Al-Fanar Media is an independent nonprofit news organization. Our focus – which is unique to us – is education, research, and culture in the Arab region. All of our stories, commentary and resources are published in both Arabic and English.
In a region where the contributions and potential of education have often been neglected, we provide information and perspective about successes and challenges, models of excellence and cautionary tales. Our reporting is often the only reliable, independent reporting available on these topics, and we strive to provide our readers with rich context and analysis. Our goal is to be an essential resource for them, providing insights and information to catalyze action; bringing like-minded individuals and groups together; and holding government leaders accountable for harmful policies.
Our team commissions and edits all of our articles. We work with journalists across the region, many of whom we train and mentor, to develop story ideas and conduct reporting. We also commission and publish commentary, actively seeking out diverse voices, especially among Arab educators, researchers, and thought leaders. Our lens is wide-ranging: we’ve written about water scarcity, patterns of disease, educational programs for refugee youth, artists, musicians, university admissions policies, gender, the Arabic language, archaeology, and more.
We believe that independent, analytical journalism about these topics is vital to the foundations on which stronger and more equitable societies can be built.
Al-Fanar Media strives to be neutral and does not take positions on political or religious issues. The editors believe that freedom of speech is a fundamental building block of civil societies and that academic freedom is essential to the healthy functioning of academic institutions. We independently select topics for coverage and stories for publication, and never accept payment in exchange for publishing articles.
Al-Fanar Media has received support from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Open Society Foundations, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the U.N. Democracy Fund, and other benefactors.
Al-Fanar Media was started in 2013 as a project of the Alexandria Trust, a London-based nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing educational access and quality in the Arab region.
David Wheeler – Editor
For more than 25 years, David worked as a science writer, international editor, and managing editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education, the leading education publication in the world. He led the Chronicle’s efforts to serve readers outside the United States, organized events and panels at higher education conferences, and reported articles in more than 30 countries. David has written for numerous other publications, including the Boston Globe and The Washington Post, and has received awards from the New England Press Association and the Education Writers Association. David has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and was awarded a Vannevar Bush Fellowship in science journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Rasha Faek – Managing Editor
Rasha is an experienced journalist who has covered a diverse range of issues ranging from business and youth to citizenship and culture. She has contributed to international publications such as USA Today and Bloomberg BAN. Rasha holds bachelor’s degrees in English literature from Damascus University, in dramatic arts from the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus, and in journalism from Damascus Open University. She has trained at a number of prestigious organizations such as the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, the United Nation University-International Leadership Institute, and the Foreign Press Center of Japan. She contributed a 7,000-word chapter entitled “Syria: Educational Decline and Decimation” for the book Education in the Arab World, published by Bloomsbury in 2017.
Shady Arafa – Chief Operating Officer
From 2002 to 2011, Shady was special aide to the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Dr. Ismail Serageldin, with whom he worked from the opening of the institution through its development as a major Egyptian and international facility. In 2008, he left the BA for one year to acquire some exposure to private-sector public relations work in the Gulf, but returned to the BA to work with its director for another stretch of three years. Shady holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Westminster, where he was a Chevening scholar.
Heba Elkayal – Arts Correspondent
Heba Elkayal has a master’s degree in modern art history and curation from Columbia University, has served as a consultant and staff member for numerous art collectors, galleries, and an auction house, and was the lifestyle editor for Daily News Egypt from 2008 to 2012. She lives and works between Cairo and New York City.
Charles Huckabee – Senior Editor
Charles is a freelance editor and writer based in Washington, DC, where he was a copy editor and news editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education for nearly 20 years. He has also served on the news and copy desks of several daily newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Virginian-Pilot. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of South Carolina, where he also did graduate studies in journalism. He has contributed articles about classical music to several newspapers and is an active chamber-music player in the Washington area.
Ursula Lindsey – Senior Correspondent
Ursula Lindsey has lived in the Middle East since 2002, reporting on culture, media, politics and education in the Arab world. She has worked as a reporter and editor with local independent media in the region as well as contributed to international publications such as The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Nation and The Economist. From 2009 to 2015, she was the middle east correspondent of The Chronicle of Higher Education. She speaks Arabic and French and has a master’s degree in Near East Studies from New York University.
Benjamin Plackett – Senior Editor for Research
Since 2013, he’s reported on a wide variety of topics, from the rebuilding of Mosul University after the city’s liberation from the Islamic State to the growing threat of water scarcity in Tunisia. His work has been published by Scientific American, Associated Press, CNN, and Engadget amongst others. He has an M.A. in journalism from New York University and a B.Sci. in biology from Imperial College, London.
Nasser Zawk – Director of Communications
Nasser is a communications professional with a background in graphic arts. He has over 10 years of experience working as an art director, online marketing manager, communications manager, and scholarships manager with several international organizations, including Solidarités International and LASeR (Lebanese Association For Scientific Research). He holds a bachelor’s degree in visual communication and graphic arts from the Lebanese University.
Olivia Cuthbert – Correspondent
Olivia is a freelance journalist and has been covering the Middle East for 10 years with a focus on women’s rights, international development, culture and education in the Arab world. Her work has been published in outlets including The Guardian, The Sunday Times, New Statesman, Middle East Eye, The National, openDemocracy and Wired magazine. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and speaks a little Arabic, but it’s a work in progress.