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Restructuring Egypt’s Press: Building a Culture of Professionalism

Egypt’s most critical journalism-related problems are those associated with the general lack of professionalism described above and the press restrictions related to Egypt’s repressive pol itical culture. Many of Egypt’s probl ems stem from a journalism culture that does not seem to honor basic standards of professionalism. As noted above, journalism education and training are of a poor quality in the country, and some journalists conceive of themselves as political activists and thus do not adhere sufficiently to basic norms of balance, fairness, and objectivity. To address this problem, Egypt should invest in and focus more on modern journalism education, encourage news outlets to provide regular training workshops for their journalists, and, perhaps most importantly, institute independent monitoring of press performance.

In terms of education, Egypt must devote energy to forming both preuniversity- and university-level educational standards for journalism and media-related studies. At the primary level, schools should aim to enhance media literacy by requiring students to read and comparatively analyze news reports from diverse news outlets. Media literacy at this level should also be situated within a larger restructuring of Egyptian primary school education. Indeed, key pedagogical theories and ideas can facilitate the necessary changes and improvements. Connected learning, which “seeks to leverage the potential of digital media to expand access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity,”60 represents one such approach. Programs such as partnerships for twenty-first-century skills61 and constellations of connections62 could, for example, be employed to help encourage youth to become critical consumers of media.

At the university level, Egypt should integrate up-to-date journalism curricula and top-of-the-line news labs in journalism programs at colleges and universities. Journalism programs should also require their students to complete at least one intensive internship at a professional news outlet. Student newspapers should also be developed as on-campus venues for hands-on journalism experience. Finally, instructors with significant professional experience should be hired to teach professional skills courses in journalism programs. Fairness, balance, and detachment should be emphasized as key aspects of journalistic professionalism.

For their part, news outlets in Egypt should make more of a concerted effort to offer professional training programs and workshops, which are currently lacking. Funds should be allotted for the purpose of inviting veteran reporters from established news outlets inside or outside Egypt to conduct such programs at local Egyptian news outlets.

Perhaps most importantly, an independent media regulatory body consisting ofjournalism scholars and professional journalists should be established to ensure that basic journalistic principles and standards of ethics are understood and adhered to. The next section will discuss this independent body in some detail.

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