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Championing The Cause Of Narrative: An Obituary For A Newspaper That Cannot Be Allowed To Live

25th April, 2013

By Alaa Abdel Fattah

When English speaking friends ask me how to follow Egypt's news I used to recommend Egypt Independent for their solid journalism, their deep analysis, rich contextualization and because they prove you can side with the revolution without compromising professionalism.

Today the owners decided to kill the paper, they claim financial trouble, but in reality the big business behind Al Masry Al Youm is no longer interested in a true revolutionary voice.

Egypt Independent had to be killed, you might think that an English paper in Arabic speaking revolutionary Egypt cannot be that dangerous, but where else do you find a paper run by young women? A paper that became home for an amalgam of misfits and radicals without compromising them, no one had to wear a suit, not physical or metaphorical. Hell, even when the editorial team was forced to deal with the business side and prove the paper could be a profit center they did it without compromising on their radicalism.

Egypt Independent had to be killed because despite being owned by some of the country's biggest business they still managed to tell the true story of the people, where other papers saw thugs and baltageya attacking high rise hotels by the Nile they gave voice to the residents of Ramlet Bolaq, a community of shack dwellers whose lives and homes are being destroyed by the high rises.

Where other papers reported chaos and mayhem in Sinai and Port Said, Egypt Independent was there to report on marginalization and a state that sees only a map when it should be seeing people and land.

Egypt Independent took their search for the truth behind the truth so far that they interviewed the thugs that attacked Tahrir Square during the Battle of the Camels trying to understand what drove them

The day we all witnessed what appeared like an irrational anomaly of a battle in front of the U.S. embassy, two brave journos went down to live it and came with two different stories about the rationality of the humans behind it, one was a story of the absurd in face of absurdity, the cynicism of a generation confronting a cynical police state, the embassy was just a coincidence. The other story was of a deep popular anti imperialism, a spontaneous response to U.S. hegemony, the Egyptian police was just in the way.

These days journalists are told to put both sides in the story to appear impartial. The police, the embassy, the corporation, the state, the empire are all presented as if equally needing an outlet for their voice and logic as their opponents. Egypt Independent found two untold sides to the same story and let the powerful tell their stories with bullets and tear gas.

But they didn't stop at that, being artists at heart, Egypt Independent's editorial team arranged for an encounter in which the two journalists sat down to discuss their two very different stories, their own personal stories, and how each perceived the other. And suddenly the story of the embassy clashes became a story about the search for meaning in a revolutionary context, about orientalism and the legacies of succumbing to it or worrying too much about fighting it.
You see, Egypt Independent had to be killed because they dared to explore what it sounds like when you silence the bullets instead of the riots, what it looks like when you clear the tear gas instead of the sit in.

Egypt Independent had to be killed because they stubbornly stuck to old fashioned notions, that prose mattered more than video, that journalists should engage with philosophy as much as they engage with statistics, that radicals and intellectuals and bloggers should do journalism when given an inch of space in a newspaper not just replicate what they do in every other outlet.

But perhaps Egypt Independent's biggest crime is the constant awareness of the state to begin with. Journalists hardly ever talk about the state as such, they deal with courts, ministers, presidents, parties, officers, laws, etc. But to see the forest made of all these trees is taboo. Don't get me wrong, the owners of Al Masry Al Youm are in opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood and their government, they would like to see Morsi's rapid downfall just like the rest of us, but when it comes to the state they are firm loyalists. They are not out to save a people's revolution from a reactionary brutal regime, they are out to save a unjust state from a ruling elite that seeks to replace them.
If Egypt Independent had to be killed because it understood and exposed the voice of the state for what it truly is, it should also be mourned for amplifying the voice of the revolution and articulating what it truly means.
But don't take my words for it, please read this almost random sample of reports and op-eds I linked to, all recalled from memory, browse the archive of our revolution while it lasts. Please read editor Lina Attallah's own account of the practice of championing the convoluted cause of narrative .
And please spread the word about Egypt Independent's final issue, the one that was not allowed in print 


Alaa Abd El-Fattah is an Egyptian blogger, software developer, and political activist. Follow him on Twitter : @alaa

* Photo : Egypt Independent via Sarah Carr.

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