The moment I heard of the closure of Egypt Independent I felt solemn and gloomy. I knew that this was always a possibility, especially with their financial troubles, but this has been the case for a while now, and the suddenness of its shutdown shocked me as well as most of its readers. Suddenly I felt a huge weight being placed on the Daily News Egypt. For better or worse, until the Egypt Independent writers manage to resurrect their paper or come back in a new form as they seem to be planning, the DNE is it now: the last remaining independent English-language source of journalism in Morsi’s Egypt, and one that might not last long either.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the DNE is also struggling financially, for this is its second incarnation after being saved by a bunch of investing journalists from complete shutdown last year. It’s for that reason that the DNE writers followed what was happening in Egypt Independent with huge concern. While in other countries the shutdown of a big competitor to a newspaper might be considered a good thing for the ones still in operation, Egypt Independent was not a competitor for Daily News Egypt, for competition exists only when there is a market to compete for, and currently there isn’t really one for an independent Egyptian English daily.
While both have significant readership, judging by their web traffic, this doesn’t translate into income: the average reader would rather read it online for free than purchase it, corporate subscriptions by hotels and tourism-reliant businesses are a thing of the past since tourism is dying, and advertisement in the newspaper or on the portal is almost non-existent due to the state of the economy. Egypt Independent tried to salvage the situation by starting a desperate “subscribe to Egypt Independent” campaign for its individual readers, but it ultimately wasn’t enough since the average reader- you- did not respond to calls for financial support for a service you can get for free. And now that it has shut down, that same reader mourns its loss as a tragedy, which is correct, but not for the reasons he/she cites.
For you, dear reader, it isn’t a tragedy because you will lose out on the excellent reporting and a unique brave voice that stands against all the insanity we live in, even though that’s true. It isn’t a tragedy because some of Egypt’s best writers will go unemployed now, even though that’s true as well, at least until or if they manage to pull off creating a new source of news. It’s a tragedy for you, dear reader, because there were only three local English real newspapers, one of which just shut down, one of which- AlAhram Weekly- is government -owned and has been facing threats of self-censorship or cooption by the government for months now, with its writers continuing to do their work while waiting for the hammer to drop on them at any second, and the last one, the one you are reading now, might not survive for long.
In case the implication of this isn’t clear, let me put it this way: These newspapers do not function only as a news agency, but as a window for the outside world to know what’s really happening in Egypt. They are the only ones telling Egypt’s story for the world, and if they are gone, Egypt and you will be left at the mercy of foreign journalists’ reports, which half of the time are excellent, but the other half are terrible, because they are contingent upon the point of view and ability of the foreign journalist, whose editor doesn’t reside here and will not know bias or ignorance from fact. The shutting-down of those local newspapers is a tragedy because no one will fight for you or tell our story like they will, which is key to provide international pressure on our burgeoning dictatorship, and to not leave you completely at the mercy of the Muslim Brotherhood regime with the world none the wiser. Those newspapers and their work are your cover and protection, they are the people who are fighting and advocating for you by simply reporting the facts of our current insane reality. They are the last remaining bastions of freedom of expression in an increasingly shrinking environment for it. And you will let them wither and die. This is the tragedy.
So, your mission, dear reader, if you choose to accept it, is to not let them wither and die. Your mission is to realize that there are institutions and industries that we need to protect and financially support in order to protect ourselves and preserve our culture and way of life. Your mission as an individual is to subscribe to their services, and if you are a business owner or a marketing manager, to put DNE and the new project by the Egypt Independent crew into your media-buying plans, whether print or digital, even if you don’t personally read it, because you need to protect their role of protecting you. That’s your role, and it doesn’t stop there.
You will also need to support your local arts and culture scene by going to their events and exhibits, even if you don’t end up buying anything. You will need to go to the movies at least once a month and watch a movie, because we need to protect the movie industry, which is also falling apart. The same goes for independent music performances and concerts which you should go to keep the music scene alive; the same goes for hotels in Sharm and Hurghada, who are now offering laughably cheap rates just to survive and not to get bought by Qatari investors who will turn them into Sharia compliant hotels; the same goes for clubs and cabarets, if you are part of the growing alcohol-drinking population. Your mission, duty and civic obligation is to do all of those things, in order to preserve your culture and way of life. The bonus to doing all of this is that these are all fun activities, so it might actually get you out of your funk and depression and provide you more return on your money in enjoyment than going to the same café or restaurant for the umpteenth time. Try it. It’s how we carry on.
Also, please understand, you won’t be doing those things for us. We wouldn’t ask you to sacrifice yourself in these bad economic times for our sake. You will be doing this for yourself and your benefit. So that you wouldn’t wake up one day to similar news that something equally as important and rare as Egypt Independent (or, God forbid, DNE) – but in another field- got shut down due to lack of financial support. If you are feeling helpless in the face of everything that is happening, or you want to help but are not sure how, well, here is the way. We will get through these dark times, I assure you dear reader, but we can’t do it alone and we can’t do it without your help, for we can only perform our roles if you perform yours. It’s time for you to start fighting back as well.