From professionalism to noble tradition

23-05-2015 01:01 AM

Youssef Sidhom

Youssef Sidhom


Problems on hold


Founded in 1958, very few papers in Egypt can today rival Watani’s 57 years on the press scene. Al-Ahram, with 139 years behind it and a venerable school of deep-rooted journalism, is of course the hallmark veteran in the local and regional press field, but it gives us pride to say that Watani comes not too far behind.
It is not the age of a paper, however, that alone distinguishes it or lends it nobility. It is rather the mission it serves, the tradition it holds, and the contributions of subsequent generations of journalists who pass on the professional legacy from one generation to the next. All of these finally work together to render the paper a reference frame and role model, a worthy addition to press history.
Watani’s mission has been to serve the purpose of fostering enlightenment and defending Coptic and national causes. It is a mission that went beyond printing news, reports or even features. Since its very early years Watani was avant-garde in introducing a “Woman, Family and Child” page which later took the name
“The Family and the Community”. When Watani later launched its “Medicine and Health” and “The World and Science” sections, it was the first time such sections are included in papers other than speicialised magazines.
During the 1980s the Islamist tide had gained sufficient foothold in Egypt to undertake an endeavour uprecedented in modern times to obscure Coptic history and heritage. The attack extended even to school textbooks, as though to wipe out from Egypt’s national memory everything Coptic. Watani decided to counter this vicious trend by initiating work to cast light on Coptic civilization and history, and the patriotic role played by the Copts through all walks of life in Egypt.
As discrimination against Copts peaked in the early 2000s, Watani responded by defending full ‘citizenship rights’ for all Egyptians. We utterly refused to defend the legitimate demands of Copts or call for their usurped rights under the umbrella of minority rights or sectarian privileges. Watani fought for equality among Egyptians under the umbrella of “full citizenship rights” for all, Copts included. Watani always believed that no matter how fierce the marginalisation, discrimination or persecution to which Copts were subjected, they were not to hold grudges against their fellow citizens. Egyptians later rewrote their Constitution to move “citizenship rights” to the place of honour in the first article.
This rich history of Watani called for a tradition to print the names of our pioneering journalists on top of the sections they initiated and which are to date still running. It is our way to express gratitude to our pioneers and set the bar for the new generations.
The last of Watani’s pioneering generation to depart from our world was Laila al-Hinnawy (1939 – 2015), also known as Mama Laila, who during her lifetime in the paper carried the torch of the cause of women, their rights and challenges. Ms Hinnawi’s name which always featured as page editor on top of “The family and Community” page now graces the top of the section as founder.
Other headers of Watani that carry founders’ names are:
• Watani and the Copts , founded by Mossaad Sadek
• News of the World , founded by Maher Ayad
• The Family and the Community , founded by Laila al-Hinnawy
• Sports , founded by Benyamin Bassily
• Thought and Literature, founded by Sobhy Shukry
• Panorama, founded by Adel Kamel
• Economy and Money, founded by Dr Salib Botros
• From the Heart, founded by Mossaad Sadek
• Around the World, founded by Farid Abdel-Sayed
As Watani commemorates the names of its pioneers and expresses its gratitude to those who held its mission, we wish to ingrain a tradition that we hold on to and are keen to preserve.

Watani International
24 May 2015

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