Against all odds: Arab News en Français launches virtually despite coronavirus challenges

Update Against all odds: Arab News en Français launches virtually despite coronavirus challenges
Arab News launches on Tuesday, July 14, a new digital French edition: Arab News en Français with Randa Takieddine as its Chief Correspondent to the French capital, Paris. (AN Photo)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Against all odds: Arab News en Français launches virtually despite coronavirus challenges

Against all odds: Arab News en Français launches virtually despite coronavirus challenges
  • Djibouti president, Saudi media minister congratulate Arab News on launch
  • French envoy to Riyadh: Website will be ‘lasting symbol of relationship between France, Saudi Arabia’

RIYADH: In an online ceremony at 6 p.m. Paris time on Tuesday, Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English-language newspaper, launched Arab News en Français, its third overseas digital edition.

Arab News en Français was formally launched on France’s Bastille Day in an invitation-only Zoom video conference by François Gouyette, the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who welcomed the latest addition to the Arab News family as “a bridge between our respective cultures.”

The new French-language news site, Gouyette added, is an opportunity “for both our countries to better understand and appreciate one another at a time when there are increasing calls for isolationism around the world.”

Arab News en Français “will provide the French-speaking media landscape beyond Saudi Arabia with another look at the richness, diversity and complexity of the Arab world, from the Maghreb to the Gulf, passing through the Levant,” he said.

The project, he added, “will be a lasting symbol of the relationship between France and Saudi Arabia. I wish her great success on this wonderful adventure.”

Saudi Arabia’s interim Media Minister Majed Al-Qassabi also spoke at the event, wishing France a happy National Day and the Arab News team success in the launch of the French-language edition.

The guest of honor was Ismail Omar Guelleh, president of the French-speaking Republic of Djibouti, who in his keynote speech praised “the friendly ties between the two brotherly peoples of the Republic of Djibouti and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia … built throughout history.”

The two countries, he said, “draw their energy and force across a community of cultural and linguistic values and heritage,” and there is “no doubt that the launch of a French edition of Arab News naturally reaffirms the Kingdom’s mission for promoting linguistic and intellectual universality.”

Saudi Arabia, he added, is “an economic power and a cultural and civilizational focal point … at the forefront in the global fight for integration.”

There is no doubt that the Arab News en Français initiative “falls within the scope of the measures conducive to bringing together the different cultural and linguistic communities of our increasingly integrated world,” Guelleh said.

Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News, said being based in Saudi Arabia gives it an equal distance from all Francophone countries editorially, and the new edition seeks to be a voice for all French-speaking Arabs.

In addition, being based in Riyadh means the organization has “access to the decision makers in one of the most important countries in the region.”

Not only is Saudi Arabia “a religious and economic powerhouse,” Abbas said, “but it is also home to the most impressive and most serious reforms this region has seen for decades.

“This story deserves to be told and to be communicated in different languages, because what happens in Saudi Arabia affects the whole world.”

Abbas thanked the team behind the launch, which defied all challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and managed to finish the project in a record time of only six weeks from getting the green light.

Attendees also witnessed the signing of a special memorandum of understanding on content production between Arab News en Français, represented by its chief correspondent in Paris Randa Takieddine, and the Royal Commission for AlUla, represented by Hanouf Houthan. 

The launch concluded with a special performance by Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Saudi Arabia’s first professional opera singer, who sang “La Vie En Rose,” the song popularized by legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf.

In Dubai, home to Arab News’ regional office for international editions, nightfall saw the colors of the French tricolor, the logo of Arab News en Français and the message “Bonne Féte Nationale” projected onto the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.