Conference "Dynamics of Change: Media and the Public Sphere in Egypt"

08.12.-10.12.2016, Berlin

Project of the Working Group "Transformation" of the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA)

Although the Arab region has been marked as stagnating, the regional dynamics evolving since 2011 have launched processes that are reshaping the political, social and cultural landscapes. Egypt witnessed a temporal opening that was followed by a relapse into autocratic settings. The media and the actors behind them (journalists, editors, activists, owners) went through transformations, while at the same time were contributing to the transformation of the society. The pathways of these transformations were plastered with challenges like exclusion and marginalization of different segments of society and a strong political polarization.

In this context, the media are important spaces for participation and negotiation of civil society and can provide the ground for reconciliation. The conference offers the opportunity and space for actors from academia, media, civil society, and politics to discuss relevant issues to the media in times of transformation and conflict. The in-depth exchange of opinions and experiences connects both practical as well as academic views on media and political actors.

Guiding questions for the exchange are:

  • How do media as social systems and actors enhance their independence from the surrounding environment?
  • How can media help societies to regulate the social orders in peaceful conflict resolution?

While Egypt is the focal point of this workshop, the regional and historical perspectives cannot be neglected to ensure a learning processes across time and space. Therefore, we will also ask: How does the situation in Egypt relate to other experiences in the world such as in Africa or Eastern Europe, and what can be learned from this?

The conference is hosted by AGYA members Hanan Badr and Carola Richter from the Institute for Media and Communciation Studies at Freie Universität Berlin on behalf of the AGYA Working Group "Transformation" and kindly supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The conference will be held in cooperation with MeCoDEM – an EU-funded research project on Media, Conflict and Democratisation which investigates the role of traditional media and ICTs in conflicts that accompany and follow transitions from authoritarian rule to more democratic forms of government. Another cooperation partner is the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

Article about the conference on

Program 2016 (download of leaflet)

Thursday, December 8th




Visit of German Media Institutions


die tageszeitung - taz

Venue: DGAP, Rauchstraße 17, 10787 Berlin


Keynote Speech

Sahar Khamis, University of Maryland

“Journalism in the Transformative Egyptian Landscape: Changes, Challenges, and Future Prospects”

Comment by Dina Fakoussa, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)

Friday, December 9th
Venue: L 113 Seminarzentrum, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45
14195 Berlin-Dahlem

09.00 - 10.30

Introduction: Media in Egypt – Academic Perspectives

  • Hanan Badr & Carola Richter, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Gamal Soltan & Yosra El Gendi, American University in Cairo


Panel 1: Media Systems in Transformation from a Comparative Perspective

Egyptian media are not the first to be on a shaky transformation path. We will investigate how other media systems have managed transformation and which major challenges are to be faced. Finally, we will ask what can be learned from other experiences for Egypt?

Moderator: Carola Richter, Freie Universität Berlin/ AGYA

  • Fatima El Issawi, London School of Economics: “Perspectives from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia”
  • Judith Lohner, University of Hamburg: “Conflict Journalism in Kenya, Serbia and South Africa: Roles, Challenges, Constraints”
  • Anna Litvinenko, Freie Universität Berlin: „Perspectives from Russia“

13.30- 15.00

Panel 2: Professional Margins and Constraints from within the Journalistic System

Journalism has other constraints beyond the political pressures. This panel wants to focus on various constraints that derive from the audience expectations, financial factors, access to information and finally gender aspects.


Moderator: Hanan Badr, Freie Universität Berlin/ AGYA

  • Ashraf Amin, Al-Ahram newspaper, Cairo: “Challenges and opportunities of being a Science journalist in Egypt“
  • Hisham Allam, Journalist, Cairo: “Constraints of Investigative Journalism in Egypt and the Arab World”
  • Basma Mostafa, Journalist, Cairo: “To publish or not to publish? Gatekeeping processes in journalism inside the newsroom”


Roundtable Discussion 1: New spaces in the Public Sphere: Local and Community Media

Local media constitute new communicative spaces at a micro-level. They challenge mainstream mass media by their proximity to the audience and relevance of topics of everyday life. Yet, lack of resources and political pressures pose challenges for independent reporting. This panel scrutinizes the opportunities and challenges of local media in the Egyptian and Tunisian public sphere.

Moderator: May Elmahdi-Lichtsteiner, Journalist, Lucerne

  • Tarek Atia, EMDP & Mantiqti newspaper, Cairo
  • Naila Hamdy, American University in Cairo
  • Asma Labidi, Journalist, Tunis
  • Peter Trzka, Axel-Springer-Publishing House, Berlin

Saturday, December 10th
Venue: L 113 Seminarzentrum, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45
14195 Berlin-Dahlem

09.00 - 11.00

Panel 3: State Media or Public Media? Context and Functions in the Public Sphere

Both state media and public media are important players in respective national public spheres. We are going to ask what role these media forms actually play and ought to play in their countries. Which model suits which context?

Moderator: Carola Richter, Freie Universität Berlin/ AGYA

  • Barbara Thomaß, Ruhr-Universität Bochum: “Overview: Public Media in a European Perspective”
  • Nadia Leihs, Technische Universität Dortmund: “Analysing State Media Houses in Egypt”
  • Hisham Kassem, Publisher, Cairo: „Do we still need State Media Institutions?“
  • Amr El Shobaki (MP), Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Cairo: “Functions of the State Media in the Egyptian Context”


Panel 4: Civil Society and the Media in Egypt: Actors or Reactors?

We are employing a broad definition of the concept of “civil society” reaching from journalist union’s engagement to youth and their specific usage of new social media to cultural actors and their representation. How are civil society actors coping and working with the current political and media landscape?

Moderator: Anna Antonakis, Freie Universität Berlin

  • Nadine Abdalla, Political Scientist, Cairo: “The Journalists' Syndicate as a Contentious Actor: Strategies, Framings and Challenges”
  • Marwa Hafez, Cairo University: “Youth, Social Media and Political Participation after January 25”
  • Ghada El Sherbiny, former presenter of "El Fan 3enwan" (ONTV) Cairo: "Media and Culture: Intertwined Relations in the Egyptian Public Sphere"


Roundtable Discussion 2: The Future of Journalism in Egypt: Where is the Profession heading to?

Uncertainty looms over the profession suffering from multiple crises, foremost financial crisis, polarization, waning credibility, ethical challenges, as well as questions of independence. The roundtable discussion sketches out possible developments shaping the media landscape in Egypt. The practice and teaching of journalism is facing serious challenges. What role do public media play in this context? How can Egyptian journalism help society to regulate the social order in peaceful conflict resolution?

Moderator: May Elmahdi-Lichtsteiner, Journalist, Lucerne

  • Dina Maher, Freelance writer, Cairo
  • Ezzat Ibrahim, Al-Ahram newspaper, Cairo
  • Khaled El-Baramawy, Digital Media Consultant, Cairo
  • Doaa Soliman, BBC, Cairo


Concluding Remarks

Hanan Badr & Carola Richter, Freie Universität Berlin

In 2015, a similar conference was organized by Hanan Badr & Carola Richter. More information here.