Inside Al Ahram
My old friend and fellow journalist Sabah Hamamou -- who I and colleague Ashraf Khalil have both interviewed in articles about the Egyptian media -- has penned an autobiographical expose about her two decades as a reporter at state flagship newspaper Al Ahram (Sabah started there as an intern when she was still a teenager).
Hamamou's self-published يوميات صحفية في الاهرام ("Memoirs of an Al Ahram journalist"), now availabe in Cairo bookstores, is a fascinating and dispiriting window into the dysfunction of the once venerable newspaper. In a confidential, colloquial sytle, Hamamou explains everything from the logistical difficulties of working in newsrooms where 20 journalists share one phone to the way Al Ahram has gradually become bloated with the relatives and friends of senior employees, making a majority of the staff complicit in a parasitical, self-interested culture. The book gives a glimpse into the overwhelming challenge of carrying out institutional reform in Egypt today -- and not just in the state media.