Swedish publisher Lotta Wahlqvist already had 27 local newspapers in her brief, but after conducting a market survey she decided to add yet another one, this time in Classical Arabic.
“It was an easy decision to start Akbar Skåne,” she told The Local.
“We want to keep developing and – let’s be honest – to make money.”
Wahlqvist underlined that Malmöiter (Malmö residents) together speak about 150 languages.
“We also saw the potential for new advertisers, the ones that didn’t ever advertise in the existing papers,” said Wahlqvist, who ended up enticing many first-time advertisers to place an ad.
She has employed a part-time ad salesman, Kotada Ab Yonus, who came to Sweden from Syria five months ago. When he isn’t studying Swedish, he also writes the occasional sponsored article, while part-time reporter Rana Abdallah Razuki fills the rest of the pages.
Wahlqvist also roped in two 30-something columnists – Ghenwa Nahim and Mostafa Obejji. Having one woman and one man was important to Wahlqvist.
“I want contrasts, it makes for good journalism.”
Obeiji recently wrote a debate article slamming the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) for allowing staff at a local daycare centre to only speak Arabic with the children.
He also criticized that native-language instruction that immigrant children or pupils with one foreign-born parent get in school (hemspråk) insists on teaching Classical Arabic, rather than encouraging national dialects.
“We want to foster debate with these topics, to get people talking,” Wahlqvist told The Local.
She has also enlisted an editorial counselor, Sayed Khatib, who checks over the entire content of the monthly 5,000-edition newspaper.
“He helps me make sure press ethical standards are upheld and translates my page-two editorial.”
The name of the paper has sparked some confusion on immigration-critical forums online, she said, as Akhbar (news) sounds close to Akbar (great), which in “Allahu Akbar” at the beginning of the Muslim call to prayer means “God is great.”
“I haven’t myself gone in to read about it on those sites, but Akhbar Skåne simply means Skåne News,” Wahlqvist said.
“There is no editorial difference between this newspaper and the others that we produce.”