1985 was the year in which I first visited him in his office on the firth floor of the Arab Press House in London. That was the same day that I joined the team of journalists of Al-Majala magazine, the twin publication of Asharq Al Awsat newspaper. I thought that I knew a lot about him prior to meeting him, but I was stunned by this character and outstanding figure. I realized then that he had numerous enemies and even more lies told about him. However, for those who knew and worked with him, he was an extremely popular figure.
Before getting to know him, I had many preconceptions about Hisham Hafez that were rather negative. This was no surprise as Hisham Hafez was one of the publishers of the Saudi Research and Marketing, which owns Asharq Al Awsat newspaper. This title causes its holder to become one of the main subjects of political and journalist conferences all over the world, with conversations always flavored by insinuations and direct accusations. When Asharq Al Awsat newspaper was first issued, it was a major media event and Hisham himself was the most controversial of media figures, challenging and violating the conventional. He adopted an air of change in Arab media unlike any other media figure. With a huge media and journalism corporation, he had shaken other journals and completely changed the map of Arab media, raising high above all his critics.
The first lesson I learned from Hisham Hafez was that most news that circulates between people is not always correct, no matter how much these people agree upon this news. Controversies and debates had surrounded Hisham throughout his life, yet disputes failed to defer his efforts or defame him. As for the media, Hisham Hafez was a pioneer in renovating Arab media. He was creative, resourceful and adopted valiant methods in developing media. If any figure within the Arab media were to be labeled a rebel, it is definitely Hisham Hafez.
Hafez, also known as Abu Qaswara, had survived courageously a war in which valor is the prerequisite for success. He had created new ideas that we are currently witnessing in media, however this glory has been attributed to institutions and figures external to the field and that had no impact upon people.
What was inspiring in his character was that pressures never hindered him but rather pushed him towards a challenge and this challenge had driven him to increase the number of publications of his company, defying advice and challenging his opponents. As soon as he finished one battle, he mobilized his powers to get involved in another. The more we advised him to take a rest, the more determined he would become. Eventually, we became accustomed to his courage and his ways that made him victorious in his battles. Even when he did lose, however, he would not regret. He always advised me not to worry in any crisis in which I was involved.
It was he who taught me to fight and to take criticism on board, and at all times, he would advise me to be stronger. During the years in which we worked together, he had never rejected any of my ideas, suggestions or even journalistic battles. As tough a man and fierce competitor as he was, he was emotional. This sentimentalism made him an easy catch for others as they used his impressionability and his unlimited benevolence to serve their own interests.
His negative power and anger were always transformed into beautiful ideas, projects and battles. We knew him as one with good taste at work and in the office. In short, he was a much-loved figure.
We wish upon him God’s mercy. To say farewell to him fills our hearts with deep sorrow.