For people who cannot get their voices heard

The column is done and he’s pleased. People will notice it when it appears. He is sure. The West has given up on democracy in the Arab world, it says, and so it is time for people to do their own work.

The column will go out now to al Masry al Youm and six other newspapers across the Arab world. When his words are too strong for al Masry al Youm, he says he gives the column to al Destour. He is pleased that he will also be writing regularly for Newsweek magazine in Arabic.

He smiles. He likes, he says, being a “critic of public affairs, and being informative, and touching on unspoken lives.” He knows he is on the “right track,” he says, when he ruffles the authorities.

For exercising his freedom of expression, the elderly sociologist has paid a price.

He was found guilty by a court in 2001 of defaming Egypt, of receiving money from overseas without government approval, and other charges related to the work of the center that he had created, the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Social and Developmental Studies.

He was given seven years. On the third round of hearings, he was set free. He calculates that he served two years. He has had four operations since leaving prison. But he says he still suffers physically. Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim looks all of his 68 years and more.

His center is open again and as busy, he says, as over. It is a platform, he says, “for people who cannot get their voices heard.”

The door to his office at American University in Cairo swings opens constantly with a stream of students. He nods at their explanations, their eager plans. An author of numerous books, and one-time commentator on Egyptian television, he also once taught at DePauw University in Indiana.

First thing in the morning, he watches the news on CNN and then Sky News and then al Jazeera and then al Arabiya and then he reads al Ahram, and al Masry al Youm and al Destour and al Hayat and maybe some others. He squeezes in magazines in his spare time.

He likes the way al Hayat and al Shark al Awsat have raised the Arab media’s professionalism. He admires the progress made by the Lebanese and Kuwaiti news media.

He has hope for the Arab news media. But it is measured.

“It (the news media) is being changed from the periphery,” he says. “It is being reshaped and being reshaped at the edges.”




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