Thursday, 28 December 2017

Beware of the archives




Those worn out of working day and night and who are attracted by what modern means of communication like Facebook and its likes provide may not find the time to read the recently published books or the fine academic-like resources and references that are different to what I once called the “Kleenex books”. By “Kleenex book” I mean those papers enclosed between two covers that once you skim through it and read its introduction, index and final, you throw it in the nearest garbage bin no matter how many papers it contains.

Therefore, and since I’m aware of this sad fact, I call upon my colleague journalists and writers, in specific those who happened to occupy supervising positions that we call in Egypt “top positions”, to read what is published of memoirs for journalists and thinkers, also for politicians and ex-officials, since not a single case of those memoirs is empty of a clear hint or considerable details of the press and those who were in charge of it in the time periods those memoirs tackle.

What may support my appeal is what we already see in reality or in the socio-political arena that we witness every day and which proves that what goes around comes around. It also proves that one cannot trust politics or authority as both of them are not guaranteed to remain loyal to their supporters.

In the memoir of prestigious journalist Mr. Muhammed Salmawi published by Al-Karma publishing house in 2017, one can find quick hints for what the Egyptian newspapers published during the uprising of Jan. 1977 as Salmawi was one of those arrested due to it. In his word during the signing ceremony of the memoir, Dr. Gaber Asfour called these hints “the revenge of the archives” as the memoir’s writer mentioned what some editors-in-chef and writers wrote and the decisions some chairmen of the board of some newspapers took at the time against their colleagues whom the authority considered as opponents to regime figures and threatening the stability and social harmony as seen by the authority.

With the long time span between those writings and decisions taken and the time when this memoir was written, both the ordinary reader and the one specialist in understanding the surrounding environment and contexts can find out that being in agreement with the regime in common goals and policies is different to justifying its mistakes and turning a blind eye to its defaults.

Usually the one who committed the sin of hypocrisy and opportunism cannot rectify his situation or correct his mistake. Also, he may receive no punishment whatsoever from the authority and may continue enjoying the gains he made whether financial, material or family ones represented in affinities and interests. However, he feels sad due to people’s looks to him and also because he knows very well that if someone had the time to open the files, look through the archives, read and analyze what he found of writings belonging to this kind of humans, the result would be devastating by all means for those who still have feelings, as to others having no feelings at all, one finds them coming back to their old deeds feeling no shame.

Mr. Salmawi mentioned what an editor-in-chef wrote in 1977, what some writers wrote and the decisions some chairmen of the board took during 1977 and 1981. The memoir’s writer made sure to annex photocopies of the published papers containing what was written lest someone accuses him of concealing the truth or being unjust to some died or others who left their positions and assume no authority now.

The one who studies and carefully reads history can tell the difference between having a national conviction with cultural and intellectual aspects and hence a broad and deep political sense to support the decision maker and stand against any attempt threatening the country and keeping its cohesion, balance, power and role, and being opportunist seeking personal gains alone. In the first case, meaning having an unshakeable national conviction, one is always ready to stay at the back, abstaining from holding any positions, not hesitating to pay the price and bear responsibility for his stance. As to the second, the opportunist hurries to jump off the boat at the sight of first danger like rats do while trying to catch up with and offer his services to the new regime.

Reading history tells us that regimes are often in deep need to servants more than partners, peers or even co-operating people working as per the rule “I work with you and not a servant for you”. However, what regimes need is totally different to respecting history.

Finally... beware of “the revenge of the archives”!

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar




This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on December 28, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:


#alahram #ahmed_elgammal #Muhammed_Salmawi_memoir #Egypt #journalism #press