From the opinion page to the crime page

I always keep track of the opinion page in the Arab and foreign press! I used to – and still do – consider articles on this page to be (the brain of the community). The richer this page is, the deeper and the more secure and respectful the society is. Moreover, the more the writers are serious – especially young writers – the more vital and pure the society is! I have been a broadcaster in two television programs, both entitled “The Opinion”, the first of which, was in a submerged channel, during Mubarak’s era, and was a weekly program that presented articles in the Egyptian press. I used to prepare it with the help of my staff, when I had an office in Cairo, (before closing the office and dismissing its staff due to security conditions). I benefited from this experience a lot as this weekly program was a rehearsal for my second program, which was a successful television show from which the Egyptian and Arab viewers have benefited after the revolution. This first experience reached its end when the owner of the channel received a phone call from the State Security. It was the era of Hosni Mubarak. It was impossible for someone like me to continue working as a broadcaster in the era of this president. *** When I presented the daily version of CBC’s “Opinion” program, my vision towards the program was very clear. At that time, I was assisted by a small team whom I can describe as highly capable, tolerant and possess clear biases. This program was given a full year, from mid-2011 to mid-2012, and in this year, I hosted my own opponents whom I consider intellectuals (when they published important essays), our team work was working under the title, (looking for the good article … whoever its author is). Therefore, we showed bias towards young people at the expense of celebrities, revolution, at the expense of political balances, and people at the expense of any authority. *** On the third of July, the day of the military coup, pages of opinion were still enjoying their freedom. I remember that Al-Ahram newspaper had published the article by Dr. Hilmi Al-Jazar in the opinion page as it used to. Then began the writing prohibition …! For me … I was first banned from my daily article on the seventh day newspaper, then, after a couple of months I was banned from my weekly article in Al-Shorouk newspaper. Finally, and after appearing in one of the most famous programs, and announcing that we live under a complete military coup, I was banned even more severely than the case in Mubarak’s era. *** I still see that my real place is in an (opinion page) … I am a poet and a writer! But the authorities in our countries see that people like me should be on the crime page, therefore, my news – as well as those of my dear father and my dear family – are on the crime pages in Egypt and the Arab world’s press (funded by the oil’s billions). So, you read news about our conspiracies on our homelands, our financing of terroristic organizations that kill people from the police and the army … while we are simply people who belong to the (opinion page) …and nowhere else. We have only pens by which we write our opinions, we then thank those who appreciate them, we debate with those who oppose with it …. and we ignore those who use violence against us. Unless fabrications and lies, neither did the writer of these lines, nor did any member of his family, had ever called for violence, even though they prison women from his family and they confiscate his family’s funds … *** Whenever I go over the opinion page, which is now issued under the rule of the military, I feel sorry for the situation where we have reached. The distortion of people’s ideas is an unforgivable crime, but it is a necessity for such a filthy regime. We nowadays find people, who should be placed in a mental hospital, are writing for the opinion pages. For example, an official spokesman of the army who thinks that writing is a rank in the army, and who writes worse than a weak student in the middle school, is now given a column to literally write nonsense. The worst is that he dares to offend those who have lived with the pen, and who have spent their lives to defend the honour of writing … against those who defiled the honour of the military! Today’s opinion pages have become latrines for ideas, in which people who are not creative, have no qualifications to write, are writing anything. They write only what is dictated to them, or even add to please the rulers, even if the price is to waste lives, to spread out violence and abuse, to rape money, to increase homeless families, to exile the youth, to overpower citizens, to make the poor hungrier, and to offend a nation in order to meet the interests of its enemies. *** Have I over talked about myself? Perhaps … But we must know that our real place is (the opinion page), and from there we played our role among the masses, and attempts to exclude us from the opinion pages is an attempt to keep us away from people. At the end … no matter how hard those without an opinion try to impose their opinion on us, and turn us into criminals whose names are only mentioned in the pages of crime, … this will remain an emergency. Tyrants had sought to do the same thing dozens of times, and they failed, We will return to our normal place, because nations usually turn to the intellectuals when they find themselves in a crisis caused by traitors. Only intellectuals produce thoughts…! The worst thing about this situation is that the deletion of our names from the (opinion page) was at the expense of putting the entire nation in the (incidents page)! *** This is a grief that will soon disappear … God willing! I excuse whoever doubts that, but he is not right. And for those who perch on our homeland, I know their fate is to escape, or to fall into the hands of the angry masses, and then we will see them for the last time … On the front page! *** At the end, I say: Are you still puzzled …? I tell you to pay attention Endpoints usually approaches while it seems at a distant …! On the first page, we see you in a crown However, the same page will witness your escape in delight…! O lord of the fortified palace Watch out, we are behind you with stones and guns you are no more the leader but rather you are a fugitive! Translated by Dr. Iman Salama

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Abdel Rahman Youssef poet and Egyptian politician

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