Egypt mourns loss of two prominent journalists

Egyptian journalists and high state official figures mourn the death of a famous journalist and an equally famous literature critic. Magdi Mehana and Ragaa El Nakash both died of cancer and on the same day.
Egypt journalists RIP.jpg
Magdi Mehana and Ragaa El Nakash. R.R.

CAIRO, Feb. 13, 2008 (MENASSAT) –  Magdi Mehana, 52, finished out his life as a writer of a daily column, "The Prohibited," for the best-selling independent daily, Al Masry Al Youm, and as a TV talk-show presenter. Ragaa El Nakash, 74, was a prominent literature critic for Al Ahram.

Mehana's column, along with his TV program which holds the same title, made him a media celebrity in Egypt. His TV program was shown on Dream, a private TV channel. Audiences and readers of "The Prohibited" welcomed Mehana's voice as a dissident call for reform by a stalwart fighter against corruption, nepotism and patronage.

Both state-owned and independent newspapers said their farewells to the former journalists.

Opposition daily Al Dostour commented, "Magdi Mehani was an example of a journalist who takes the side of the truth... It is natural that his column in Al Masry Al Youm was the first that thousands were keen to follow." Nahdet Misr wrote, "The two knights... departed without knowing where Egypt is going."

In his own daily column, the editor-in-chief of Al Badeil (The Alternative), Mohamed Said, said: "Mehana was a rarely-found journalist in an age when everything can be bought and sold by simply filling a job vacancy." He added, writing about both the journalists, "Ragaa added a lot to Egyptian culture, as Magdi Mehani has added a lot to Egypt's journalism."

A mass official funeral mourned the two writers in the presence of prominent politicians and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum. Gamal Mubarak, the head of the political committee of the ruling National Democratic Party, attended with various figures from the state and the NDP surrounding him.

Mehana started his career at the weekly state-owned magazine, Rosal Yousef. From there he moved to the Leftist Al Ahaly. He later joined the liberal opposition El Wafd party daily newspaper, ending his career there as editor-in-chief. Five years ago he was chosen as the editor-in-chief of the daily independent, Al Masry Al Youm. He reserved a corner of that paper's back page for his own column. "The Prohibited" has appeared every day since the formation of the newspaper and only recently disappeared because of Mehana's illness. Its space has been left blank since his death as a tribute to Mehana.

The columnist's liver cancer hindered his writing and ultimately led to his death. His battle with liver-failure started in 2006. After doctors realized that he suffered from Virus C, which attacks the liver and causes cirrhosis of the liver, he was obliged to undergo a liver transplant operation. Unfortunately, his new liver did not function any better. More recently, his liver was attacked by cancer. He underwent chemo-therapy until his death early in February of 2008.

His column during his last three years was often written from a hospital bed. "He reached out to his readers from his Intensive Care Unit room after his chemo-therapy treatment sessions," said Mahmoud el-Mateiny, Mehana's physician.  "The pain was so cruel, but he was strong. He was the strongest patient I've met during my professional life; he was bold, strong and courageous about his fate."

Ragaa El Nakash, 74, was a well-known literature critic.  His last job as a writer was for the state-owned Al Ahram daily newspaper. El Nakash has been a remarkable critic as well as the author of many books on Arabic literature. The author of "Thirty Years among Poets and Poetry" and "Between the Left and the Right" always wrote about the realm of literature.  He introduced many Arab writers and poets to his readers. He was the one who presented the now-famous Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, and the Sudanese novelist, el-Tayeb Saleh to the Arab public.