Hanan Badr: One Journalism Crisis for All?

Journalism Crisis for All? Shattered hopes of transformation and fragile (digital) journalism futures outside Western contexts

Dr. Hanan Badr er professor ved Freie Universität Berlin/Cairo University og holder åpen forelesning i regi av forskningsgruppen Digital journalistikk.

Considering the structural and digital transformation of the public sphere established rules of the profession and financial viability models seemed shaken, yet new rules in the digital news ecology are not clear yet. In societies where journalism has had different sets of crises, including struggles for freedom but also fragmentation of the professional community itself, in addition to the uncertain new trends in digital journalism we need to reconstruct the meaning of journalism crisis, as journalists themselves see it. The paper brings in important inputs to rethinking (digital) journalism in a non-Western context.
By expanding the matrix of the journalism crisis to an international different setting, this study follows the theoretical lens that views the dimensions of media systems (Hallin and Mancini, 2004; Hafez, 2002; Quandt & Sheufele, 2011). Semi-structured interviews answer the central research question: how do journalists perceive the journalism crisis in a country that struggles within autocratic polarized political environments in the post-Arab Spring years?
In Egypt the term ‘journalism crisis’ has severe connotations: a political tight framework and divided professional community shape the scene. Digital journalism struggles to find recognition: digital journalists are excluded from the union protection as the laws do not recognize them as true journalists. Amid rising platformization, professional and sustainable digital journalism examples are extremely rare and depend on foreign media assistance programs. Added to the socio-economic fragility, censorship, and threats for safety and freedoms, digital journalists work under higher conditions of uncertainty and political targeting.
The journalistic community itself is divided on the reasons of “death of journalism”: politics vs. technology. While regime-critical voices state that freedom will save journalism practice, regime loyalist journalists attribute the crisis to the new technologies and inability to compete with the free available news online and the inability to impose ‘paywalls’ in an economically weak country as Egypt. Divisions from within and pressure from the political system make the future of (digital) journalism uncertain in Egypt.