The Insider May Be Egypt’s ‘First Nationwide Student Newspaper’

The Insider may be the most powerful, pervasive student press outlet in all of Egypt. Started by a single student in January 2011 at German University in Cairo amid the backdrop of rising protests and political upheaval, Insider outlets now operate in various forms at 10 colleges and universities across Egypt.

As student founder Shaheer Shaheen shares with Al-Ahram Weekly, the online and print pubs regularly reach a combined 120,000 readers and boast more than 250 student staffers. To that end, Shaheen describes the Insider as nothing less than Egypt’s “first nationwide student newspaper.”

While still young and finding its footing on some campuses, it appears to be firmly rooted at its starter school. In little more than three years, The Insider at GUC has collected 25,000 likes for its Facebook page.

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Touching on the motivation behind Insider’s launch, Shaheen tells Al-Fanar Media, “There was no neutral entity that provided balanced coverage. So we decided to launch a student newspaper with editorial independence that didn’t promote a certain ideology or direction and so that we could see the events impartially.”

Shaheen sells the Insider as basically the only truly independent student news outlet at an Egyptian uni — noting that other high-profile offerings are aligned with faculty-led classes or academic programs or ultimately under administrative control.

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Yet interestingly, the biggest roadblocks faced by the various Insider outlets have not been censorious administrators but hesitant students. They are nervous about spouting views that may place them or their families in harm’s way and suspicious of anyone claiming to be an objective journalist.

Abdel Hamid El Tahtawy, editor in chief of the Insider at Al Azhar University: “The difficulties we face getting answers from students are much harder than those we face getting university approvals. [Students] always ask us who we are and which direction we belong to and whether we are members of the Muslim Brotherhood or not. … We want to turn Al-Azhar University from a place where students are afraid to speak up and where outsiders are muddled as to what is happening to an entity where there is communication between students, administration and outsiders.”

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