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Assem's early career disappointment

I was on standby in Rome to cover the 1967 Six-Day War but by the time I got an Egyptian visa, hostilities had ended. In Cairo, I was advised by older members of the staff not to discuss the war with Assem Abdel-Mohsen who seemed more badly affected by Egypt’s humiliating defeat than others.

I was careful when talking to Assem but he soon made me laugh. He told me of how he tried to spread the word about female genital mutilation by writing a feature story about it for Reuters. Muriel Penn, the features editor who joined Reuters in the 1930s, sent it back to him with the curt note: “This is obscene. We cannot use it.”

Assem recovered from this early disappointment to become head in the 1980s of Reuters’ Arabic Service, one of the main sources of impartial international and regional news in the Arab world. ■