Published On:16 October 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

PEOPLE: Almaeena: A multifaceted editor and an incomparable father

By Lina Almaeena

Khaled Al-Maeena has resigned his position as editor in chief of Arab News after a stint of 25 years in which he took it to the top as one of the leading English dailies in the Arab world.

I am writing these words not as his daughter but as someone who has been closely, yet with objectivity, observing Almaeena’s career.

I have grown up along with this newspaper, known as the "Green Truth," and noted the intrinsic changes as the paper adapted to the changes in society.

Khaled Al-Maeena
Arab News is the first Saudi English newspaper and it served as the Kingdom's window to the outside world before the advent of the Internet. Locally, it has been a link between the state and the huge expatriate community as its readers have mostly been Americans, Britons, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and educated Arabs apart from the English-knowing Saudis.

The role of the editor in chief is somewhat comparable to a doctor on duty at an emergency ward. Round the clock, he has to be ready to rush to the newspaper office or to appear on television to comment on some surprise development. In the midst of his media duties he never neglected his responsibilities as head of the family: to educate us children and lavish upon us with love and affection. Above all we learned from him how to be productive citizens.

There were instances when I suddenly woke up in the wee hours of the night that I would hear him talking on the telephone with some foreign news agencies explaining to them the Saudi stand on a particular issue. If I asked him which agency he was talking to, his reply would be either some news agency in South Africa, Kerala or some other lesser known agencies. I mentioned some of those unfamiliar agencies because Almaeena spoke not only to the giants like CNN and BBC but to unknown agencies as well with equal seriousness because he was fulfilling his duty to defend the country and its rulers as the country's ambassadors would do. Foreign journalists, guests and visitors used to flock to our house in order to learn close quarters the Kingdom's policies and the Arab and Islamic issues.

Almaeena succeeded Muhammad Al-Shaibani as editor in chief of Arab News in 1982 and Abdul Qader Tash in 1998. He used to be a member of the delegations accompanying the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd and later Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in foreign visits. His travels in the royal company and his personal relations with presidents and prime ministers around the globe including Mikhail Gorbachev, Zia ul-Haq, Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela, Mahathir Mohamed or Manmohan Singh never stood as a hurdle in his offering companionship and solace to the poor and the downtrodden. Not only did he use to highlight the issues of the poor and the workers in his writings but he also used to personally dine with a hungry driver or needy man even when he would be on his way to some meetings with VIPs.

It should also be noted that he was the first editor in chief to land in Kuwait to report from the war front in 1991 when Saddam Hussein was pounding on the gates of that country threatening to use chemical weapons. Even Western journalists depended on him as source of news then.

He also has been in the forefront of writers who led a media war for Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-95 period and also for the Muslim minorities across the world. He also brought world attention to Arab and Islamic issues including in Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan. He was a political analyst and commentator and used to contribute to a number of newspapers and other journals including China Post and Oman Times and Gulf Times.

Khaled Al-Maeena
During the days following the Sept. 11 attacks Almaeena served as an unofficial spokesman of Saudi Arabia to the outside world and he defended the Kingdom and its rulers using fluent and impressive language showing his deep understanding of international politics. He confronted the Western media, which put the whole blame for the acts of few misguided youth on the entire Kingdom and judged the entire Saudi people as terrorists and extremists. He conducted as many as 700 television, radio and newspaper interviews on the issue and he was the unknown soldier to most of us but an indefatigable fighter for the Saudi cause in the media world.

Another huge task Almaeena undertook was to confront the large-scale "hate campaign" unleashed by the section of the people in the West against the Kingdom. Almaeena replied to a man in the United States who used to send him hate mails with a copy of the English translation of the chapter Maryam in the Holy Qur’an. A few months later the man’s son wrote to Almaeena that the man recently died with a copy of the Holy Qur’an at his side.

He was also an ardent promoter of sports especially in the Muslim world. He hosted sports personalities in his office including boxing champion Muhammad Ali, squash champion Jehanghir Khan and cricket star Imran Khan. Inspired by one of Almaeena’s articles, Saudi businessman Muhammad Zahid had volunteered to meet the cost of building a sports stadium for youths in south Jeddah.

He also used to deliver speeches in a number of universities the world over. The universities include Georgetown University, Tufts University and American University apart from his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos and countless youth forums around the world.

He is a member in the World Centenary Council for Tolerance and Peace, and a staunch defender of the Palestinian cause. He presents arguments with a persuasive force comparable to Larry King, Barbara Walters and Thomas Friedman.

He also fought for the cause of women, was a pioneer in training women journalists, and also appointed a woman for the first time to the post of managing editor in Arab News. He also turned the spotlight on the role of Saudi businesswomen by launching an annual supplement on the Top 20 Saudi Businesswomen. The international recognition for his services includes the top civilian medal awarded by the government of Pakistan and honorary doctorate from the Wisdom International School for Higher Education Studies (Al-Hikmah) in the Philippines.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on October 16, 2011. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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