Rabab Fathy is Deputy Head of Foreign Affairs Section in Alyoum Alsabaa Newspaper and Website and a diplomatic editor. She started working as a journalist in 2008. Alyoum Alsabaa is one of the most important and successful newspapers in Egypt, while its website ranks among the most read and influential in the country. In her interview*, Fathy answers questions concerning the current situation in Egypt and its bilateral relations with Greece.

As we approach the end of the 2010’s, I would say that many people abroad have a rather confused image of the situation in Egypt and other countries in the region. How would you describe, in few words, the current situation in your country? What are the main challenges for today’s Egypt?

After the 25th of January [2011] revolution, the security situation was dire, Egypt suffered a lot, especially because it is a popular tourist destination, and, all of a sudden, almost all the revenues from tourism were gone. But after the 30th of June [2013] uprising, authorities were able to take control and bring back security to the streets.

As with all revolutions, economic crunch, social shake-up and political polarization soon followed and have sort of continued till now. As for challenges, I think the biggest challenge is controlling the economy after adopting some required harsh reforms such as taking a loan from the IMF and floating the currency. I do believe those reforms were necessary for attracting new foreign investments, but there is still a lot that has to be done.

What is your personal feeling about living in a country with so deep roots in history, with a rich cultural heritage? I feel it can be a privilege, but also a matter of responsibility as well…

Belonging to a country as ancient as Egypt is in fact a privilege. Knowing that your predecessors were able to amaze the world until today makes one proud, yet I can’t deny it imposes a kind of burden that weighs down on some Egyptians, as they feel the difference between their glorious past and their challenging present.

Yet, you wouldn’t find an Egyptian who doesn’t carry Egypt in his/her heart wherever he/she goes. I for one hope that my country becomes better economically, politically and culturally, and I believe that it is the responsibility of every citizen – but I won’t deny that Egypt lags behind in fields such as education and health care system. Only when these two sectors are modified, things will turn around for Egypt.

There has been much discussion recently, both inside and outside the country, about the press and media situation in Egypt. I know there is also some very fresh legislation on this matter. As an experienced media personality, what’s your opinion on this issue?

The media scene in Egypt has been affected by the political upheavals such as all other fields and I wouldn’t describe it as a good one. A lot of media personnel found it necessary to practice a sort of self-imposed censorship with one aim, to help stabilize the country. They feel responsible for assisting the state through the hard times.

What about the so-called new media (from satellite and cable TV to internet and social media) in Egypt? How much and in which ways has their impact and influence changed the information and entertainment landscape in the country?

The aim of the new law is to regulate the work of journalism in Egypt with the rise of social media platforms. When it was first announced, it drew criticism, but some observers say the work of the Higher Council for Media Regulation (HCMR), the National Press Organization (NPO) and the National Media Organization (NMO) will ensure the regulation of the media scene – public and private – in the country in a way that ensures licensing media outlets and drawing up a code of media ethics, with a focus on respecting public morals and national security concerns.

We will have to wait and see how it will be applied in the future.

What is your opinion about the relations between Greece and Egypt? Do you share the view that the two countries are recently enjoying a really high level of communication and cooperation?

Greece and Egypt have a long history of friendship, understanding and partnership. Both countries are very rich culturally and have their historical importance. A lot can be done in many fields, especially those that enhance people-to-people communication, such as tourism and culture.

The authorities in Egypt, Greece and Cyprus are also taking the relations to the next level with their trilateral cooperation, to promote peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Mediterranean. The three countries have agreed to work on the implementation of projects in the fields of energy, maritime transport, tourism and agriculture. I think this cooperation is very positive and will help all three countries.

You are a person who knows Greece and has a positive feeling for the country. Would you have any ideas or suggestions regarding possible new ways of communication and cooperation between Egypt and Greece, especially in the sectors of media and culture?

I visited Athens and some Greek islands in 2016 and what really amazed me and warmed my heart was the number of Greek citizens who have visited Egypt at some point in their lives or who have a family member who lived or still lives there. Whenever someone heard I’m Egyptian, they spoke to me as if we were old friends. It did felt like home, the Greeks are really friendly and generous and have a lot in common with Egyptians. I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families of the fire victims, my prayers are with them.

I suggest as a media personnel to organize media tours between the two countries, so journalists will report what they see to their readers. Also facilitating the visa process between the two countries will help enhance this relationship.

On the cultural level, I would suggest more promotion to the Greek landmarks in Egypt, such as the Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine P. Cavafy’s house in Alexandria.

There could also be much cooperation in the field of tourism. I hope the authorities can succeed in their attempts to connect the sectors through the Greek Tourism Ministry’s proposals to organize one-tour packages for tourists from Latin America and Asia, that would include both Greece and Egypt through cruise trips.

*Interview by Christos Apostolopoulos, Head of the Press Office of the Greek Embassy in Cairo