Huge shake-up at London’s pan-Arab media
London - There was a shake-up at two major pan-Arab newspapers this week following the resignation of Asharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief Salman Al-Dossary, who was replaced by former Al-Hayat editor-in-chief Ghassan Charbel. Zouheir Kseibati, head of Al-Hayat’s Beirut office, succeeds Cherbel as Al-Hayat’s editor-in-chief. Both publications are Saudi-owned.
According to Saudi sources, Riyadh is seeking to modernise Saudi Arabia’s media operations in line with the requirements of the time, particularly in terms of technological advances.
The appointment of new editors-in-chief at Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat brings hope that changes in personnel will lead to improvements in the journalistic performance and content of both newspapers, the Saudi sources said.
Kseibati has a long history with Al-Hayat, working as managing editor at its London office starting in 1990. He subsequently headed Al-Hayat’s Beirut office beginning in 2005 before being appointed editor-in-chief earlier this year following Charbel’s resignation. Kseibati previously worked for a number of Lebanese publications, including Al-Hawadeth and Awraq magazines, among others.
Veteran Lebanese journalist Charbel was head of the political desk at Asharq Al-Awsat, before moving on to work for the now defunct current affairs magazine Al-Wasat, a sister publication of Al-Hayat. While there Charbel worked his way up to the position of editor-in-chief, and then joined the editorial staff of Al-Hayat as its assistant editor, until becoming editor-in-chief in 2004.
The change in the leadership of Al-Hayat comes just a few months after the decision to move its headquarters from London to Dubai and after Cherbel made the decision to resign as editor-in-chief weeks ago.
Al-Dossary announced his resignation as Asharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief and the appointment of Charbel as his successor during a staff meeting.
“I wish all the best to my dear colleague Ghassan Charbel as editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. My professional relationship [with the newspaper] might have come to an end, but my relationship as a reader with this beautiful green newspaper will never end,” he tweeted following his resignation.
While Kseibati’s promotion to editor-in-chief, following Charbel’s resignation was viewed as logical, Charbel’s appointment as Asharq Al-Awsat’s new editor-in-chief is viewed as an interesting development, particularly given that he is a non-Saudi national. Given that the post had previously been held by a succession of Saudi journalists, the appointment of a non-Saudi national represents a possible change in strategy for the newspaper, media observers say.
Commenting on Charbel’s appointment as Asharq Al-Awsat’s new editor-in-chief, Saudi Research and Marketing Group’s (SRMG) Chairman Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud said: “The appointment is in line with the future vision of the Saudi group to enable the best media leaders to help improve all publications and lead them.”
Asharq Al-Awsat has changed leadership three times since 2013, with one of its editors, Adel Al toraifi, going on to hold the position of information minister in Saudi Arabia. Charbel is the first non- Saudi editor, since its first editor-in-chief Jihad Khazen, who is also Lebanese.
Before the pan-Arab satellite news boom started with the Doha-based Al Jazeera news channel in 1996, London’s pan-Arab newspapers were the only method by which regional news reached a global audience, reporting on all the trials and tribulations the Middle East region was experiencing.
The first pan-Arab newspaper to launch from London, was Al Arab Daily in 1977, a sister publication of The Arab Weekly and part of the Al Arab Publishing Centre’s family of publications, established by the late Hajj Ahmed El-Houni.
After that came SRMG’s Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, which launched in 1978, and went on to become one of the most influential newspapers globally. The publication, which is printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities, was described by the New York Times in 2005 as “one of the oldest and most influential in the region”.
Originally a Lebanese publication founded and launched by Kamel Marwa in 1946, Al-Hayat began publishing out of London in 1988, after it was bought by Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan. The paper, which describes itself as “an independent, international and Arab political daily paper”, targets Arab communities in about 30 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and North America.