Magazine launches in Syria despite turmoil

byH.J. Cummins
May 4, 2011 in Journalism Basics

Starting a magazine is an ambitious project at any time. But as chance would have it, Syrian journalist Nahed Al Ali launched hers in the midst of the "Arab Spring."

But despite weeks of violent conflicts between pro-democracy protesters and the government in Syria, Al-Sharq (“The East”) made it to newsstands in Syria and Qatar beginning April 1.

The conditions have meant setbacks for Al-Sharq. “We are licensed to publish monthly, but due to the crisis in Syria, it will be every three months for now,” Al Ali said. “And a factory that was to advertise with us is now closed.”

But long term, she believes a magazine that does a good job telling the social, economic and cultural news of the region and its people will fill a big gap in current media offerings. “I thought, I can cover society, and I can do that in a magazine that cares about journalism,” she said.

Al Ali brings her considerable professional experience with her. She is still an anchor on Syrian TV Satellite. She has also worked for the Dow Jones International Newswires in Doha, Qatar; she established CNBC Arabiya’s Doha bureau; and she has been a reporter or editor at at least five other television stations or newspapers.

Al Ali plans that future editions of Al-Sharq will follow the same model as the first – accounts of life in the region in its many facets. The April magazine contained articles on a notorious child thief in Damascus, foreign investment in Syria, an interview with the famous Qatar painter Salman Almalak, and – on a lighter note – a poll on the prettiest student at Damascus University.

Al Ali has lined up some impressive columnists, including novelist Hassan Hamid, winner of the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Award, named for the Arabic Nobel laureate; Ahmed Barkawe, the Palestinian philosopher and philosophy professor at Damascus University; and Riyadh Esmat, Syria’s cultural minister.

A version of this story appeared on ICFJ Anywhere.