Exclusive story produced at MDI training course Print

Dates: 15-19 February 2013

Region: Egypt

egypt february exclusive 2The Egyptian politicians’ press conference was over but one dogged reporter was not finished. Mostafa Mahmoud El-Sherbieny, from Al Sabah newspaper, made his way over to one of the politicians, took him aside for a private chat and asked him some more questions.

The result was an exclusive story for his newspaper about a former presidential candidate threatening to leave the National Salvation Front, the opposition coalition. The press conference was one of the practical exercises during the training course in parliamentary and political reporting organized by the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) in Cairo between 15-19 February 2013. The course was organized for the 15 young political reporters from Egyptian private newspapers. The press conference was set up to challenge the reporters to find real stories and was one among many practical exercises during the course.

Mostafa and the other trainees really rose to the challenge, finding stories that were published in their newspapers or on their websites. Mostafa’s story was a particularly good piece of reporting. He had done exactly what had been discussed in an earlier session on how to cover a press conference including what research to do in advance and what time to arrive, how to ask questions and get a story – and how to get an exclusive. Mostafa’s success in getting an exclusive was one of the many highlights of the five-day course.

egypt february 2The politicians’ press conference was followed, the next day, by another press conference given by Ramy Mohsen, an election law expert, which again produced a series of stories for print and online media.

With parliamentary elections in Egypt imminent, Ramy talked and took questions about the complex voting system and proposed changes to the election law. He highlighted weaknesses in the new draft election law and argued that some proposals were unconstitutional. After the session, the participants discussed possible angles for stories and how to write them, and some of the reporters filed stories to their newspapers.

The course was a mixture of talks, discussions and practical work. It covered a wide range of topics, including how to find and write political news stories. Much emphasis was placed on the role of the reporter in a democracy, the importance of balance and fairness and holding those in power to account. The journalists also critiqued Egyptian newspapers, examining the choice of stories, how they were written and presented and how they could be improved.

The training course is part of the project “Inclusive Parliament: Building citizens’ participation in the political process in Egypt through better media, parliamentary and civil society interaction, run by MDI and funded by the UK Embassy in Cairo. It is one of many other activities, including the establishment of a student website, roundtable discussions and TV programmes that will be organised during the life of the project.

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