Head of General Egyptian Book Organisation resigns to mixed reactions

Mary Mourad , Sunday 2 Oct 2011

Ahmed Megahed's resignation amid workers' protests elicits mixed reactions, though on balance most appear to regret his departure


Ahmed Megahed, now former head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO), has submitted his resignation to Emad Abou-Ghazi, minister of culture, following protests Thursday by the print house workers that saw Megahed detained in his office.

Megahed’s resignation letter stated that he is content with what he accomplished in the last six months since he took over, but that it’s difficult to continue and make progress under the current conditions, thus it doesn’t make sense for him to continue in the post.

According to Megahed, the demands of print house workers cover activities that were not realised, such as the Cairo International Book Fair that was cancelled in January, and that such demands are out of his scope.

The reactions of intellectuals to the resignation were mixed. Those who were in favour of Megahed keeping his post mentioned his achievements during the Faysal Book Fair and the renewal of the Family Library project, in addition to new publications and the general upkeep of the activities of GEBO. Among this group were authors Gamal El-Ghitany, Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid and Osama Afifi. This group appreciates the demands of the workers, yet finds their cause to be a general issue that Megahed is not solely responsible for, and that should be tackled at a different level.

Mahmoud El-Wardany, writer and winner of the Sawiris Cultural Award 2010, stated that, “Megahed has proved his capabilities ever since taking a role in the establishment of the Popular Culture series, and since he moved to GEBO he was among the most active leaders and was able to manage the Faysal Book Fair with excellence. The disagreement with the workers should start with the appraisal of their issues, but this doesn’t mean stopping Megahed from working.”

Ibrahim Aslan, the renowned author and new head of the Family Library project, expressed regret at Megahed’s resignation, also announcing the postponement of the activities of the committee leading the project until things settle down. Aslan was appreciative of Megahed’s efforts, especially in pursuing new publications and in the renewal of old publications of deceased authors, as well as his contracting of printing to keep print houses running full time. Aslan confirmed that he stands by workers and anyone demanding their rights, but was dismayed when workers attempted to barricade Megahed in his office.

The statement from the Ministry of Culture yesterday indicated the minister refused to accept Megahed's resignation. However, Aslan understood Megahed's insistence on resigning following what happened.

Another group opposed to Megahed found his work lacking during recent months, failing to fulfill his promises, and failing to bring capable new faces to lead a number of publication series. Author Abdel-Nabi Farag saw Megahed as an extension of the old regime, and unable to bring anything new.

The debate is on as to the future leadership of GEBO, but so far it looks like there will be an empty space to fill for a while.

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