Cablegate: Egyptian E-Journalism - Two Websites in Vanguard,
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 004756
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINR OPRC SCUL KPAO EG
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN E-JOURNALISM - TWO WEBSITES IN VANGUARD,
BUT HOW VIABLE?
1. Summary: Two Egyptian websites - Masrawy.com and
ArabAmbassador.org are striving to establish themselves
as credible Egyptian Internet news sources. Masrawy styles
itself as a reliable source for general news, while Arab
Ambassador aims to serve as a "bridge" between the Arab and
western worlds by publishing regional news and point of
views. However, both outlets are confined by their
finances -- a Masrawy editor claimed that the website does
not have the budget to do its own reporting, cobbling
together content from international wire services; while
Arab Ambassador is funded largely out of its Editor-in-
chief's own pocket. Whether Internet news websites can
effectively compete with Egypt's traditional print media
depends largely on websites' ability to raise revenue to
fund news reporting and continued operations. End summary.
2. The design and content of Masrawy (www.masrawy.com)
appears similar to popular Internet news content providers
Yahoo.com and Google News. (Note: Masrawy is part of the
Cairo-based LINKdotNET Internet company, which also
controls the popular website MSNArabia.com. End note.)
Masrawy, which is updated regularly by a team of content
editors who work 24/7, is strongest in its international
and Egyptian news sections, reporting on the activities and
statements of Egyptian government officials and opposition
and Islamist leaders. Masrawy has consistently reported on
student and Kifaya demonstrations after they occur
(sometimes reporting on planned demonstrations beforehand),
arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members, and Egypt's human
rights situation during the past several months.
3. PA officer with met with Masrawy's economic news
content editor, Sameh Awadallah, on June 13, who explained
the website's staffing and editorial process. "We have
several content departments one for news, one for
finance, one for sports, etc.," Awadallah reported. "We
take news from various online news services, like AP or
Reuters, and put it together in reports." While much of
Masrawy's staff has studied journalism and writes for other
Egyptian newspapers, the website does not have the
resources for original reporting. When asked if Masrawy
pays for the content it takes from wire services, Awadallah
said, "No. We just take it from the Internet and publish
it sometimes under Masrawy's name and sometimes under the
wire service's name. We don't have the budget to do our
own news reporting or pay for wire services."
4. Arab Ambassador is published online weekly in Arabic,
Hebrew, and English at www.arabambassador.org. Whereas
Masrawy reads like a news wire service's website, Arab
Ambassador's website reads more like a newspaper. The
publication's Editor-in-chief, Ashraf Gaber, told PA
officer on June 1 that he funds the website with his own
money, staffing it with editors and translators who are
mostly in their 20s with journalism studies background.
Like Masrawy, Arab Ambassador compiles reports from
information gathered from other sources. However, Arab
Ambassador's staff does conduct interviews, produces some
original reporting, and writes regular commentaries.
5. Gaber explained that Arab Ambassador began as a monthly
print publication to 5,000 subscribers - mostly Arabs
living overseas in the U.S., the UK, and Australia. Gaber
decided to post the newspaper online to reach a larger
audience. "My mission is for the newspaper to be a bridge
between the Middle East and the West by expressing Arab
points of view and letting the world know how Arabs think,"
Gaber explained. (Note: Gaber, an advocate for the blind,
also publishes a print edition of Arab Ambassador in
Braille at his own expense. End note)
6. When asked about advertising, Gaber stated, "It's hard
to find advertisers in Egypt. I do what many newspapers
and websites do, which is publish free advertising for
companies to try to encourage them. I hope that when they
see I can do a good job for them, they will pay. So far
though, no one's paying." Without using his own funds,
Gaber claimed his newspaper and website would fail. "You
need lots money and connections to have a successful
website in Egypt. Sure, you can do a website on the cheap,
but then the quality is bad and people won't read it.
There's just no money for the Internet in Egypt right now,"
7. Comment: Although Egyptian news websites are becoming
known among Egyptian reporters and Internet users as a
credible source of information largely because they
translate into Arabic accurate Western reporting - these
websites face serious financial challenges to becoming
viable competition to Egypt's traditional print media.
However, with Egyptian Internet users currently estimated
by the Ministry of Telecommunications at over four million
and growing, the possibility for a vibrant and successful
online news community rivaling print and TV media in Egypt
exists. End comment.