Watani , 50 years on: A commitment to Egypt

15-12-2011 09:04 AM

Ramy Atta


Sunday the 22nd of December 1958 saw the first issue of   Watani   hit the newsstands in Egypt. Founded by Antoun Sidhom and edited by Aziz Mirza, it carried as its motto the poetry line by Ahmed Shawqy: “  Watani  , (literally, my homeland) if I were to be taken away from you to Eternity; Even in Eternity would I yearn for you.”

 

Ever since that day in 1958   Watani   has represented a valuable addition to the Egyptian press. It is a paper that is interested in Egyptian affairs in their entirety and in Coptic affairs in specific. In his book   Al-Sahafa al-Arabiya: Nash’atuha wa Tatawuriha (The Arab Press: Its Establishment and Development)  ; Dar Maktabat al-Hayat; Beirout; 1961, historian Adeeb Merewwa describes   Watani   as a weekly paper that offers powerful journalism as far as content, editing and appearance are concerned. “Basically,” Merewwa writes, “the paper represents—and defends—the viewpoint of the Copts and the Christians in Egypt.”

 

 

 

 Decent language

 

An unbiased observer of   Watani   realises that it is a paper of wide interests that prints material on political, economic, social and cultural affairs, on the local, regional and global levels. In addition, it includes articles on the Christian religion and occasions, as well as coverage of the news of the Church. All this endows   Watani   with a special character among Egypt’s papers.

 

Since its establishment,   Watani   has taken it upon itself to defend several worthy causes; prominent among them is the Coptic cause, the problems and grievances of Copts. The paper tackles this issue from a thoroughly Egyptian perspective and calls for resolving it through home-grown answers. It advocates national unity between Egypt’s Muslims and Copts, using such vocabulary as: unity, equality, citizenship rights, one people, “religion relates to God but the homeland relates to all”, the Crescent and the Cross, Egyptian first and foremost, confronting fanaticism, and “the Egyptian national group”.

 

  Watani   always took a strong stance against terrorism, whether in its physical or intellectual form, and has always tackled sectarian struggle with wisdom and self-restraint. Throughout its fifty years in the press, the paper never resorted to sensationalism or incendiary language; quite the contrary, it has always called for the sublime human values of love, good-neighbourliness, tolerance, co-existence, national belonging, pluralism, and gender equality.

 

 

 

 A daily?

 

Throughout the years,   Watani’s   pages have carried articles penned by some of Egypt’s most prominent writers, intellectuals, and enlightenment figures, among them Taha Hussein, Murad Wahba, Salib Botrous, Maher Shafiq, Atef al-Iraqi, Suleiman Nessim, Gawdat Gabra, Mossaad Sadeq, and Adel Kamel.

 

I wish   Watani   the best in the years to come. I hope to see it grow and develop and, more dearly, I hope to see it a daily paper. In this context I wish to remind   Watani   that this had been the original plan 50 years ago, but it never materialised. A news item printed in the Cairo weekly magazine   al-Mussawwar   on 12 September 1958 said: “The new paper   Watani  , which we had written about and which was anticipated as a daily, will be issued as a weekly instead.”   Watani   became the weekly we all know and love.

 

 

 

  Ramy Atta is a writer and researcher; and has written several papers on the Egyptian press 

 

 

WATANI International

30 November 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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