Prominent journalist and writer Salah Montasser passed away on Sunday at 89 after suffering from severe health complications over the past three months. He was admitted to the intensive care unit at a Cairo hospital last week.
Montasser was considered one of Al-Ahram newspaper’s most famous opinion writers, with his daily column “Just an Opinion”, which he continued to write for nearly half a century discussing many political and societal issues and awareness campaigns, including his famed and extensive drive against smoking. His straightforward and analytical style in writing attracted wide readership in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world to his daily column.
Funeral prayers were performed on Monday noon at Omar Makram Mosque in Tahrir Square where hundreds attended including Al-Ahram writers, top state officials, and a large number of intellectuals.
Prayers started in the early hours of the morning at Al-Ahram headquarters where members of Al-Ahram family gathered to bid Montasser a final farewell. His body was draped with the flag of the Al-Ahram press establishment in recognition of Montasser’s contributions to Al-Ahram for nearly six decades. “We lost one of the most important symbols of a patriotic press, a writer who dedicated his life to defending his country, placing its interest above any other consideration,” Abdel-Mohsen Salama, the chairman of Al-Ahram Establishment, said in his eulogy.
The veteran writer was born in the coastal city of Damietta. Montasser, a law graduate from Ain Shams University, started his press career at the daily Akhbar Al-Youm and Akher Saa magazine. In the late 1950s, he joined Al-Ahram, working with iconic writer Mohamed Hasanein Heikal who viewed Montasser as a promising journalist. At an early age, Montasser founded the feature pages at Al-Ahram. He was also close to writer Abdel-Wahab Motawee.
In addition to his daily article, Montasser enriched the Arab library with his valuable writings that discussed social and political issues. Among his works are Tawfik Al-Hakim in his Last Testimony, The People sit on the Throne, Speech in Lost Time, Those who Changed the 20th Century, From Orabi to Abdel-Nasser: A New Reading of History, and Good Morning Country, and My Journey to the End of the World. In 2011, Montasser published Rise and Fall from Podium to Court, a book which highlighted the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime that year.
Montasser was a member of the Supreme Council of the Press and chairman of the board of directors of the Egypt-based Arab Media Centre. He also served for nine years until 1994 as chief editor of the political-social October magazine. He also chaired the board of Dar Al-Maaref for Printing and Publishing. Moreover, Montasser was a member of the Shura Council for almost two decades starting from 1989.
The Foreign Ministry mourned the death of the journalist, saying “he was one of the eminent intellectual figures of journalism, with a free pen defending the just causes of his homeland.” In a statement issued on Monday, the Supreme Council of Media Regulation lamented the loss of “one of the most important writers who was an example of hard work and patriotism.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.