Enab Baladi (EB) is an independent Syrian media organization that was founded in 2011. EB offers 24-hour news coverage through its multilingual interactive websites, and it publishes a weekly newspaper that covers Syrian political, social, and miscellaneous affairs. EB has intensive social media presence as well and offers a set of other media products as well.
Enab Baladi seeks to play a role in providing knowledge to Syrian citizens by broadcasting news and publishing in-depth reports about public affairs, documenting human rights violations in Syria through media, and conducting survey investigations and opinion polls that shed light on important internal social issues. Enab Baladi aims to support building a democratic society in Syria by consolidating the independence of the press, reinforcing its professionalism and raising its credibility.
Ever since it was founded during the first year of the Syrian uprising, Enab Baladi has focused on promoting peaceful resistance and combating sectarianism and the discourse of violence. Enab Baladi has been able to provide consistent information to the Syrian people about the events in Syria through its weekly newspaper, its perpetual coverage of human rights violations in Syria, together with its media coverage of the emerging Syrian civil society activities, news and various other matters that relate to politics, economy and social affairs.
Establishment, the beginnings
“After some exhaustive brainstorming and debates, Enab (grapes) was chosen as a name for the newspaper, because of its direct connection to our city (Daraya in Damascus suburbs), historically known for growing grapes and because it symbolizes authenticity and attachment to the land and comes in so many different types and varieties, hence the reference to the diversity of our affiliations and schools of thought. This “Enab” is Baladi (local), because it is a distinct product of the people of Daraya, of their own labor and effort.”
The above are excerpts from the front page of the issue number #0 of Enab Baladi weekly newspaper, published on January 29, 2012, which was then launched by an “amateur” group with no experience in the journalism, “but they wanted to make an effort to present the view of the Syrian uprising and participate in one of the free spaces it has created to be an arena for their ideas and pens and express their opinions freely,” the front page states.
Since then, the weekly newspaper has been published on a regular basis, except for two weeks in which it did not appear following Daraya Massacre in August 2012 committed by the Assad forces against civilians in the city. Since then, every week, the newspaper is published and thousands of copies of each edition are distributed in the Syrian northern region and to Syrian refugees in a number of major Turkish cities.
The newspaper is printed in southern Turkey and then shipped to Syria, via border crossings, to be distributed by the Syrian Network for Printed Media in more than 300 vital points in Aleppo and its countryside, Idlib and its countryside, Hama and Latakia country sides, and the predominantly Kurdish city of Afrin, since August 2014.
At the beginning of 2012, Enab Baladi began to distribute printed copies of its weekly newspaper in Damascus and suburbs before the Syrian regime forces invaded Daraya and destroyed EB’s headquarters office. In early 2013, EB moved to distribute in the northern cities and villages that are not under the control of the Syrian regime. The PDF version of the newspaper reaches hundreds of thousands of subscribers and readers, through electronic distribution lists, Enab Baladi’s website and social media pages with more than 1,000,000 followers.
Less than a year after it was launched, Enab Baladi expanded its geographic focus to move from publishing on the events in Daraya city to news coverage of major Syrian provinces. It also began to strengthen its internal systems and administrative structure and benefit from the academic expertise that was available among its cadres. EB established its editorial policy and developed its rules of procedures at an early stage.
The first basic journalism training EB’s team received took place in Beirut in the summer of 2012, and its beneficiaries were the “amateur” journalists of Enab Baladi. The training was carried out under the supervision of local, Arab and international trainers. After that, Enab Baladi participated in many training workshops provided by specialized international media development organizations. EB teams received dozens of training workshops, benefiting about 60 journalists who have worked with Enab Baladi (as journalists, reporters or administrators).
When founded, Enab Baladi did not need more than twenty thousand Syrian pounds a month (~$400 at that time), which were donated by one of the local activists on monthly basis. The money was used to buy paper and ink to print the newspaper. The newspaper remained for the first year without financial support, except for “occasional” donations from supporters and people who are close to the project. After that, Enab Baladi received professional and financial support from Syrian and international media development organizations.
Enab Baladi Martyrs
Nabil Sharbaji, “the Child of Grapes Tree”
Five years after he got arrested, the news of the killing of journalist Nabil Sharabji in Syrian regime prison was confirmed. He was one of the most prominent founders of Enab Baladi, and the only academically trained journalist within the team of the newspaper then. Nabil edited the news of Enab Baladi first issues and, with his camera and audio recording, broadcasted the launching of the issue #0 of the newspaper on 29 January 2012. One month later, Nabil was arrested in Daraya and was transferred to several prisons before being killed in Saydnaya Prison for Political Detainees on May 3, 2015, according to corroborating evidence from detainees at that time. Nabil was committed to his “duty” towards the newspaper even when he was in Damascus Adra Central prison, and secretly sent a series of articles about his experience and stories which were published on EB’s pages.
Mohammad Anwar Kuraitem
Mohammad Anwar Kuraitem, known as “Abu Al-Nur”, was a member of EB’s Administrative Board, which he sought to form early on in order to organize the work and manage the roles of those who work at the newspaper. Enab Baladi worked following this proposed organizational structure until the adoption of its internal rules and regulations on 30 January 2015.
On November 28, 2012, EB team lost contact with Mohammad after he went to a house in Daraya which coincided with air strikes by Assad warplanes on the area. Missiles dropped during these air raids were likely to carry toxic gas substances. Two days later (on Friday, November 30, 2012) Muhammed Kuraitem, activist Abdul Rahim Sharbaji and activist Marwan Sharbaji were found dead in the latter’s house. Their bodies were in a terrible condition after aerial bombardment targeted them.
Ahmad Shihadeh’s accession to Enab Baladi months after the launching of the newspaper had the effect of raising the level of its journalistic content due to his intellectual and literary skills and his political foresight. He was elected as a member of the Administrative Board, was appointed managing editor and wrote more than 30 editorials.
The paper benefited from Ahmad’s academic experience as he holds a master’s degree in economics and has experience working with international organizations.
Despite the lack of worthy financial resources at the, time, Ahmad was able to set the foundations of the EB’s financial processes and to develop a financial strategy. The system Ahmad established has contributed to the development of Enab Baladi’s vision and the maintenance of its financial stability.
Ahmad Shihadeh was killed in the evening of March 12, 2013 by a rocket shelling which targeted his whereabouts in Daraya.
Mohammad Fares Shihadeh
Muhammed Fares Shihadeh (Abu Yazan) was one of the founders of Enab Baladi. He remained a member for several months before dedicating his efforts to other activities and withdrawing from the team, but he continued to work as one of the newspaper field reporters.
Mohammad Shihadeh contributed to the foundation of Daraya local council where he was a member of the Peaceful Resistance Office and continued his activism under the umbrella of the Council, until he died by a shelling bombardment which targeted his car on January 16, 2013.
The newspaper grew from amateur-run entity into becoming one of the most prominent Syrian media organizations according to BBC Syria profile page. Currently, EB is an umbrella under which several media products are published, including: Enab Baladi Weekly Newspaper, Enab Online Arabic News Service Website, Enab Online English News Service Website, Enab Video, Enab Baladi Investigative Journalism Unit, The Syrian Newspapers Archive. In addition to EB’s publishing channels on social media including Facebook pages with around one million fans and mobile apps that receive millions of page views every month. These projects are supported by a large network of reporters and journalists who strive to give credible reports from the ground in Syria.
Over the past years, Enab Baladi established a network of field reporters who work in a number of vital regions and cities inside Syria, such as Damascus and its countryside, Daraa, Aleppo and its suburbs, Hama and its countryside, Homs, Hasakah, Idlib, and Latakia suburbs.
Here is a brief description of each of EB’s products, along with some statistics.
- Enab Baladi Weekly Newspaper
Every week, a new issue of Enab Baladi newspaper is published. The publishing process takes two forms: print and digital. EB currently prints around 6,000 copies every week and distributes them in northern parts of Syria (Aleppo and suburbs, Latakia and suburbs, and Idlib and suburbs), and in Turkey to Syrian refugees. Since January 2012, EB has printed and distributed around a million copies of the weekly newspaper. The printing takes place in Turkey and then the copies are shipped to Syria. EB used to print and distribute in the southern and middle regions of Syria but after Assad forces destroyed its office and equipment in Daraya, the team was forced to start printing and distributing in northern Syria where Assad forces have no control. The interactive PDF version of the newspaper reaches hundreds of thousands of subscribers and fans, whether through electronic distribution lists, EB websites and social media channels including around a million Facebook fans.
- Enab Baladi Arabic News Website
Launched in September, 2014, Enab Baladi Arabic news website covers Syria news on the ground through a network of reporters and journalists. The website had a modest start and grew to publish over forty pieces of news and reports on daily basis on average. The news covers social, political, and economic issues of importance to the Syrian public. Since it started, the website received over 12 million page views and now it receives about a million page views every month. The website global rank jumped from 3,000,000 to ~52,000 competing with well-established Syrian news websites that have been operating for over ten years.
- Enab Baladi English News Website
This is the English version of the Arabic news website. EB’s team translates and publishes selected news, articles, op-eds, and reports into English. In almost complete absence of credible foreign media inside Syria, this website serves the role of reporting on the news from inside the country and presenting it to foreign audience interested in knowing what is really happening on the ground in Syria. The website was launched in January 2016 and has its own social media interfaces: Facebook page and Twitter.
- Enab Baladi Video Channel
The Enab Video website and Facebook page are dedicated to EB’s video production which has increased massively over the past months. The videos types vary, some are in-depth reports from inside Syria, informative videos about the daily news, and sarcastic entertaining commentary videos that shed light on the news, in addition to other online live podcasts through Facebook live feature. The channel produced two social online TV shows, one is called “Wherever you are” shot in Turkey and aired on EB video channel every Thursday, and the other one “Over the Rooftop” is shot in Damascus Eastern Ghotta, aired three times a month. Both programs episodes have received millions of views since they started early 2017.
- Enab Baladi Investigative Journalism Unit
EB established an Investigative Journalism Unit (EBIJU) with the aim of developing the skills of its senior journalists, editors, and reporters, to be able to produce investigative reports on Syrian affairs and train other Syrian journalists on investigative journalism. The unit is a step towards developing a Syrian network for investigative journalism. Such network would include a wide range of Syrian institutions and independent journalists and will benefit from the skills of local, regional and international journalists and trainers. EBIJU has already produced several in-depth reports supported by multimedia materials especially about the opposition forces covering important topics such as Judiciary Sector, Education, Local Governance, Services, in liberated areas in Syria. EBIJU is currently producing two investigative reports two topics: inter-trade relations with Syrian Regime and Opposition and recruitment of fighters in Syria.
- Enab Baladi Facebook Page
The Arabic news website Facebook page has around 900,000 fans who rely on it as a main source of news. The page posts reach millions of Syrians around the world, especially inside Syria.
- Enab Baladi Arabic News Android App
The app is targeted at the growing number of mobile users who access Enab Baladi news Arabic website and to give the audience another avenue to reach Enab Baladi. Launched in 2015, the app has been used by hundreds of thousands of users and received over 14 million screen views.
- Enab Baladi Google News
Enab Baladi Arabic news website is one of the Arabic news sources on Google news.
- The Syrian National Newspapers Archive
In 2013, in an effort to preserve the history of the Syrian conflict and provide easy access to information for Syrians, EB started a national archiving project to preserve the Syrian memory by archiving Syrian print-media (newspapers and magazines) and present them for free to all Syrians, current and future generations. As of November 2016, the Syrian Newspapers Archive had over 6,855 issues of around 296 different newspapers, including pro-Syrian-regime newspapers, that adds up to over 100,000 pages of Syrian print media. The project website not only archives and presents newspapers, but it also provides other services, such as:
- The search inside PDF text and advanced search features
- Research papers that examine one topic and how the Syrian newspapers covered it; and
- Monthly newsletters that provide brief overview of what the Syrian newspapers focused on in a certain month.
Enab Baladi in the News
Enab Baladi succeeded in drawing the attention of many local and international media. Recently EB’s work was featured in National Geographic documentary, and HBO documentary “Cries from Syria.” EB’s story appeared on BBC, France 24 Channel, Spiegel Online International, The Guardian, Al-Arabiya, and Al-Jazeera among many others. The French famous magazine “ELLE” published a story about EB’s women team, “THE “GANG OF GIRLS” RISK THEIR LIVES TO REPORT FROM INSIDE A WAR ZONE”. Around ten women are working as reporters, editors, and translators for EB. ELLE article tells the story of one of them, Kholoud Waleed, and highlights the role that women played in the establishment of the newspaper, the challenges they faced during their work as citizen journalists in Syria and the success they achieved.
Partnerships, Alliances, and Coalitions
Over the past years, Enab Baladi established partnerships and implemented programs with many international organizations such as National Endowment for Democracy, Internews, Free Press Unlimited, European Endowment for Democracy, l’Association de Soutien aux Médias Libres, Adopt a Revolution, L’agence française de coopération médias, Norwegian People’s Aid, International Media Support, Chemonics International, and USAID.
Enab Baladi also joined several alliances and coalitions:
- The Ethical Journalism for Syria Alliance (EJSA) in partnership with more than 30 Syrian independent media organization and funded by Free Press Unlimited. The alliance aims at restoring and improving the basic fundamental rights of freedom of speech, thought, and expression in Syria via a gender sensitive multi-level approach.
- The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC), and implemented a project of documenting the verbal heritage of the Syrian conflict in partnership with ICSC.
- The Syrian Network for Printed Media (SNP) with seven other Syrian independent newspapers, through which, EB is printing and distributing its issues inside and outside Syria.
- The Syrian Regional Program (SRP) to provide media exposure to Local Councils in Syria, the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), in addition to multimedia reports about local initiatives inside Syria.
Enab Baladi Incubated Projects
Syrian Publications Archive
In March 2013, a team from Enab Baladi started working on preserving copies of Syrian media publications that were issued after the beginning of the Syrian uprising.
The idea was then developed to development of a specialized website under the name of “Syrian Publications Archive”, which was officially launched on in November 21, 2014 during the first Syrian Journalists’ Association conference in Gaziantep, Turkey.
The Archive is a documentation project which aims at archiving Syrian newspapers/magazines published in Syria and abroad. It is founded on the fact that these newspapers represent an account of the Syrian history and one facet of the birth of Syrian pluralism.
The Archive aims at highlighting Syrian political and social pluralism, archiving and tabulating newspapers published during the Syrian uprising to prevent any loss, hence its contribution in the preservation of Syrian history and the construction of the memory of the Syrian people.
It also provides several services, most notably the collection of all Syrian newspapers in one website and the features it provides such as advanced search within texts, titles, dates and authors’ names.
“Tayara Warak” (Kite): Children Magazine
In cooperation with the Syrian Nonviolence Movement organization, Enab Baladi launched in March 2013 a bi-monthly magazine called “Tayara Warak” (Kite in English). Starting from March 2014, the magazine is published independently by “Hurras” (Guardians) organization, which is dedicated to the protection of and care of Syrian children.
Enab Baladi was registered in the United States of America in 2013 as a non-profit tax-exempt organization under the 501(c)(3) law with Tax ID: 46-3313735.
Enab Baladi is also registered in Turkey as a non-profit organization according to the Turkish Association Act, registration No. 34231045.
Enab Baladi is supervised by a Board which consists of founding members and others who have contributed to the newspaper since it was established. Enab Baladi’s daily operations are run by executive office elected by the Board.
The newspaper won two awards through two of its co-founders, Majd Sharbaji who won the U.S. State Department Women of Courage Award, and Kholoud Helmi who won the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award.
- “BBC Syria Media Profile”. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- “Enab Baladi Weekly Newspaper”. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- “Enab Online News Service Website”. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- “Syrian Print-Media Archive”. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- “Enab Baladi English”. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- “Syria Regional Program”.
- “Deputy Secretary Higginbottom to Honor 10 International Women of Courage”. U.S. State Department. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- “RAW in WAR honors Kholoud Waleed with the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award”. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
Posted by Enab Baladi English on Thursday, January 28, 2016