Thursday,18 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)
Thursday,18 April, 2019
Issue 1375, (4-10 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Ibrahim Nafie (1934-2018) A pillar of the establishment

#Ibrahim Nafie (1934-2018) A pillar of the establishment # Nafie in a visit to Al-Ahram Weekly with Founder Hosny Guindy and staff
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At the end of a long journey in which his name was firmly associated with one of the most prominent news establishments in the Arab world over the last two centuries, Ibrahim Nafie, former chairman of the board of Al-Ahram, passed away in the early hours of 1 January 2018.

Nafie was being treated at a hospital in Dubai in the UAE, where he had undergone consecutive intestinal surgery in December to fight a recurrence of the cancer with which he had earlier been diagnosed and for which he had received treatment. 

His funeral was scheduled for Wednesday 3 January, and the condolence ceremony is to be held today, Thursday 4 January.

Nafie had been living outside of Egypt for the past five years. The official reason for his abrupt departure shortly after the 25 January Revolution was the need for medical treatment in Paris. However, there were also legal issues surrounding his management of Al-Ahram during his years as chairman of the board, which started in 1984 and ended in 2005.

The close working relationship that Nafie established over the years with senior figures in the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, including Mubarak himself, prompted questions about the role of the chairman of the board of Al-Ahram during the period.

It was said at the time that Mubarak himself had been angered by the Arabic edition of Al-Ahram reprinting an interview that Mubarak had accorded to a Kuwaiti newspaper in which he had discussed what was then widely known as “the succession scenario” including speculation about the future role of Gamal Mubarak, Mubarak’s younger son and a prominent figure in the regime as chair of the former ruling National Democratic Party after 2002.

According to some, there were plans to allow members of Al-Ahram who were closely associated with Gamal Mubarak to take up leading posts in anticipation of a modernisation plan for the nation’s leading press establishment, along with other state-run media establishments such as Al-Akhbar and Dar Al-Tahrir.

Nafie himself chose not to speak publicly about the matter, even after the initiation of legal action against him over his financial management of Al-Ahram shortly after the end of his term as chairman of the board.

Between 1979 and 2005, Nafie acted to secure access by Al-Ahram to the leading decision-making circles of the country. Having himself been an economy reporter and later editor of the daily paper, Nafie made sure that Al-Ahram covered both the top political and economic news, especially with the launch of the first wave of economic reforms in Egypt in the early 1990s. 

His columns in the daily Al-Ahram were well informed and carefully followed as important windows into the plans of decision-making circles in Cairo at this crucial time. 

Nafie also ensured that Al-Ahram had rich and diverse opinion pages, with the country’s most important commentators writing for the paper. Wide coverage of international news and a carefully expanded network of Al-Ahram overseas bureaus in leading world capitals also gave the paper additional weight. 

Nafie invested generously in the travel of reporters to secure first-hand coverage of world news for Al-Ahram.

As chairman of the board, Nafie dedicated a great deal of attention to one of Al-Ahram’s most important assets: the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, whose publications were expanded to cover the changing political and economic aspects of the post-Cold War world as well as of the post-Oslo Accords Middle East.

Nafie also acted to re-launch Al-Ahram itself, not just as the most-prominent and best-informed daily in the country, but also as a media establishment putting out publications in English (Al-Ahram Weekly) and French (Al-Ahram Hebdo) and special publications on broader Arab and economic affairs. 

To accommodate these expanding operations, Nafie secured larger and more advanced print and office space and appointed journalists trained for these new publications.

He was elected six consecutive times as head of the Press Syndicate, using the position and his extensive contacts in the state apparatus to secure significant benefits for syndicate members.  

Despite his exceptional relationship with the country’s ruling circles, Nafie never let syndicate members down when it came to core issues like freedom of expression. 

In 1995, he immediately associated himself with journalists who rejected proposed legislation that would have restricted freedom of expression. He joined syndicate members in rallies against the law and held meetings with members of the country’s executive and legislature to secure the efficient management of the crisis.

Following the 25 January Revolution, Nafie along with several successors in the post of chairman of the board of Al-Ahram, faced legal charges over overspending on gifts for members of the executive and leading clients of the Al-Ahram Advertising Agency. At the time of his death he had not been found guilty or acquitted of the charges.

Nafie was born on 12 January 1934 in Suez and graduated from the Mass Communication Department of Ain Shams University in Cairo. Before joining Al-Ahram, he worked for several other publications and news agencies.

Nafie’s legacy will be subject to various estimations of his roles as a journalist, chairman of the board, and head of the Press Syndicate. At Al-Ahram itself, he will be remembered for his faith in the establishment and his support for its members.  

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