Media and Development Conference III: Abeer Saady :“I wanted to be a newspaper”

 The tables are turned: journalist Abeer Saady interviewed herself

By Hassnae Bouazza

1979: the schoolmistress in the First form asked her pupils what they wanted to be later in life. A small girl replied that, later, when she was grown up, she would like to be to be a newspaper. Giggles in class. The girl, saddened, left the room. The teacher followed her and said a few comforting words to her.


 “You meant that you want to be a journalist?” “No, I want to be a newspaper.” The teacher explained that this was not possible, but then the girl told her that her mummy and daddy occasionally did not play with her because they were reading the paper. And as she wanted her parents to pay full attention to her and give her all the time she wanted, she wanted to be a newspaper. Her parents would then devote all their time and attention to her, rather than to the paper.


2008: The girl has developed into the deputy editor foreign affairs and column writer of the Egyptian newspaper Al Akhbar. Abeer Saady is a successful journalist who has specialized in many varied fields and writes with the same ease about Islamic society as about technical subjects, such as the construction of a new metro network in Cairo.


Now that Abeer has made her dream come true and has distinguished herself as a professional journalist, she wants to give the new generation of colleagues an opportunity to develop within the profession by organizing training sessions, so that they will be given the guidance and feedback that is still not available: “We do have good journalists, but no trainers.” Abeer herself has learned a great deal from the courses she has followed at Free Voice. She followed the first course in Jordan and later she attended other courses in various Arab countries. She picked up a lot of knowledge and ideas and met fellow-journalists there.


She tells of an experience she had in New York, where she reported on a large demonstration. At a given moment one of the demonstrators came up to her and broke her jaw. During a later course she learned how to protect her own safety; this lesson took her back to the moment in New York: if, at the time, she had known how to react in such a situation. she could have defended herself better and avoid a broken jaw.


 Everything she has learned thus far, all her experiences, combined with those of her colleagues, is something she wants to pass on the new generation of journalists so that the level and the quality of journalism can be improved. The question is how high this level can be if the freedom of the press is under threat in the Arab countries. Abeer believes that it is important for journalists to be able to expose abuses and corruption, thus opening up discussion; once that has succeeded, democratisation will follow automatically.


Moreover, she feels that freedom of the press goes hand in hand with responsibility and that the distinction between bloggers who dominate the internet and who - until recently – were able to escape the government’s clutches, and journalists is that the latter deal responsibly and professionally with information. At present Abeer is a very enthusiastic member of the board of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, the first woman in eight years to be elected. She takes this sign of trust and the responsibility it entails very seriously. She spends all her time working; she has not yet reached the stage of starting a family. It seems to be the inevitable price which many Arab career women have to pay for their ambitions, but Abeer is optimistic. She makes it quite clear that love cannot be enforced, but should she meet the right person, someone with respect for her professional dedication, she will not hesitate to join him in matrimony. In the end she believes that you have succeeded in life only when you have started a family. Abeer turns out to be a fast career woman with a traditional heart.