This week Watani celebrates its 51st anniversary; and we are using this opportunity to assess the opinion young people have of our newspaper. What are the positives and negatives they see on its pages? And what do they expect from Watani in the coming year?
“Watani is a great newspaper,” Ghada Tharwat told us. “I have read it ever since I was small. It is a paper for every Copt, and it cares about young Coptic people. It also covers our activities and interests. I love Watani; it’s the only newspaper that writes about Copts and I hope it carries on.
“I also really want to see news from Watani on TV news programmes. I think it did happen once when a programme discussed an editorial by Youssef Sidhom on the Alexandria train station, and I was happy to see Watani participating in one of the most popular news programmes. But I was surprised when I learnt that the article was being reviewed, not from Watani, but because it had been reprinted in Al-Dostour.”
Noura Kamal, a teacher, accustomed to buying Watani every Sunday because her father used to get it. “I like reading Pope Shenouda’s article in Watani, and I also keep it. The Panorama and Youth pages also always attract my attention,” she said.
Law student Mohamed Abdel-Salam said: “I have never read Watani; maybe because it’s a Christian paper and I won’t find anything related to my interests. Anyway, I don’t read weekly papers because I think they never publish news, especially since electronic press and news websites began, which are updated every minute. I think if anyone reads a weekly paper—whether it is Watani or any other paper—he or she is searching for a specific article or writer.”
Researcher Mohamed Maher, on the other hand, said Watani was an independent paper and was never directed by any specific or extreme ideology. “It follows up on crises, especially local ones, and it covers them objectively and in a moderate way,” he said. “It also has wide coverage of the disputes between the Muslim majority and Coptic minority and it covers them credibly and neutrally. It has never published an article that inflamed the anger of public opinion, unlike some other papers that exaggerate and add fake news.
“Watani’s Youth Parliament has played an effective role in introducing Watani to a large sector of young people, especially university students. For instance, in Cairo University, some students participated in Watani’s parliament and then transferred their experience to their colleagues, who wanted to join it too. It has also led many young Muslims to want to know more about the paper through the articles published on the parliamentary sessions.”
Not a masterpiece
However Mina Soliman, a student at the Future Academy, criticised Watani for, despite starting 50 years ago, still not being good enough to be the masterpiece paper for Coptic people in Egypt and abroad. “I think Watani needs to be more vital and active, especially where it represents the international press review,” he says “It should be the number one paper in Egypt, because it is the only paper issued in three languages and sometimes issues supplements”.
“I got to know Watani only recently when there was a sectarian incident in Alexandria and I saw a Christian friend of mine reading it, so I read it and after that I have usually bought it,” said Maged Fawzy, an engineer. “Watani is a paper for all Egyptians, not only for Copts. As for the religious articles, there are not that many and sometimes I read Pope Shenouda’s article as I consider him to be a symbol of this country. I can remember one of his articles on love which I liked very much”
“I don’t normally read Watani because it’s a weekly paper, and so most of its material is not new. But I read it during crises involving Copts because it is the best paper for honestly, objectively and comprehensively covering that kind of history,” said Fady Fahmy, a student at the faculty of tourism.