This issue of Watani is the last in 2021. It marks Watani’s 63rd birthday, and welcomes its 64th year of journalistic, media and patriotic mission. Watani was founded in 1958 by Antoun Sidhom (1915 – 1995) as a Sunday paper; its first issue hit the stands on 21 December of that year. Throughout the years, generations of Watani reporters and writers have committed themselves to its mission of serving the nation and upholding enlightenment and citizenship concepts. Watani grew into a lush, fruitful tree with new leaves sprouting and blossoming even as cherished ones fell off.
It has become a tradition to bid a year farewell by mobilising our teams of journalists and editors, each in their special scope of work, to prepare tallies of the achievements, successes and failures, that took place throughout the year. This serves to expose the tasks and goals that went unachieved in the previous year and which we then carry into the new year, the aim being to promote the wellbeing of our nation and its good people. Watani’s editorial team also assesses the performance of the different sections of the paper, looking for the latitudes of development and modernity needed to present our readers with quality content that matches their interest.
Opinion has always been among the especially impactful material printed in Watani. Throughout its 63-year history, the paper has been keen to introduce its readers to the thought of elite writers, intellectuals, philosophers, and scholars in various fields, manifesting that Watani’s mission did not stop at journalism proper, but went beyond to raising awareness, promoting enlightenment, and fostering citizenship concepts.
Fully realising the value and impact of the opinion pieces it printed in its various sections, Watani decided in 2019 to instate a special opinion page. Placed in charge of editing it was a group of young, promising reporters who would regularly invite distinguished writers, intellectuals, and specialists to write their opinion on various topics. In addition, the Opinion Page editors would delve into Watani’s archive and reprint outstanding opinion pieces it included. Such pieces were singular in the great value they carried and the extended timeliness of the opinion they expressed, timeliness that made them fit to address today’s younger generations. Many had been penned by Watani’s founder Antoun Sidhom; these were reprinted under the rubric “Antoun Sidhom … Watani’s journey”. Or they were articles that had been written by various writers and intellectuals; these figured under “Articles from time past”.
It is perhaps an unintended coincidence that the year 2021 closes as Watani concludes its three-year-long reprint of the great legacy of Antoun Sidhom’s writings. This was not the entirety of Mr Sidhom’s writings in the 20 years span from 1975 till 1995. Rather, they were a selection we found to be timely, since they addressed extended situations or were similar to others that remain almost unchanged. They also served to remind us of cherished personal and national constants that we must never allow to erode. We left out articles in which Mr Sidhom tackled painful practices, violations and assaults against the nation, the Church and the Copts during hard times in Egypt’s modern history, times that were notorious for rampant fanaticism, extremism and terrorism. We believed that reprinting such articles would have served no good purpose, but would have worked to open already-closed wounds and recall bitterness of which we have almost fully healed now that Egypt is steadily developing into a modern, civil State based on citizenship rights.
Now that we bid farewell to “Antoun Sidhom … Watani’s journey”, let me cite a tally of his reprinted articles; they may be categorised into six sets according to topic.
- National Unity: nine articles were reprinted out of a total 59 articles written by Mr Sidhom on this topic.
- Religious-based strife: 13 articles reprinted out of a total 65 articles.
The number of articles reprinted on these two topics demonstrate the point I already made concerning avoidance of reliving painful situations that belonged to hard times.
- Economic Issues: 41 articles reprinted out of a total 61 articles.
- Domestic Policy: 42 articles reprinted out of 75.
- Foreign Policy: nine articles reprinted out of 13.
- Education Issues: 10 articles reprinted out of 15.
In total, the Opinion Page reprinted 124 articles by Antoun Sidhom out of 288 which he wrote throughout 20 years. The Opinion Page team is currently deciding on various suggestions on how to best utilise the space vacated on the page now that the Antoun Sidhom reprints are done.
May the New Year 2022 be a blessed one for Egypt, and a fruitful one for Watani.
26 December 2021