Sayyed Shihab Thangal’s essay on the history and development of the Egyptian press. Translated by Jaihoon
Journalism has begun in Egypt since approximately a century and half. But press in those days was utilized was for publishing official notices.
In 1822, Muhammad Ali Pasha launched for the first time a paper called as ‘Journal View’ in both Arabic and Turkish languages. This was printed at the fort in Cairo. Widely distributed among official circles, it contained Government notices and few Arabic stories and had hundred prints. Thereafter in 1828 he started another paper called ‘Al Waqaai-ul-Misriyya’. It was a modeled after the papers in the western papers. With increased circulation among government officials and academicians, it was considered government’s second official mouthpiece. Besides this, in 1848 he also started another publication for agricultural and industrial sectors.
But these publications which served as mouthpiece for governmental notices did not have the vigor of real newspapers. Later in 1841 another paper in a new style entitled ‘Al Waqaailul Misriyya’ was launched under the editorial of renowned journalist Tahtawi. It gave importance to regional and foreign news, which until then was used in the propaganda for Muhammad Ali Pasha.
The above-said papers contained only cultural news items until the British colonialism and Arab resolution. The masses found it hard to suppress their aversion for the Ottoman Empire. The uncertainties prevailing in Egypt, Turkey and Syria towards the end of the 20th century kindled the flames of revolution in the hearts of the people. This resulted in the birth of many nationalist newspapers. They participated actively I nthe liberation movement until the Sa’ad Saglool revolution in 1919.
Besides these, foreign papers also started under the patronage of French Consulate and Turkish Ambassadors. ‘Mukhattam’ was launched in 1868 with british funds. Gradually the nationalist papers were closed down.
In 1913, a newspaper called ‘As-Sha’ab’ was released. The British monarchy declared Egypt as its princely province and asked all the newspapers to publish the news on first page. But the editor of this paper, Amirul Rifa’I, refused to do so and had to subsequently close it down.
Many other newspapers were also started after the 1919 revolution. ‘As-siyasa’, ‘al-masri’, swath-ul Umma’, were some of them which adopted an independent stand on various issues.
The Egyptian press has played a significant role in guiding the masses through various political turmoil and destroying the seeds of discord sown by the British between the Egyptians and Copts.
Today the most popular newspapers in Egypt are ‘Al Ahram’, ‘Al Akhbar’,’Al Jamhooriya’ and ’Al Masah’. Their copies in circulation goes up to three hundred thousand whereas before the Revolution it was only one hundred thousand.
‘Al Ahram’, the oldest in paper in Egypt, was founded in 1876 by a Lebanese Christian youth who took refuge in Egypt during the time of Sultan Abdul Hamid. It began as a four-page magazine printed in a small building at Alexandria. It prospered rapidly during the nest five years and thereafter moved to Cairo. It challenged other prominent publications like ‘Liwa’ run under the then popular Arab leader Mustafa Kamil and ‘Al Jareeda’ under the editorial of Lutfi Sayyed.
It was the political essays of Hasanain Kaikal written during 1946 which gave fame for the present-day editor of ‘Al Ahram’. He was appointed senior editor in 1960 after serving as war reporter in Palestine and Korea. Al Ahram also publishes an economic bi-weekly.
The first female journalist in Al Akhbar was Maishahin. But long before this in 1910 a lady’s articles used to appear under the name ‘Badawiyathul Bahis’. She is in fact the first female journalist of Egypt.
After the Revolution, two papers started, namely, ‘Al Manna’’ in 1952 and ‘Al Juhooriyya’ in 1953. Both of them were published from Darul Thahreer. The joint editor of Al Juhooriyya was the today’s renowned writer Dr. Taha Hussein. Besides these, Darul Thahreer also publishes Egyptian Mail, Lee Progress Egyption, La Bourse and Progres Dimanche. Around 200 journalists are employed in this large institution.
Journalists have been trying since 1912 to establish a press syndicate but found no success. Later they founded a trade union in 1919 to protect their rights. Finally in 1941 a press syndicate was formed and its first conference was held in December of the same year. Thereafter a separate building and club was established for the organization. The first Arab journalists’ meeting after the Revolution was held in 1953. The syndicate published its charter in 1955. Accordingly, only a member of the syndicate shall be able to carry on the profession. The body currently has 920 working journalists.