Up close and personal with Weam Al-Dakheel, the first woman to anchor the main news bulletin in Saudi Arabia

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Weam Al-Dhakeel
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Al-Dhakeel with some young fans. (Supplied)
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Al-Dhakeel interviews the actor Wagner Moura. (Supplied)
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Al-Dhakeel interviews the footballer Thierry Henry. (Supplied)
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Al-Dhakeel interviews the musician Jean-Michel Jarre (Supplied)
Updated 02 October 2018

Up close and personal with Weam Al-Dakheel, the first woman to anchor the main news bulletin in Saudi Arabia

  • Al-Dakheel is not only a high-flier on screen, but off is as well as she is also an operations manager at Saudi television.
  • As a journalist, she aims to document the changes currently occurring in her country.

RIYADH: At the age of 8, Weam Al-Dakheel used to rush downstairs every morning to read the newspapers that her father had delivered to their home. “I would challenge myself and read them upside down,” she recalls.
So when it became time to choose a career, it was clear which direction she was heading in.
Born in Morocco, raised in Jeddah, and having studied in Lebanon, Al-Dakheel now lives in Riyadh and is the first woman to anchor the main evening news on Saudi TV. Al-Dakheel has an interesting and varied background, and one that she’s proud of. “It helped shape me,” she said.
Al-Dakheel is not only a high-flyer in front of the cameras; few people know that she’s also the operations manager at Saudi TV.
“I work from the heart,” she said. “The ‘title’ of being the first can either break you or make you. It can also be a fresh start or beginning. It’s a big responsibility. I’m aware of my passion, and with awareness comes responsibility.” Al-Dakheel said she doesn’t feel pressure, but is more focused on how she manages her time.
Before reaching the heights at Saudi TV, Al-Dakheel transitioned through many stages of journalism to find her passion. She was editor-in-chief of a student publication at the American University in Beirut, which she fondly recalls as having shaped her as a journalist.
When there was no “news” to publish, they went out and found it. The student journalists went out found people with interesting stories and let them talk about their experiences. “I listened when they spoke and poured their hearts out,” Al-Dakheel said.
She recalls the story of a homeless man that she saw every day on the streets. What struck her most about him was his intellect and use of sophisticated words, which suggested there was more to him than met the eye. “We found out later he was a doctor and we wanted to interview him, but the next day he was gone. That experience taught me to never to judge people based on their appearance.”
After cutting her professional teeth as an intern at Al-Hayat, the pan-Arab daily newspaper, Al-Dakheel worked as a news presenter at Al-Arab News Channel in Bahrain. She was also a TV reporter for CNBC Arabia from September 2012 to November 2013, which was when she found her calling. “I realized that I preferred TV to written journalism,” she said.
Al-Dakheel grew up in an intellectual household, with parents who loved to read and were avid followers of what was going on in the world. Family gatherings consisted of discussions about regional and international issues, debating their areas of interest, and exchanging opinions.
Al-Dakheel began her university studies in Lebanon in 2006, but when Israel invaded, her parents feared for her safety and urged her to return home to Saudi Arabia. She persevered, and finally convinced them that she should stay and continue her studies.

“Studying and living in Lebanon shaped me in a lot of ways,” she said. “I grew up, I matured, I learned, I failed, I succeeded, I was challenged … and all this just to continue my studies there.
“My parents raised us to be responsible and independent, but at the same time to take their advice. To be a responsible person makes you a strong person who can face challenges. My parents raised us and encouraged us to be this way. After a while, things calmed down and they reopened university registration, and my parents agreed with me. So I returned.”
Al-Dakheel graduated in 2011 with a BA in journalism, and she is proudly a journalist to this day. “I consider myself a journalist before being a TV news anchor, and any TV broadcaster that doesn’t consider themselves a journalist, then they are a conveyor and not a newsmaker. At every stage of my life, I made sure I presented myself a journalist, because that’s the core of being a broadcaster.”

One of Al-Dakheel’s jobs is to document the transformation currently under way in her homeland. “Change is happening,” she said, “and for a female to present the evening news on the Saudi national TV proves that change is taking place.
“Change happens at the core, through education, social reforms and even accepting others, whether you agree with their opinion or not. That gives a wider perception of how you see yourself and others who are different from you.”
Al-Dakheel operates in a male-dominated workplace, but does not shy away from giving her opinion. A strong-willed perfectionist by nature, she makes sure that the workflow is impeccable. She is not intimidated by her surroundings — in fact, her main supporters are her male colleagues. “I work in silence, I let my success make the noise,” she said.
Being a broadcaster is her calling, but philanthropy is close to her heart too. In 2016, Al-Dakheel travelled to Jordan and volunteered in the Gaza camp for refugees at Jerash. While she has also worked at a philanthropic organization, it is her job as a journalist that pushes her to do more.
“I just want to take the camera and shed light on people’s stories,” she said.
“I believe that when you share this experience with viewers and make them feel that the screen is made for them, people will watch and that is what success is. It’s not only about being the first female anchor, that’s just the beginning.”

Turkey tries Bloomberg reporters, accused of economic sabotage

Updated 20 September 2019

Turkey tries Bloomberg reporters, accused of economic sabotage

  • They were among dozens of defendants, including some who had simply written jokes about the currency crisis on Twitter
  • Conspiracy theories are widely believed in Turkey

ISTANBUL: Two Bloomberg reporters on Friday appeared in a Turkish court accused of damaging the country’s economy by writing an article about last year’s currency crisis.

Numerous other defendants, including economists and journalists, have also been charged in the case over their critical comments on social media about the financial turmoil in August 2018.

If found guilty they could face up to five years in prison.

Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief, John Micklethwait, said: “We condemn the indictment issued against our reporters, who have reported fairly and accurately on newsworthy events. We fully stand by them and will support them throughout this ordeal.”

The case, which opened in Istanbul on Friday, was brought after a complaint from Turkey’s banking watchdog BDDK and Capital Markets Board. The criminal court will begin hearing the second session of the prosecution on Jan 17.

The Bloomberg reporters’ article angered Turkish decision-makers and financial institutions after it claimed that the country’s Central Bank would be holding an emergency meeting over a plunge in the value of the lira against the dollar — the biggest currency shock to hit Turkey since 2001 — mainly brought on by a diplomatic crisis with the US.

The independence of the Turkish Central Bank has been high on the agenda for some time in the recession-hit economy, especially after the dismissal of its governor by a presidential decree in early July with no official reason given.

Experts said the trial was a continuation of a campaign of intimidation against journalists working in independent local and foreign media in Turkey. One local journalist, Cengiz Erdinc, has been convicted of “ruining the prestige” of the state-run Ziraat bank.

Last year, the Turkish Interior Ministry said it would take legal action against 346 social media accounts it claimed had created negative perceptions about the Turkish economy.

In another attempted press crackdown in Turkey, the pro-government SETA think tank in Istanbul recently published a report profiling Turkish journalists working for foreign media organizations, including Arab News, accusing them of “carrying out a perception work” through their “univocal line of reporting.”

Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu, assistant professor of multimedia journalism at the Lebanese American University, said Turkey’s existing foreign policy and the government’s discourse over the last two years, totally fitted what was going on in the Bloomberg trial.

“The (Turkish) Justice and Development Party’s paranoid and conspiracy-driven political discourse is directly reflected to accusations against these journalists,” he told Arab News.

“Journalists are accused of attempting an ‘economic coup.’ The tweets and stories they published, like in all trials of journalists in Turkey, are used against them. I think one of the most important factors here is that Bloomberg seems to be a handful of comparatively independent, economy focused newsrooms.”

On the day of the trial, the US dollar/Turkish lira exchange rate rose to 5.7140, from 5.6980 on Thursday. The Turkish economy has contracted for the past three quarters.