For as long as 13 years, one of Egypt’s prominent writers Mahfouth al-Ansari, kept the reason why he was fired a secret. Well he was forced not to attest Gamal Mubarak’s wrongdoing on his behalf.
But now he can, and we are all eagerly curious to know the secrets (I assume), after all, the world community was going forth and back mulling on whether the toppled president’s younger son really was up to go to the presidential palace as its head.
Mr. Ansari cited in an article that first appeared in al-Jumhuriya newspaper last Thursday, a phone call conversation he had with Gamal Mubarak that took place years before the toppling of his father in 1998.
The phone call shows Gamal’s coveting of power, his yearning to inherit his father’s presidency and his working behind his father’s back to gain the presidency, and most importantly his decision to control his father’s announcements, statements to the media.
Mr. Ansari’s disclosing the phone call conversation made it his first public exposure after years of absence from his last post as the editor-in-chief of Egypt’s official news agency Asharq al-Awsat, which he was forced to leave under a 24 hours short notice, because Gamal said so.
Gamal’s phone call to Mr. Ansari came after al-Ahram newspaper published headlines in 1998 saying that the toppled president had no intention to amend the constitution.
Before the headlines, Mr. Ansari was among other editorial heads in a meeting on a plane with the ousted president.
Early morning Mr. Ansari said he received a phone call from Gamal inquiring on how some headlines made it up on al-Ahram’s front page, and accusing his agency of being the source of the news.
“I do not write in al-Ahram, and the news agency that I head has only an inside news bulletin which only our subscribers see and my agency does not carry headlines, whether controversial or non controversial,” Mr. Ansari told Gamal.
“How is that possible? Head of al-Ahram told me what has been written was by you, and the source was your agency,” Gamal continued.
“Probably you mean the meeting and the conversation that took place between the president and the editorial heads days ago on the presidential plane?” Mr. Ansari replied.
According to Mr. Ansari, it appeared that Gamal just returned from abroad, and he was bombarded with reports prepared by his agents.
But due to Gamal’s surprise, Mr. Ansari told him that on the plane, that none of his colleagues or himself asked the toppled president about the constitution’s amendment, it was the president who chose to speak about the subject.
According to Mr. Ansari, the former president described those who called for the constitution amendment as “minority,” and that the meeting included different topics and all have been published and aired in the country’s newspapers, radio and TV.
“Fine, ‘we’ believe that the president said this, but why did you publish it and broadcast it? Especially that is incorrect and wrong, and the some articles of the constitution will be amended as soon as we can,” the son replied, nullifying every word his father said to the well-established editors.
“How can we possibly know what the president said is correct or incorrect, and is it possible for editorial heads or others to work as supervisors for the president and moderate if there is any difference between the country’s leadership….it is better to put the media in the picture, to put at least hint over what you want to say to alleviate any misunderstand?” Mr. Ansari replied him.
But Gamal shunned Mr. Ansari, and decided to institute changes in the Egyptian media, and most importantly he ended the long open meetings the media personals had with the president.
Gamal later changed leading heads of the Egyptian media, and ended Mr. Ansari’s 50 years journalism career, only to have puppet journalists whom he could place around as he can do so for his chess pieces, and with salaries depending on their loyalties given to-be President Gamal.
But Gamal’s plan was ruptured by the revolution swept Egypt, liberating the media.
(Dina Al-Shibeeb, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: email@example.com)