Business, Economics and Jobs

How to run a satirical newspaper in Egypt


(Image by Flickr user discoste (cc:by-nc-sa))

This story was originally reported by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

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Since 1981, Egypt has been under an "emergency law" that allows the Egyptian government to imprison activists and dissenters against the government. Inside this repressive atmosphere, three entrepreneurs in their mid-twenties still manage to publish a satirical newspaper called El Koshary Today that openly mocks the Egyptian government. Here are a few recent headlines:

Government undergoes therapy
National therapist Duktor Nader Nafsani has broken with doctor-patient confidentiality, revealing that the being known as "Government" is undergoing therapy to deal with some of his personal issues.

Government Launches New "Awareness" Campaign
"The people are not aware of our work," said Youssef Gobels, minister of the new, and suspiciously named, Ministry for Mass Brainwash.

Egypt's Elite Declare Independence from Egypt
Claim "only way to end the class divide"

El Koshary Today routinely pokes fun at sexism, corruption, class divisions and religious fundamentalism in Egypt. The paper takes its name from the popular national dish Koshary made with rice, macaroni, lentils, chick peas, friend onions and tomato sauce, and each writer takes on a pseudonym based on different aspects of the dish.

The name has a different meaning, too. One writer, who referred to himself as Subar Lox -- the biggest size of Koshary that people can order -- explained the name's significance to PRI's The World:

"Yeah, just a great mix of ingredients and filling and satisfying in a way that other foods are not. There's a mix of different articles."It's sort of something that satisfied our need to laugh and our need for humor."

The pseudonyms are meant to protect the identities of the paper's writers, all of whom have day jobs. The paper also publishes in English, which the writers feel may put them below the radar of the Egyptian authorities. At the same time, writing in English targets the paper directly at the country's elites, who may be the only people in the country who can read it. Ward Zeyada, whose name refers to the extra onions that many people order with Koshary, says that decision was intentional. He told The World,

"I'm hopeful the working class would take us forward. It is still important to have the elite on our side and make them think about things and that will help us also facilitate the revolution one way or the other."

To protect themselves, the writers also never touch on the Egyptian military, a topic that is forbidden by law. Writing about the military could land them in jail, and, as Subar Lox explains, "We don't know if they have wi-fi there."

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."