Sunday, 10 October 2010
Earlier today, Sinai-based blogger Ashraf El-Anani published an article on his blog, " سيناء حيث أنا " (Sinai, where I am) telling the story of a rising citizen journalist also from North Sinai.
According to the piece emailed to El-Anani, Mohammed Sabry is an English teacher from Bir El-`Abd, a town in North Sinai. Sabry engaged in citizen journalism after the International Center for Journalists (ICJ)'s MENA regional office in Cairo admitted him to a course in social and popular media and news-writing run by the Center's Cairo office.
ICJ's initiative aims at empowering promising Egyptians with the tools and technical skills required to express the opinions and grievances of their communities especially in the run-up to the 2010 parliamentary elections and the 2011 presidential elections.
The course offers some training in news-writing, feature articles, investigative journalism and conducting interviews.
Sabry's achievements were quickly recognised by the Center which. Sabry applied and was awarded one of six competitive fellowships by the School of Media Studies at the University of Windesheim in the Netherlands.
Mohammad Sabry at Windesheim University, the Netherlands
The fellowship allows Sabry to attend a 3-month course commencing on October 1, 2010. It's worth noting that Sabry is the only one amongst the six awarded the fellowship who had no institutional experience in journalism. The other five work(ed) for Al-Jazeera Documentaries, Dream TV, Al-Dostor Newspaper and Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Ashraf El-Anani refers to Sabry as "the citizen journalist" amongst the group.
In a competition with 48 other documentaries, Sabry's short documentary has recently been voted "most interesting topic" by the ICJ and the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate. The prize was awarded to Sabry in absentia yesterday. The documentary is entitled " صخرة ديّان : مسمار جحا لعودة اسرائيل لسيناء " (The [Moshe] Dayan Rock: an Israeli excuse to return to Sinai?) and tells the story of North Sinai's most important monument and relic of the six-year Israeli occupation (1967-1973).
Sabry has expressed his intention to report on issues and grievances relating to his home region, North Sinai. The governorate is massively under-represented in Egypt's traditional media as well as in the Egyptian blogosphere and other social media despite its importance.
Not only does North Sinai border both Israel and the beseiged Gaza Strip, the governorate's inhabitants have suffered repression and arbitrary detention by state authorities and unfair publicity and discrimination amongst their countrymen in the Nile Valley and the Delta. North Sinai is home to a number of large and well-established autonomous tribes who have been engaged in waves of consecutive armed conflict with the state.
The under-representation of Sinai and its inhabitants in national and social media has left the grievances of the strategic governorate veiled behind the ignorance and negligence of the Nile Valley and its inhabitants.
Mohammad Sabry and his likes in Sinai are essential in the development of Egyptian civil society, citizenship and social media. The role played by Sinai-based bloggers like El-Anani, Sabry and others helps bridge the gap between the grievances and reformist movements on both shores of the Suez Canal. El-Anany's efforts at documenting life and society in North Sinai as well as conflict and repression against his community have shed light on the grievances and unfair treatment of an important segment of Egyptian population - a role that had previously been played by armed conflict alone.
More bloggers and citizen journalists need to voice their opinions and the concerns and events from within their own communities in Sinai and other parts on the peripheries of Egypt. Upper Egypt; Siwa and the Western Desert's Bedouin and Berber tribes; Sinai's Bedouins; and Nubia are but an example of the many regions and peoples of Egypt whose share of traditional and social media is all but sufficient.
Sabry's fellowship in the Netherlands might mean he'll be unable to cover the parliamentary elections scheduled in six weeks, but it means that North Sinai will acquire a new technologically-savvy voice to voice its concerns and report from within.