London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Cairo-based Egypt Independent newspaper delivered its final issue on Thursday, April 25. After four years of operation, Egypt’s leading independent English newspaper has officially terminated publication.
While the paper’s owners said that financial problems prompted the closure, the editorial team and supporters of the left-wing newspaper claimed there was a political motive, given the paper’s frequent criticism of Muslim-Brotherhood backed President Mursi.
The Egypt Independent was established in 2009 as a weekly English counterpart to the existing Al-Masry Al-Youm daily. It covered news daily both online and in print from the last days of the rule of President Mubarak, to the outbreak of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt and across the region, up until this week.
The editorial team was composed largely of young journalists, editors and translators that aimed to “provide proactive and propositional coverage, challenge stereotypes and offer new possibilities to understanding the news,” according to its website. Like other newspaper, the opinion pages included works from various academics, activists, researchers, and think tank members.
The newspaper’s editor-in-chief Lina Attalah announced the end of the newspaper’s four year run on Twitter on Thursday. Employing a large number of young women in leading roles, for many young Egyptian liberals it was a symbol of progressive values and freedom of speech, while the paper’s own “vision” emphasized professionalism and the promotion of a civil rights in a country emerging from the shadows of dictatorship.
As the second independent English-language publication to shut down in Egypt in the last year, the first being the Daily News Egypt, the termination of the Egypt Independent was not well-received. In a report published on the Tahrir Squared website, activist/blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah deemed the newspaper as “revolutionary” and claimed that its closure represented a political tactic to silence disagreement.
Some responses to the closure on Twitter read “a sad day for journalism in the Middle East: @Egypt Independent 2009-2013” and “The investors of @EgyIndependent failed to realize that some things are more important than profit. Especially now. #Egypt.”
The final issue, available in full online, contained an article by Hiba Afify titled “Beyond Ambition: How poor managerial skills destroyed a leading independent voice” in which the author claimed that the managerial troubles it experienced eventually prevented it from achieving a sound financial footing.
Afify wrote: “Even though the paper broke even in 20 months, [Al-Masry Al-Youm Publisher Hisham Kassem] says a series of poor decisions failed to capitalize on this success and dragged it into a financial crisis.”
Despite the demise of the newspaper, many of its former employees vowed to continue its mission in new ventures. The front page of the final issue read “to be continued” and in her final editor’s letter, Ms. Attalah announced that she and her team will “strive to continue and reincarnate in a new configuration.”
She also added that her readers should expect more from them: “We leave you with the hope of coming back soon, stronger and unbeaten, ready to incessantly travel to uncharted territories of storytelling.”