When the staff and associates of Watani attended their Jubilee celebration last month, the mood was one of comradery and goodwill. The guests exchanging reminiscences held my attention even more than the speeches and honourable mentions from the stage; it was good to see them greeting one another so happily. The event drew together members of different generations and old friends who may not have seen each other for more than 20 years.
There were many stories to tell “I remember a funny one,” said Watani’s managing editor, Safwat Abdel-Halim. “I had the chance of an exclusive interview with Pope Shenouda III. It was 20 years ago, and it was published on two pages of Al-Mussawar magazine. The pope gave me a signed photograph of himself. When I got home my wife saw the photo and asked me if I would like to hang it on the wall. I told her I definitely would. But she said, “No, we will not hang it up because we receive many Coptic guests who might like it and ask to take it. So I will put it in a safer place; in my jewel case.” And there it still remains.
“We came together today to celebrate the jubilee with all the members of Watani, but I never expected that my father would be honoured”, said Bahga Salib Boutros expressing her gratefulness to Watani for remembering her father Salib Boutros who died in 2004. Dr Botrous was editor of the economy page of Watani since its inception in 1991. His weekly column Khawater Iqtissadiya (Economic Notions) brimmed with in-depth analyses of economic situations and problems on the local, regional and world-wide levels. He was instrumental in teaching and training an entire new generation of Watani economic affairs reporters, whom he gently guided with care and skill. “My father’s honouring comes for us at a critical time, just when we had lost faith that he would ever be granted the appreciation he deserves,” Ms Boutros said. “The national paper where my father worked all his life did not even care to print an obituary when he died.”
Still a mother
Lucy Awad, editor of the ‘Papers from the Good Old Days’ page, said Watani had helped her to be not just a professional journalist but a successful mother. “I never felt worried about my children while I was working as a journalist, even though it is a profession with no fixed time or place. It was Youssef Sidhom who allowed this when he set up a nursery for the children of Watani’s female staff. Actually, it was not just the nursery that gave me comfort but rather his understanding of the role and circumstances of the working mother.”