07 Mar 2012
Cairo is an important city for me in many different ways: It was my home for over two years, the first place I moved after I graduated from university; it is where I witnessed, first hand, the start of a revolution; it is where my Meedan adventure began in the summer of 2009. It is for these reasons, among many others, that getting the chance to return to Cairo is something I always look forward to.
In recent months, my happiness in returning to Egypt has each time been tempered by the knowledge that when I land in Cairo I will find her mourning a different tragedy. In November; Maspero. In December; Mohamed Mahmoud. This time; Port Said. Each time, however, I have found a people demonstrating an ever greater sense of resolve and determination not to lose the spirit of those remarkable 18 days in early 2011.
In February, I was in Cairo to work on our ongoing citizen media project, which is initially in partnership with Al-Masry Al-Youm and Birmingham City University. The week allowed meetings with fascinating people working on important and exciting projects from across a broad spectrum, and also allowed for two important opportunities: Firstly, to spend time working alongside the marvelous Ahmed Fakharany and his social media team at Al-Masry Al-Youm. Ahmed's passion for building an engaged community among the Al-Masry readers is infectious, and his thinking around strategies to do so is visionary.
And secondly, to meet the journalists, citizen journalists, academics, translators and bloggers who are working with us on the project's training program. Gathered in the wonderful space generously provided us by the Tahrir Lounge team, we spent a productive day discussing the important questions of citizen media reliability, tactics to corroborate and verify media, and how to deliver a training program that met the needs of a diverse range of trainees from across Egypt.
It was fascinating to learn from leading citizen journalists about how they build their own credibility, and how they assess the reliability of other media. Listening to @LilianWagdy, for example, talking about her own standards - "I don't tweet anything I haven't seen with my own eyes, and I always try to get a photo" - and why she feels it's important they are maintained - "I have a responsibility to the people following me". Or listening to @RamyRaoof explain the different stages he goes through when verifying citizen media reports for human rights purposes.
On the wall of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newsroom is written an inspiring slogan: من حقك تعرف - You have a right to know. It is our hope that by harnessing citizen media, and by engaging and collaborating with citizen journalists, we can - alongside the Al-Masry Al-Youm team and a trained and engaged community of citizen "checkers" - work towards that noble aim.