Veteran Arab News reporter signs off after 31 years as a journalist in Saudi Arabia

Mohammed Rasooldeen
Updated 20 April 2018

Veteran Arab News reporter signs off after 31 years as a journalist in Saudi Arabia

  • Mohammed Rasooldeen began his career at a young age in his native Sri Lanka, before moving to the Kingdom in 1987

JEDDAH: Arab News recently said goodbye to Mohammed Rasooldeen, a senior reporter in its Riyadh bureau, who has retired after a journalism career in Saudi Arabia stretching back more than 30 years.

He first arrived in Saudi Arabia from Sri Lanka in 1987, when he joined the now defunct "Riyadh Daily" English-language newspaper.

“The newspaper was only two years old at the time, in its infancy,” said Rasooldeen. “It was a tough time for us to try to popularize the newspaper when Arab News had already taken deep roots.

“It was a great struggle to raise the profile of the paper but it became a popular daily among the expat and diplomatic communities. We drew them in with a page called ‘Diplomat's Corner,’ where we published stories and photographs of their diplomatic events.

“I also edited a weekly supplement in Tamil called Tamil Malar, which was a big hit among the Tamil speaking community in the Kingdom. Talaat Wafa and Dr. Saad Al-Bazei were the best editors in chief of "Riyadh Daily" I served under during the time.”

On Dec. 31, 2003, "Riyadh Daily" was closed down by its publisher, Al-Yamamah Press Establishment.

“No sooner had it ceased publishing than Khaled Almaeena, the editor in chief of Arab News, called and asked me to work for the newspaper,” said Rasooldeen. “Almaeena gave me more than enough support to carry out my duties at Arab News with ease and great satisfaction.

“It was an interesting job to work as a senior reporter in the capital. It was a great opportunity to meet foreign leaders, diplomats and distinguished visitors who came to the Kingdom. Since Arab News was well established, my reports reached a wider audience."

Rasooldeen’s native Sri Lanka was never far from his thoughts, though. He started working there at a young age as a freelance reporter for national dailies, eventually becoming editor of the Iqra newspaper, which was published in three languages — Sinhala, Tamil and English — through the Maligawatta Young Men’s Muslim Association.

The Sri Lankan government honored him with a national Best Journalist award. He was also principal of a government college in Colombo, of Darussalam College, and Kotahena Senior Secondary College.

“In parallel with the news reporting in Saudi Arabia, I was able to serve my Sri Lankan community as well,” said Rasooldeen. “I was one of those responsible for setting up the Sri Lankan Expats Society, for which I served as its president. I also served the community school as chairman of the board of directors.”

Rasooldeen has seen some remarkable changes in Saudi Arabia in the 31 years since he arrived.

“When I came to the Kingdom I was in early 40s and now I am over 70,” he said. “Riyadh has witnessed tremendous changes and developments in its physical structures.

“The new economic reforms introduced by the government have paved the way for more confidence among the Saudi young men and women.”

Although his time as a journalist for Arab News has come to an end, he believes the future is rosy for the newspaper.

“Under Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas I can see a bright future for Arab News,” said Rasooldeen. “He has not only given the newspaper a new look but also the content has been changed to deliver a wider coverage. The newspaper looks very attractive and readable, and is covering a wider range of stories."


US media questions Bezos hacking claims

Updated 25 January 2020

US media questions Bezos hacking claims

  • Experts said while hack “likely” occurred, investigation leaves too many “unanswered questions”
  • Specialists on Thursday said evidence was not strong enough to confirm

LONDON: An investigation into claims that the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was hacked has been called into question by cybersecurity experts and several major US media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Associated Press (AP).

Specialists on Thursday said evidence from the privately commissioned probe by FTI Consulting is not strong enough for a definitive conclusion, nor does it confirm with certainty that his phone was actually compromised.

The Wall Street Journal reported, late on Friday: “Manhattan federal prosecutors have evidence indicating Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend provided text messages to her brother that he then sold to the National Enquirer for its article about the Inc. founder’s affair, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Experts said while a hack “likely” occurred, the investigation leaves too many “unanswered questions,” including how a hack happened or which spyware program was used, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Steve Morgan, founder and editor-in-chief of New York-based Cybersecurity Ventures, said the probe makes “reasonable assumptions and speculations,” but does not claim 100 percent certainty or proof.

UK-based cybersecurity consultant Robert Pritchard said: “In some ways, the investigation is very incomplete … The conclusions they’ve drawn, I don’t think, are supported by the evidence. They veered off into conjecture.”

Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook, wrote that the FTI probe is filled with “circumstantial evidence but no smoking gun.”

Matt Suiche, a Dubai-based French entrepreneur and founder of cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies, told AP that the malicious file is presumably still on the hacked phone because the investigation shows a screenshot of it.

If the file had been deleted, he said the probe should have stated this or explained why it was not possible to retrieve it. “They’re not doing that. It shows poor quality of the investigation,” Suiche added.

Reports on Wednesday suggested that Saudi Arabia was involved in the phone of Bezos being hacked after he received a WhatsApp message sent from the personal account of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi Embassy in the US denied the allegations, describing them as “absurd.” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan called the accusations “purely conjecture” and “absolutely silly,” saying if there was real evidence the Kingdom looked forward to seeing it.

A Wall Street Journal report quoted forensics specialists as saying the FTI investigation’s claims that Saudi Arabia was behind any possible hacking of the phone “appeared to forgo investigatory steps.”

CNN reported that critics of the probe highlighted a “lack of sophistication” in it, quoting Sarah Edwards, an instructor at the SANS Institute, as saying: “It does seem like (FTI) gave it a good try, but it seems they’re just not as knowledgeable in the mobile forensics realm as they could have been.”

The New York Times said the probe tried to find links between the possible hacking of the phone and an article in the National Enquirer about the Amazon CEO’s extramarital affair with Lauren Sanchez, but any link remains “elusive.”

National Enquirer owner American Media said in a statement regarding the source of the leak on Sanchez’s involvement with Bezos: “The single source of our reporting has been well documented, in September 2018 Michael Sanchez began providing all materials and information to our reporters. Any suggestion that a third party was involved in or in any way influenced our reporting is false.”