CAIRO: In Egypt, as in most Arab societies, one learns to avoid “taboo subjects like sex, politics and religion. When freedom of expression is so often punished by law, it is rare to find an honest voice with the courage to simply tell it like it is.
Enter six Egyptian journalists who have made it their calling to tackle issues that were previously swept under the carpet. Their online radio station, Teetradio, discusses anything and everything you can imagine.
“The idea is that we already have a medium that we speak through but we can’t give our opinion because it [should be] an unbiased medium, said Ibrahim El Garhi, one of the founders of Teetradio, referring to the differences between his work as a journalist and as a radio host at Teetradio.
Co-founder Ahmed Elhawary added that through the audio medium, you can add “color to your voice, making your statements more nuanced.
“For example, I can say that I’m very pleased with the government’s performance in a sarcastic tone to imply the opposite of what I’m saying, he said, “while in print, if I simply write out that sentence it will not have a different meaning.
As soon as the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 2007, Teetradio was up and running after only three weeks in the making. Alaa Elkamhawi, Ahmed Harbia, Ahmed Elderiny, Ahmed Fouad Eldin, along with El Garhi and Elhawary came up with the idea and wasted no time in executing it by pulling money from their own pockets to rent out a studio downtown and build it themselves.
“We’re saying what other people are not interested in saying, or don’t have the courage to say, said El Garhi.
With absolutely no censorship over choice of language or topics, the name Teetradio, referring to the censorship tone, is meant to be ironic.
The online station discusses issues as diverse as substance abuse by street children and masturbation in the Arab world.
The hosts don’t shy away from politics. As Elderiny explains, most of the topics they discuss have some politics undertone but it’s up to the “smart listener to pick up on it.
As journalists with opposition newspapers, Elhawary says added that they do not succumb to government intimidation
“We speak our mind on radio the way we would in print, he said.
Apart from social and political issues, Teetradio also has a special sports section, currently focused on the African Cup soccer tournament in Ghana. There is also a daily news bulletin and weather forecast, where the news mostly focuses on the presenters’ own whether in the studio, the kitchen, or even the bathroom.
We consider ourselves to be living in a different world, explains El Garhi. We are a minority.
He added, however, that their intention is not to isolate themselves. They plan on spreading the word in order to find other Egyptians to include in their “society.
So far, the reactions of listeners has been varied, with some people admiring their audacity and others criticizing their crudeness.
“We welcome both positive and negative comments, said El Garhi. “A very critical article ran in the newspapers saying that our topics are rude, so the next day we thanked that journalist in our news bulletin for giving us free publicity.
Teetradio now boasts a burgeoning group of 600 members on Facebook, the popular internet social network. Through that group and their website, the hosts receive feedback from listeners which helps them classify their audience.
“Our target audience is mostly young people who feel like estranged in their own country, said El Garhi, adding that they target themselves first.
Plans to expand Teetradio are still tentative with the hosts refusing to sell out to a dogmatic sponsor.
“If a sponsor comes along and says that he wants to buy it as a product, then he should buy it as it is, asserted El Garhi.
Elderiny agreed, adding that “our funding is private. We collect our paychecks at the end of the month so no one has control over us.