The new editon of Qantara takes a look at the Egyptian internet radio station, Radio Horytna. The station was launched in March 20007, with a vision of providing a station for the young generation of Egyptians, that offered discussion on topics important to them, something they felt we´re lacking in the media landscape of Egypt.
Two topics was off limits from the start, talking about the President and the army, otherwise, all things kosher.
The name, Radio Horytna, our freedom signifies what the station wants to be percieved as, Human rights is important, and so are social issues and problems that the young are facing, like unemployment and women´s rights. They have also regularly featured Egyptian bloggers. But they are also catering to what could perhaps be called youth or pop culture in general, having their weekends full with concerts, films and the ins and outs of the pop and filmstars. They also have a cooperation with football websites filgoal.com and filfan.com and they brodcasted the Pharaos games live during the recent African Cup for instance.
Speaking about the taboo of talking about the President, the Horytna station manager Ahmed Samih says:
It was both a conscious decision and a survival strategy to make discussion of Hosni Mubarak himself taboo. Horytna is trying to create a new awareness of human rights issues. Blindly attacking governmental policy isn't going to help them do that.
"We want to continue to spread our message, not just to go around shouting so that at the end of the day the message doesn't come across. I try to take a long-term view," says Samih, laughing.
Radio Horytna have managed to reach an audience of about 3500 in the 14 months since they launched the station. The 20 journalists working with Horytna is using all the new opportunities to interconnect with their audience, blogs, youtube and facebook, their audience simply don´t use old wawys of communication, this is the only way to reach them, they claim.
Ahmed Samih says that there is a spirit of awakening among Egypt´s youth today, and takes the facebook group calling for support for the general strike on April 6th as an example, which managed to get 70 000 members in a couple of days according to the article(64 000 in two weeks and an additional 10-15 in the following month leading up to the rather unsuccesful May 4th demo, author´s note). He views this as something completely new:
He describes it as the country's own 1968 - a whole generation fighting to secure its place in society. "We have never seen a movement like this before in the entire political history of Egypt," says Samih.
I wonder what the students on campuses protesting light sentences for high officers, and heavy ones for the rank and file tried in military courts for their responsibilities during al Naqba(january and October 1968) leading to the proclamation of the March 30th Manifesto by the government or the student protests in 1972 over the year of in(decision) toward Israel, when they staged a sit-in at Midan al Tahrir in January. The bread riots of January 1977 is another example of (among other things)youth reaction to social ills in society. This is but a few examples in the not to distant past.
The staff at Radio Horytna voices concern about possible restrictions on the internet in Egypt in the future, but it dosen´t seem to deter them. Presenter Muhammed Ezz al Din concludes with a quote by one of the greatest Islamic philosophers, Ibn Rushd/Averroes :
"Thoughts have wings. No one can stop them flying."
The same quote was used in Youssef Chahine´s film al Masir(Destiny), in that context as a response towards the militant islamist groups, Islamic Jihad and the Ga´maat al Islamiyya´s attack on intelectual and cultural life in the beginning of the 1990´s.
UPDATE: Oct 10th - Daily News Egypt has a profile on Muhamed Ezz al Din by Ghada Sharif.