JEDDAH: The Saudi Broadcasting Authority published a statement on Saturday night responding to intense criticism by the public over the demolition its old building in Jeddah. According to the statement published on the authority’s official Twitter account, “The authority has decided to evacuate the building and relocate staff to another building, based on the filed visit results by the General Directorate of Civil Defense.”
The statement added: “The results showed that the building is structurally unsafe and dangerous for workers and citizens. Engineering and construction studies on the building confirmed any attempts to renovate it would be futile.”
The authority referred to a report by the Collapsing Buildings Committee from October 2018 and a joint report from Jeddah City Municipality, the Electricity Company, the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage, the General Directorate of Civil Defense and other official bodies which recommended the removal of the building.
The statement concluded that the authority had always taken the issue of preserving the national heritage “represented by this building very seriously.”
The 12-floor building in Al-Nuzla neighborhood in Jeddah was built in the late 1960s. Its foundation stone was laid by the late King Faisal. Many consider it an important landmark in the history of the media in Saudi Arabia. The first Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the History of Saudi Arabia, Jamil bin Ibrahim Hejailan, witnessed its opening.
Social media users expressed their disappointment and anger over its demolition.
This building should be restored and transformed into a television museum, just as historical buildings are treated in the heart of Europe.
Khaled Al-Matrafi, Renowned Saudi journalist
On Twitter, the renowned Saudi journalist Khaled Al-Matrafi called on the Ministry of Culture to save the building. “This building should be restored and transformed into a television museum, just as historical buildings are treated in the heart of Europe.”
He added that he was addressing the Ministry of Culture because he believes the building has historical value.
Mohammed Ali Farhan said on Twitter: “Why is a building with such a great symbolic and historical value being demolished? It stood there for decades, and it could have been transformed into a museum, cultural center, and art galleries. I am sure that this irrational action saddens the media figures in Jeddah.”
Another journalist, Jaber Al-Qarni, explained that such buildings, with their historical dimension, were not just cement and concrete, but part of people’s collective consciousness and memory.
“However, I knew that the building was to be removed due to safety precautions, as there are problems in its foundations and construction,” he added.
The director general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in Makkah, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Omari, denied that the commission had been party to the decision to demolish the building. He said that the commission did not approve the demolition, nor did its representative sign anything in this regard.
According to the Saudi electronic newspaper Sabq, Al-Omari explained that the building had witnessed the early stages of television history in the Kingdom. “This makes us think that it is a priority to preserve the building as a national and archaeological symbol of an important era in the history of the Saudi media, as well as being one of the most important buildings established in Jeddah at the time, and this requires us to wait,” he said.