Wednesday,21 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)
Wednesday,21 November, 2018
Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Obituary: Egypt loses its furious critic Hamdi Qandil (1936-2018)

Obituary: Egypt loses its furious critic Hamdi Qandil (1936-2018)
Obituary: Egypt loses its furious critic Hamdi Qandil (1936-2018)
Al-Ahram Weekly

Veteran Egyptian journalist, TV host, political activist and controversial rabble-rouser Hamdi Qandil closed his eyes for the last time on Wednesday 31 October after a long battle with illness at the age of 82. The distinguished writer carved his name in Egypt’s journalism history as one of the most decent, daring anchors whose speaking of the truth was the goal that most mattered to him in the TV programmes he hosted and the articles he wrote.

Qandil hosted several TV shows aired on various private and state-owned channels, including Aqwal Al-Suhuf (In the Press) and Raais Tahrir (Editor-in-Chief), which were aired on Egypt’s national TV channel, and Qalam Rosas (Pencil), which was aired on Dubai TV.

His nationalist and Nasserist leanings together with his fierce criticism of Arab leaders were obvious in his articles, published in several local newspapers, including Al-Shorouk and Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Born to a middle class family as the oldest of five siblings, Qandil spent his early childhood in Tanta where he started developing his reading and writing passion. As a top-marks student, he was enrolled in medical school which he soon left for the sake of journalism.

He opened his eyes on criticism at a young age, when he was still in school, writing an article for a local newspaper in Tanta criticising King Farouk for purchasing the yacht Al-Mahrousa for LE1 million. The article was not published and he was fired from the newspaper. It was just the start of a long journey of being axed for crossing several red lines.

In college, Qandil with the help of colleagues established the college’s official magazine whose first edition was confiscated due to an article he wrote criticising the university’s professors and regulations.

He started his professional career in the 1950s as a journalist at Akher Saa (Last Hour) magazine, based on the request of Egypt’s journalism pillar Mustafa Amin.

He also managed the Department of the Free Flow of Information and Communication Policies for UNESCO from 1974 to 1986. He was one of the co-founders of the Saudi-owned MBC channel which he left three months after its launch due to political differences with its management. He hosted a programme at the Saudi-financed Arab Radio and Television channel (ART) under the name Maa Hamdi Qandil (With Hamdi Qandil) which was soon cancelled due to his plans to host controversial figures, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who were not on good terms with the Saudi regime.

He returned to Egyptian TV in the late 1990s to present Raais Tahrir, the weekly press review analysing current affairs. With millions of people watching, it was one of the most popular talk shows of the decade. Fiercely supporting the second Palestinian Intifada and furiously condemning the silence of the Arab world towards Israel’s brutalities led to the suspension of one of the programme’s episodes only a few minutes after it went on air. 

In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Qandil talked about his experience in the talk show, saying he wanted to deliver a message to the people who are silenced, yet censorship stood in between.

“I found that getting people to speak on the issue would be nonsense. I decided to say a few words to the Arab people, but about one-quarter of the messages were censored,” Qandil told the Weekly.

He added that censors cut out his questioning of why Israeli flags are flying in some Arab countries and his call on the Arab public to boycott anything American.

His audience continued following him on Dubai TV where he hosted another popular show, Qalam Rosas which was again more than Arab regimes would tolerate.

Qandil started to write weekly columns for daily Egyptian newspapers, including Al-Masry Al-Youm and then Al-Shorouk.

He played an important role in the political scene during the build-up to the 2011 Revolution and beyond. In 2010, the Nasserist activist co-founded the National Association for Change, headed by Mohamed Al-Baradei, aiming at reforming the Mubarak regime. Two years later, he declared his support for the Egyptian Popular Current opposition movement, established by former Nasserist, presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi.

Qandil was married to movie star Naglaa Fathi who proposed to him only three months after they met each other.

Nada Zaki

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