MARQAAN, Philippines — This is the home of the first media company to open in a Muslim country.
For three years, Najwa Media has been the only outlet to broadcast in Arabic from a makeshift mosque in an upscale neighborhood of Marawi City.
This week, the media company will launch a local English-language channel, which will focus on breaking news.
Najwa’s Arabic channel, known as Najwa Arabic, is aimed at breaking news and information that is in the public interest, such as terrorism and government corruption.
Its goal is to make Arabic news more accessible and to help its users feel more confident in expressing their opinions and concerns, said Naeem Al-Hassan, a senior researcher at the Southeast Asia Media Center at the University of Singapore.
“We wanted to have a channel where people can express their opinions, and express their views without fear of retribution, without being attacked,” he said.
With its presence in Marawi, Najwah Arabic has attracted local media companies such as the Philippine Star and Al Jazeera, as well as media companies that are not owned by the government.
The media company has also received funding from the Philippine government to operate its local station.
“The Philippines has been one of the world’s leaders in the creation of a digital media space,” said Al-Hasan, who is also a senior fellow at the South China Sea Institute at the London School of Economics.
“So it’s great that we can be a leader of that, especially in an Islamic country, because there is a lot of fear of social media and fake news.
We want to show the Filipino people that they can use social media to express their opinion and to express dissent without being called a traitor.”
Najwah has been operating out of a makeshift house in the outskirts of Marigot City since last October, when it was besieged by militants.
Al-Hasam said the militants killed and wounded several Najwa employees before storming the house.
A few months later, the militants took over a local media office and installed the local station, Najwan, which is owned by Najwa’s parent company, the Nabiya Group.
Najwan will broadcast news in Arabic and English, as does Al Jazeera Arabic.
The station will also broadcast news from outside Marawi.
“Najwat al-Masah,” as the channel is known, will broadcast in English and Arabic, Al-Shaab said.
“We are a Muslim-owned media company.
We don’t discriminate on the basis of religion.
We have a very liberal approach to media ownership.
We are proud of that.”