The first edition of the new English-language daily, Baladna, is now available online.
Its cover story is the long-awaited plan to ban cars from the Old City. The full-colour paper, which has a cover price of 25L, seems to be targetting younger readers: stories on changes to military service, new housing for young people, environment and development issues (a think-piece on the plastic bag, and the harm it does to Syria) feature towards the front of the paper.
It also covers regional news, in a clear challenge to the Daily Star and the National’s status as the Arab World’s must-reads. On the cover, there is a throw-forward to EU condemnation of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. The Nile ferry crash and the Lebanese government support for Hizbollah’s resistance also make it on to page 4.
The strong offering also has an opinion piece on the Dubai financial crisis: “A towering symbol of the era of excess”.
Further back, we move on to international news: the Russian nightclub explosion and the Amanda Knox trial take up this page.
And then an interesting double page which puts Tony Blair and George Bush on trial over the Iraq war. Large boxes outlining the charges, a small defence, and then the verdict. I’m sure you can imagine the outcome.
Then we’re on to the four business pages, which includes the latest exchange rates and, somewhat symbolically, the day’s trading on the Damascus Stock Exchange.
And that’s just the first half of the paper.
Baladna English follows the lead of Syria Today and Forward magazines, which moved away from the media’s traditional role as mouthpiece for officialdom – to covering the stories that people are talking about. Baladna English doesn’t feature a single “so and so received an official telegram from so and so”.
The first edition was published last Sunday, 6 December (not 9 December, as originally posted on this site and in the Guardian).