Egypt, Uncensored: A New TV Station Tackles Injustice Staffers at 25TV, a newly founded 24-hour news and entertainment station, say their goal is to cover the stories Egyptian state television wouldn't touch. It may be unpolished, but the the people working there all backed or participated in the revolution, and want to cover stories that get ignored.
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Egypt, Uncensored: New TV Station Tackles Injustice

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Egypt, Uncensored: New TV Station Tackles Injustice

Egypt, Uncensored: New TV Station Tackles Injustice

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The revolution in Egypt can now be seen now on the nation's satellite TV network.

(Soundbite of 25TV broadcast)

Unidentified Newsman: (Foreign language spoken)

SIMON: The programming doesn't always look polished on 25TV, a 24-hour news and entertainment channel, but it's honest and uncensored - at least most of the time. 25TV's approach to coverage is distinct in a country where the government strictly controlled the news for decades. In fact, staffers joke that their goal is to do all the stories that Egyptian state television won't touch.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Egyptian television hosts are usually quite suave, but not Seif Khirfam. The 29-year-old trauma-surgeon-turned-TV personality ambles around a small Cairo fairground in sneakers and a polo shirt. The place is packed with people who've come to take part in a new, weekly gathering called The Bank of Ideas. Seif Khirfam explains the concept.

(Soundbite of siren)

Mr. SEIF KHIRFAM (TV Host, "Samani"): And since the revolution, people have had, like, an overflow of good ideas for the future. So they decided to make, like, an organization where they collect all ideas from everyone who wants to pitch in with an idea.

NELSON: He is eager to share this find on his show, called "Samani," which in Arabic means: Let me hear. But there's a slight problem, he says, looking over at a couple of cameramen standing a few feet away.

Mr. KHIRFAM: First, I have to find my camera crew.

NELSON: I assume that's not them?


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KHIRFAM: I think they already have their presenter.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NELSON: Seif Khirfam's thrice-weekly program on 25TV is making him a familiar face among Egyptians. Especially since his recent, up-close look at smuggler tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

In the past, Egyptian media couldn't have gotten near those tunnels, let alone reported on them. But fame hasn't translated into funds for the station, at least not yet. That makes sharing a necessary inconvenience, Seif Khirfam says.

Mr. KHIRFAM: We shuffle crews. We shuffle equipment. Every time, I have to explain the concept of my program all over again.

NELSON: What they lack in equipment and organization, the employees say they make up for with determination and drive since they started broadcasting on the Internet in March. Owned by a wealthy broadcast production company called Video Cairo, 25TV debuted on Egypt's satellite television network last month. Its director, Mohamed Yousri, says they're pursuing ad revenue to help fund the station, which has already blown through much of its $3 million start-up budget.

Many of the 45 staffers have no journalism experience. Besides the doctor, there's a poet and an actress - all backed or took part in the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Jaylan Auf is a producer.

Ms. JAYLAN AUF (Producer, 25TV): We thought that the channel is a good idea to represent the aftermath of the revolution, not just what happened during the revolution, but also the aftermath, where we're going next, so not to always cry over spilled milk.

NELSON: American cameraman Joe Lukawski is one of two foreigners who work for the Egyptian station. He says its aim is to give Egyptians a voice they've never had before, and to expose injustices that may be too trivial for bigger networks to care about.

Mr. JOE LUKAWSKI (Cameraman, 25TV): They're not going to talk about when the police kick out the merchants of Ramses Square. Who cares? But for one of our producers, Abdul Rahman, he cares, you know? He knows street merchants, so he cares and he goes and, you know, we got arrested, we got in deep (bleep) on that story. But, in the end, we got the story.

NELSON: But not everything the staff reports gets on air, like a piece by the trauma surgeon, Seif Khirfam, on a military crackdown on protesters last month. He says he was outraged at first when station officials told him they wouldn't air the program because they feared it might spark tensions, especially because his piece focused on the military attacking army officers who joined the protest, Seif Khirfam says. So he took a different tack.

Mr. KHIRFAM: So, instead, I am creating an episode like, who are those officers? Are they heroes? Are they traitors? Why did they join? Where are they now - without focusing on violence and bloody graphics, so I can get my message through, not to forget those heroes, without creating tension.

NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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