Egyptian journalist Bassem Sabry dies
Contributor to IPI award-winner Al-Monitor reportedly fatally hurt in fall
VIENNA, April 30, 2014 - Bassem Sabry, an Egyptian journalist and commentator who was among those accepting the International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneer Award at the recent IPI World Congress in South Africa, died yesterday in an apparent accident in Cairo. He was 31.
Sabry was widely respected for the reports and commentaries he filed from Cairo on the 2011 Arab Spring and the tumultuous political upheavals that followed. His dispatches appeared in numerous international publications, including Al-Monitor, the Internet news journal that is this year’s recipient of the Free Media Pioneer Award.
The Egyptian journalist reportedly fell off the balcony of a Cairo office building yesterday, the website of the Al-Ahram daily reported. Other reports described it as an accident.
In a video prepared ahead of the IPI award presentation, Sabry talked about the risks journalists face from governments in the Middle East.
“Online journalism is subject to a still-unclear form of legal supervision,” he said the video. “A lot of laws that traditionally govern traditional media are being used there, and a lot of other laws that simply you wouldn’t guess would be used to influence online media are also being put in place. And suddenly those who are causing trouble to regimes, to political authorities and the establishment ... find themselves being dragged under surprising accusations and laws.”
Andrew Parasiliti, Al-Monitor’s chief editor, called the death of Sabry “tragic news”.
“His columns on Egypt were must-reads,” Parasiliti said. “We will miss his brilliant analysis, his good humour, and, most of all, his friendship.”
Sabry’s most recent columns for Al-Monitor were on Egypt’s forthcoming presidential election, published three days before his death, and a commentary on the Egyptian government’s efforts to censor a newly released film, “Halawet Roh” (Beauty of Spirit), over its erotic content.
Sabry also wrote for leading Egyptian newspapers and the U.S.-based magazine Foreign Policy. The Guardian reported today that he also worked as a strategist for the liberal Dostour party founded by Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning former head of the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog agency and an Egyptian vice president.
In announcing Al-Monitor as the winner of the Free Media Pioneer Award, IPI cited the site’s strong network of contributors across the Middle East and its insightful reporting in a region plagued by press freedom challenges.
The award is given annually to a media or press freedom organisation that distinguishes itself in the fight for free and independent news. The awards’ nominators said that Al-Monitor stands out as a model for independent coverage of the region through its news, features, analysis and commentary at a time of political upheaval.
Sabry was among those from Al-Monitor who attended the World Congress, which was held April 12 to 15 in Cape Town.