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Obituary: Ibrahim Al Abed, an inspirational journalist

Obituary: Ibrahim Al Abed, an inspirational journalist

Al Abed, founder of the Emirates News Agency WAM, passed away on October 20

Ibrahim Al Abed

Ibrahim Al Abed, founder of the Emirates News Agency WAM and former director general of the National Media Council (NMC), died at home in Abu Dhabi on October 20. He was 78.

The tributes paid to him on his death reflected the respect with which he was widely held. His contribution to the UAE media scene and his knowledge of the country is unparalleled. His dedication to the country is well-known. His generosity of spirit and his humility made him an inspiration to all of those who had the good fortune to work with him.

Born in the village of Sephoria, near Nazareth, in 1941, Ibrahim Al Abed became a refugee in 1948, when his family fled to Lebanon. He grew up there, being educated in UNRWA schools and then at the American University of Beirut.

After graduating, he worked as deputy director of the Palestine Research Centre before moving to the United Arab Emirates in 1975 to take up the post of head of the External Information Department at the Ministry of Information and Culture.

In the 45 years that followed, he first established WAM, which he ran for many years. He became an adviser to successive ministers of Information and Culture, including Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamed, Khalfan Al Roumi and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, moving on to become director general of the National Media Council in 2004. He held that post until 2015, when he became adviser to the NMC’s chairman.

Over the decades, Ibrahim Al Abed not only did all this; he also built strong relations both with local media and with foreign journalists, with a contact list that ran into the thousands. He used those links to tell the story of the UAE’s development to the world, ever ready to help with advice and with opening doors to allow the media to write their stories.

He also worked closely with local publishers of magazines and books, helping them to navigate the often complex and changing waters of an evolving regulatory system.

He was a firm believer in the principle that a vibrant and lively media was an essential component in the process of the UAE’s economic and social development. In that context, he was a source of wise counsel to Motivate Publishing for nearly 40 years.

Ian Fairservice, founder and managing partner of Motivate Media Group says: “Ibrahim was a wonderful journalist and a highly respected writer. Dedicated to his craft, he was inspirational and provided invaluable guidance and encouragement during the many years that I had the honour of knowing and working with him.”

An accomplished author, Al Abed had already written over a dozen books before coming to the Emirates. For many years, he was co-editor or editor of the annual yearbooks produced by the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Media Council and also co-edited The United Arab Emirates – a new perspective, an important collection of essays on the country’s history and development.

Among many awards and honours, he received the Abu Dhabi Award in 2018.

Peter Hellyer first met Ibrahim Al Abed in 1969 and had been a close colleague and friend since they both arrived in the Emirates in 1975.

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