I used to call Mr. Ibrahim Nafae once or twice every month since he was in Europe and after he settled in Dubai. In every time, his voice used to inform me of his condition, and in all cases, the man was grateful especially that in our last call I engaged with us Mr. Yasser Rizq; CEO of Al-Akhbar newspaper. Part of why the man – May he rest in peace – was grateful was that I didn’t work in Al Ahram newspaper and didn’t take advantage of him like those who were close to him when he was CEO of Al Ahram, head of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate and had really strong connections with Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
Moreover, I remember – as it’s now history – that during one of the times when he ran elections to be the head of Journalists Syndicate, my friend Mr. Galal Aref was running elections for the same position. All Nasserists were in support of Aref while I sided with Nafae. I wrote an article in Al Ahram explaining my stance. As a result, I was attacked and suspended from writing in the Nasserist newspaper of Al Arabi in addition to the terrible insults that were hurled at me.
I’m not about to write an eulogy about the well-mannered late man who did not cease to help whoever asked for his help even if an enemy. Also, I’m not about to judge his role in journalism, Syndicate or the CEO position of Al Ahram newspaper. However, I’m about to provide an attempt to understand the complicated dramatic relation between the regime and journalism or more specific editors-in-chief and CEOs of press institutions.
As I think that what Ibrahim Nafae went through and his end, which I believe is tragic, was not due to him alone or due to his own free choice so that we can hold him accountable of all the consequences. However, it’s also due to the nature of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Although that regime may have inherited the deplorable journalistic and political situations from that of his predecessor Sadat, that regime had also his own marks that reflected on both politics and journalism and had them tainted with unprecedented negative aspects. We hope that those negative aspects do not continue to exit in the current regime.
As the then-well-known expression coined and which helped found most of the corruption was “having the papers well-prepared”; meaning that as long as the procedural and legal situation of the corrupt person is well-addressed and there is no concrete evidence condemning him, then he will not be held accountable no matter what he did. It was also said that whenever then-president Mubarak heard about an official taking advantage of his position, he used to ask a stating question saying: “Are his papers well-prepared or not?!” Also, it was known that the worst punishment any corrupt official, in specific high-ranking prominent ones, might receive was having the president making fun of him.
An example of this is that situation which many saw when Mubarak was in a visit to a press institution and asked his stating question saying: “Your paunch grew fatter, Kamal.” He meant Kamal ash-Shazli; then-secretary of planning of the NDP and a minister. The hint was about the increasing gains of ash-Shazli everyone knew about. Ash-Shazli then replied: “All is Halal, Mr. President”! Of course, we all know that inheritors of Kamal ash-Shazli had to concede considerable fortunes – as regarded by poor people like us – in order to settle the legal status of their father with investigating authorities.
In addition, final judicial verdicts and facts mentioned in investigations of such settlements proved that the big heads of that regime, including then-president Mubarak and his family, did not abstain from making illegitimate profits and enjoying enormous advantages in a country like ours suffering from very difficult economic and hence social circumstances. This is what happened when some press institutions gave costly lavish gifts to those big heads of that regime and so, some of those heading those institutions were later accused of corruption.
I know that the word “if” cannot be used in narrating history. However, I dare to say that if the regime and its big heads were immune against making such illegitimate profits and advantages, there would not have been such environment that necessitated offering lavish gifts in order to remain in positions such as an editor-in-chief or CEO of a press institution, since gifts were the key to guaranteeing holding such positions.
In my opinion, when Ibrahim Nafae used to work under a regime that did not open the door for such kind of profits or advantages; I mean the Nasserist regime which Mr. Heikal the prominent journalist was one of its known figures, he did not drift away into what he did later when things changed. I also believe that the current regime, through what we see of the conduct and course of its leader, will not open the door for such thing, either in press and media institutions in particular or state institutions in general.
May God have mercy over Mr. Nafae; the once-head of the Journalists Syndicate who stood firmly against attempts to slaughter our press and was a noble man even towards his enemies.
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on January 4, 2018.
To see the original article, go to:
#alahram #ahmed_elgammal #Egypt #Ibrahim_Nafae #press #journalism