9.The crackdown on thousands of peaceful protesters, which killed 27 people, is being used as an excuse to stifle voices of dissent. She stresses that her son was only imprisoned because of his activism.

At the same time, by using Alaa as a scapegoat, attention is diverted from the main issue, which is to pressure for an independent judicial investigation into the crackdown. Alaa’s father, veteran lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam, told me that should be the main focus, not campaigning for releasing his son.

Lawyers filed numerous complaints directly accusing army generals, holding them responsible for the violence. The military took over the case from the civilian prosecutor, but not before imposing a curfew on the same bloodied night, in what many saw as an excuse to remove any incriminating evidence.

The discussion with Seif El-Islam didn’t just cover the Maspero clashes and his son’s legal position; the lawyer calmly offered his analysis of the political situation, giving us an overview of his speculations of the country’s future.

His daughter, Mona Seif, also put her brother’s imprisonment in the larger context of the military trials of civilians, which she has been campaigning against since February. Thirty-one have been arrested in relation to the Maspero clashes, she said.

Alaa himself, in letters written behind bars and posted by his wife Manal, encourages others to look at the bigger context. He listed many initiatives he is involved in, telling readers to fill in his place and get involved.

The more I know about this family, the more I’m impressed. Their home was emanating positive energy and inspiration. And as much as I believe that we should focus on the bigger picture, this family deserves its share of attention. If only for the inspiration they provide.

For more on The Seif-Soueif  family check this video.


Or read Ahdaf Soueif’s article about the family (Arabic).

And this is my story from Wednesday.

Supporters gather in solidarity with imprisoned activist’s mother on hunger strike

CAIRO: Ahead of a planned demonstration Wednesday in solidarity with detained activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, his family showed resilience and optimism, as his mother entered her fourth day on hunger strike.

“I’m proud of Alaa,” University professor Laila Soueif told Daily News Egypt at the family’s Dokki apartment. She has always been proud of his stances, she explained, but to see the number of youth who joined a march in his support last week has made her feel even more proud of “his success.”

Abdel-Fattah, an activist and outspoken critic of the ruling military council, was remanded in custody earlier this month pending investigations into accusations of inciting violence, stealing army weapons and vandalizing military property on Oct. 9, during the Maspero events.

On Oct. 30, he refused to be questioned by the military prosecution since the army is party to the crime it is probing, and that as a civilian he should not be interrogated by the military prosecution.

Ahmed Seif El-Islam, Abdel-Fattah’s father and veteran human rights lawyer, explained that the military legal system does not give the court complete independence. The military prosecution has taken over the criminal investigation into the Maspero events, barring any civilian body from probing the deadly crackdown on the mostly Coptic protest in which 27 were either crushed by army vehicles or died of gunshot wounds.

 Read more

Understanding the ongoing changes in Egypt-EU relations

The European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Last year I was invited to learn about the European Union through a program called EU Visitors Program. It was a chance to learn about Egypt’s foreign policies from the other side of the fence. The overriding inclination was support of the Mubarak regime. It was there that I heard the word stability with maddening frequency.

It was either Mubarak, i.e. stability, or democracy and overall chaos. The stability they referred to was regional of course. Mubarak served strategic regional purposes. “He talks to Hamas for us,” said one official in 2010. And when quizzed about their support of an autocratic regime, the officials gave the “soft power” answer. As opposed to aggressive pushing for democracy in 2005, they watered down the pressure in favor of the regional stability.

A year and a half later, the regional map is changing from within and the EU is forced to amend its neighborhood policies. Not only due to the political upheaval in the Arab World but also due to more critical voices from within that might be gaining momentum due to the very same regime change in the south.

But the changes in the policies go beyond a comparison to the past. The factors are complex and overlap —sometimes leaving me with the impression that neither party of these policies knows what they want. The vague situation on the ground could be an excuse for the confusion. European and Egyptian officials know very well neither can live isolation even at a time of transition. For now, Egypt’s relation with the EU is still a work in progress.

Read my two-part analysis of the changing and evolving relation that ran in Daily News Egypt:

The struggle to find more than words in Europe’s reviewed neighborhood policy: Part 1

BRUSSELS/CAIRO: Surprised with the so called “Arab Spring,” Europe has been scrambling to justify relations with former dictators while it revises policies to better suit the democratization aspirations of North Africa.

Long before mass protests swept Tunisia last December and shortly after in Egypt, activists and opposition members had considered the West — the United States and Europe — a hindrance when it came to aspirations for political change. Democracy programs and even intermittent pressure on the former regimes to implement reforms were often seen as strategic moves rather than genuine efforts.

That the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt remained in power this long and their presidents often received with open arms by American and European leaders were proof for many politicians in North Africa that the West wasn’t the slightest bit interested in real reform, regardless of how many times Western diplomats stressed otherwise.

“In the past too many have traded democracy for stability,” José Manuel Durão Barroso, president of the European Commission, said candidly in his address to Cairo in July. “But recent events have only proven that lasting stability can only be achieved through democratic and accountable governments.”

Others were blunter in their assessment of regional relations pre-2011.

Read More

The struggle to see beyond words in Europe’s reviewed neighborhood policy: Part 2

The ambiguity is to some extent mutual and extends beyond immediate demands.

On the one hand, Europe is hesitant about the type of regimes and political and economic systems that will emerge in Egypt and Tunisia. On the other hand, with transition government in control, both North African countries are yet to determine what they want on the long run, whether domestically or in foreign policies.

The extra funds promised by the EU won’t be injected into programs except after October. The timing has to do more with logistics within the Union, but it also gives the EU the opportunity to wait and see the results of promised elections; i.e. a clearer indication of the future. On Oct. 24, Tunisians will vote a constituent assembly to draft a constitution and in November Egyptians will choose a parliament.

According to Hamdy, meetings with his European counterparts over the past few months were dominated by three questions: whether Egypt would allow monitoring of the elections; the policy towards funding civil society groups and the controversial, Mubarak-era NGO law; and political Islam.

Egypt’s announcement that it won’t accept election monitors didn’t have a noticeable impact on its foreign relations. The recent government decision to investigate the sources of funding of civil society groups, seen by many activists as a guised witch-hunt against critics, is yet to have an impact.

Before Egypt’s ruling military council announced it won’t accept international monitors, observers weren’t expecting much reaction in case of a rejection.

The absence of an impasse — over two issues with vital impact on the five benchmarks Fule noted — could be interpreted as more respect to the sovereignty of the new governments or a return to the days when Europe would turn a blind eye to issues it labeled as violations or setbacks.

Read More

Revolution Diaries: Feb. 3 – Run journalists Run

Foreign journalists became the target on Wednesday. As Pro-Mubarak mobs, believed to be thugs and undercover police, tried to storm the pro-democracy protest in Tahrir Square, anyone with a camera became a target.

Deadly clashes saw people on horses storm Tahrir to attack unarmed protesters in a surreal scene. The attack on journalists there by Pro-Mubarak protesters was similarly orchestrated. A journalist friend said if you can’t run, don’t go there.

By the next morning, the target wasn’t simply people with cameras, but anyone who looked remotely foreign. State TV and phone calls aired live by private satellite TV have been blaming “foreigners” for mobilizing the Tahrir protesters and turning them against their country.

Two of our Daily News Egypt reporters were attacked by mobs while doing field reporting in a district away from Tahrir. “They are foreign; they are asking questions,” the mobs said as they tried to beat them along with any Egyptian that dared defend them. An army officer saved the reporters. Another was running trying to disperse crowds attacking other foreigners.

Mob mentality took over and people were charged. I stood watching in disbelief, anger and fear, mourning my once safe Egypt.

I drove a French-American journalist to the airport later that day. In the morning he said he’d ignore his embassy’s call to evacuate and stay in Egypt. After the attack he packed his bags. We had to avoid roads known to be dominated by the Mubarak mobs. We made it to the airport safe, but I felt I was smuggling drugs not driving a friend across the city.

This ran in Italian in the Corriere Della Sera.

Microphone hits the right notes

Whenever I get sick of all the unoriginal mainstream music blasting from loud radios and TVs — which is something of a permanent state for me now — I discover a song or a band in the underground music scene that revives hope.

Contrary to what most commercial musicians want us to believe, music is an art form. It has the ability to stir sadness, joy, or an endless array of emotions we never knew existed. But for music to keep its place in the world of arts, it has to be heartfelt. Artists that aren’t seeking the approval of either ill-informed or commercially-oriented producers tend to deliver this genuine type of music. And although many such acts draw a steadily expanding loyal following, the same commercially-oriented producers don’t usually seem interested. Thus, they remain part of the underground scene — treasures that need to be dug.

This is why I was excited about watching “Microphone”, a film about the underground music scene in Alexandria. I had seen director Ahmad Abdalla’s debut feature, “Heliopolis”, last year at the Cairo International Film Festival. It was beautiful and promising and made “Microphone” even more appealing.

The film lived up to my expectations and more when I watched it in a packed theater as part of this year’s festival. It was joyous and upbeat, in spite of highlighting the artists’ daily frustrations. It’s the effect of music. Here’s my review of it for Daily News Egypt.

The film featured four bands, Y-Crew Family, Mascara, Massar Egbari, Soot Fel Zahma, in addition to a range of other individual artists. According to Abdalla, he chose these out of nine bands. And there are dozens more in Alexandria.

Until the film and the soundtrack are released in Egypt, here are two of my favorite songs in the film. There are more, but these are the ones I found online. Make sure to visit the musicians’ pages on MySpace and Facebook to listen to more of their work.

Massar Egbari & Aly El Halabawy, “Mirsal le Habibty” (A Message to My Love)


Massar Egbari, “Eqra El-Khabar” (Read the News)


Film Trailer:


For more about the film, its makers and the musicians: http://www.microphone-film.com/
And http://www.microphone-themovie.com/