The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The story behind Rose Al Youssef

Praktike points out that Rose Al Youssef, a recently started pro-government daily, is trying to tarnish Kifaya leader George Ishak's reputation by alleging he met with Israelis during a conference last April.

Al-Masry Al-Youm reported yesterday on Ishaq's denial that he met with Israelis at the Fourth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy in Istanbul in April, a charge made by state paper (and emerging tool of Gamal Mubarak) Rosa al-Yousef. Even worse than (gasp) being in the same huge event as "the enemy," Ishaq attended an event funded by foreigners.

I'd like to expand a little bit on Rose Al Youssef's role on the Egyptian media scene since it launched less than a year ago. Rose Al Youssef was originally a magazine started in the 1930s by the actress, socialite and general sensation Rose Al Youssef, a woman of Syrian origin.

At the time, it was le nec plus ultra of Egyptian publishing and retained its progressive reputation for a long time thereafter -- even after it was nationalized. In particular, it pioneered the art of the caricature in the Arab world. There's an excellent short documentary about Rose Al Youssef (the woman and the magazine) by Mohamed Kamel El-Kalioub that came out a few years ago, I recommend it if you can get a hold of it. (Here's a review.)

In the Mubarak era, while remaining in some ways a quality magazine (in the current Egyptian context anyway), Rose Al Youssef substantially declined. It is unshamedly pro-regime and seems to specialize in tarnishing regime opponents with the familiar charges of working for foreign powers and attacking Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. It also offers a substantial platform, for state publications, to Copts and secular Muslims who use it mostly to make pro-regime secularism. Ironically, Rose Al Youssef's grandson Mohammed Abdel Qudous is a well-known Muslim Brother and Kifaya supporter!

The Rose Al Youssef mentioned above, however, is a daily newspaper that grew out of the magazine largely as a reaction to the emergence of independent dailies such as Al Masri Al Youm and Nahdet Misr in the last two years. Over that period, the clique around Gamal Mubarak saw the need for a daily newspaper that would be under its control -- the old state dailies, Al Ahram, Al Akhbar and Al Gomhouriya, were not so malleable and have links to the "old guard." That daily should have originally been Nahdet Misr, which is financed by media mogul Emad Adib. But Nahdet Misr realized it would fail completely (as a business and a publication) if it simply towed the Gamal line, and has since in part evolved from "the Mayo of the Geel Gedid," as a friend once put it, into something somewhat more independent, but not quite. (Mayo is the official publication of the ruling NDP; Geel Gedid means "new generation" and is a term applied to the Gamal clique in the NDP.) Nahdet Misr is now an occasionally interesting newspaper, especially on NDP inner struggles, but is not really a mouthpiece for the party's leadership anymore -- even if it is not as independent as Al Masri Al Youm.

Enter Rose Al Youssef the daily newspaper. The story going around Egyptian journalistic circles is that it was personally financed by Ahmed Ezz, the powerful steel magnate that has emerged as one of Gamal Mubarak's key acolytes. Ezz gave LE10 million of his money to Abdallah Kamal, an editor at Rose Al Youssef the magazine, to start the paper. (Rumor has it Kamal pocketed one of those millions.) Kamal has since penned slavish editorials about Gamal, attacking his opponents and praising or defending him and his friends (including Ezz, who is frequently accused of monopolistic practices in the steel industry) at every turn. Of course, nearly no one reads it, but the Gamalists have staked their place in the emerging new media scene. One imagines that their sophistication is equal to that of their mouthpiece.