Author: TURKI AL-FAISAL
Wednesday 21 April 2010
This issue was discussed in a meeting between the late Sheikh Kamal Adham, chairman of the foreign communications office, Hisham Ali Hafiz (a colleague in the office) and myself, then deputy chairman of the office.
Hisham came up with the idea to establish an English newspaper. H.E. Sheikh Kamal Adham raised the suggestion with the late King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz. Early 1394H (1974), the royal approval was issued with clear directions to discuss the matter with the then minister of information, the late Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Anqari. H.E. Sheikh Kamal Adham entrusted me with the assignment. I met with the late minister who immediately supported the idea.
After a series of meetings between Adham, Hisham and myself we decided to name the newspaper Arab News to take an Arab and international dimension. The newspaper made a unique local breakthrough because it was issued by a company with limited liability outside the framework of the Publications Regulations which governed all local newspapers at the time.
The search was simultaneously started for a chief editor. Our choice went for Jihad Al-Khazen who was working for Al-Hayat newspaper and who had also worked for the English press in Lebanon.
Since its very first edition, Arab News was professional and independent. It expanded the base of its readership by publishing news of interest to the foreign communities living in Saudi Arabia, especially those from Asia.
The immediate wide circulation achieved by the newspaper tempted the founders to consider establishing an Arabic-language newspaper to address the Arab world and be independent of the Saudi identity. It was Hisham Ali Hafiz (may his soul rest in peace) who made the proposal.
The founders depended on the galaxy of journalists who assembled to publish Arab News, including Jihad Al-Khazen, to prepare for the launching of the new publication. Muhammad Ali Hafiz joined hands with his late brother Hisham to publish the new newspaper.
It was agreed that the new publication would be published from London and would be published simultaneously in Jeddah through satellites. I suggested to the founders that the new publication should be green, a color that would distinguish it from other newspapers and at the same time indicate its origin, which is Saudi Arabia.
After lengthy discussions, we agreed that the new publication be named Asharq Al-Awsat and should be truthful and credible in its news and in its addressing of the Arab mentality. We also made it a point that the newspaper should be free from any demagogic utterances and any empty rhetorical propaganda which characterized the other Arabic publications at the time.
From a humble newspaper with readership not exceeding hundreds of people, Arab News soon became the No. 1 newspaper among its peers in the Middle East. It is the most widely circulated English language newspaper published between Western Europe and Asia.
Arab News is the mother of all of the publications of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) which all pursued its pattern of credibility, truthfulness and sincerity and in being free of demagogic and flagrant propaganda.
— Prince Turki Al-Faisal is the chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. He is the former ambassador to the UK and US.