Saudi Gazette
Saudi Gazette is the leading English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 daily newspaper published in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

. and is currently available both in print and online.

As of July 1, 2011, Dr Omar S. Elmershedi is the Saudi Gazette Editor-in-Chief.
Managing Editor: Shams Ahsan

Policy changes

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the Saudi government loosened its visa requirements to attract more Western journalists to report from Saudi Arabia in an effort to open the country to media scrutiny. These new policies also allowed Western journalists to work in the Saudi newspaper industry. Up until 2003, the Gazette's editorial staff consisted largely of Indian and Pakistani expatriate journalists. Since the early 1980s the day-to-day operations were led by editor Ramesh Balan, an expatriate Indian who retired in 2009.

There were early missteps in efforts to open Saudi journalism to Westerners. Journalist Lawrence Wright, on assignment for New Yorker magazine, spent several months observing Gazette journalists before penning “Kingdom of Silence” in 2004. It was a scathing portrait of Saudi journalists’ ethics and journalism skills, and Saudi Arabia’s gender segregation rules and customs. Wright’s visit and subsequent article were an embarrassment to the Gazette and almost derailed the newspaper’s plans to hire Western journalists.

Western influences

The Gazette’s management, however, survived. In 2003, Ahmed Al-Yousef, then the Saudi Gazette’s editor-in-chief, began bringing in experienced Western-trained journalists to help run the newsroom. He first hired Rhamzi Khoury, an American citizen of Palestinian descent.

Khoury established a journalism training program for Saudi men and women to learn Western-style news reporting, newspaper design and editing. Among the program's students were Saudis Sabria Jawhar
Sabria Jawhar
Sabria Salama Murjan Jawhar is a Saudi Arabian journalist and columnist for the Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette and has an expertise in Arabic/English linguistics. She also writes for English-language news outlets, including The Huffington Post, and serves as an academic lecturer in the field of...

, who now writes for the Huffington Post and remains a columnist for the Gazette.

Tabloid experimentation

In 2003, the Gazette, which was a traditional broadsheet, was redesigned as a tabloid under the direction of Khoury and American journalist Ron Raposa. In 2004, American newspaper editor Rob L. Wagner joined the staff and remained as managing editor until 2007. Four years after the launch of the tabloid, the newspaper reverted back to a broadsheet. The newspaper’s editors attempted to give the Gazette a tabloid-style sensibility, but the effort failed in Saudi’s conservative society.

Acting Editor-in-Chief Mohammed Al-Shoukany brought in the new format on April 14, 2007. He also brought in international newspaper consultant, Peter Ong, from Sydney, Australia, to redesign the paper. It launched that same year, with two weekly magazines, one for children and young readers: Fun Times and Fun Times for Teens.

During its progressive period the Gazette covered a range of social issues once considered taboo in Saudi journalism. It covered Saudi education reform, young runaway girls, forced marriages, women’s right to drive, abortion, drug addition and gender mixing.

The 60-member Gazette editorial team is headed by Managing Editor Shams Ahsan.
Athar Rizvie (an Indian), Querubin Minas(a Filipino), Sameera Aziz
Sameera Aziz
Sameera Aziz is a Saudi national journalist, senior editor and novelist. She is most notable for her work with the Saudi Gazette newspaper, and as a guest speaker regarding international, social, expatriates, animals and women issues.-Early life abroad:...

(a Saudi) and Paulson (an Indian) are the senior editors in Gazette . Saudi nationals Jasem Al-Ghamdi, Maha Sami Aboulola and Naif Al Masrahi are the senior reporters.

The Saudi Gazette is part of the Okaz Organization, which publishes the Arabic sister newspaper Okaz.


The newspaper started life in 1978, with a western editorial staff under the leadership of Dr Saud Islam, a Saudi native and business studies graduate (London).
Key western staff worked at the newspaper in the old 'Thumb statue' street Building and overseeing its move to new purpose built offices and press just a few kilometre away at the edge of North-West Jeddah in 1981.
Journalists at this point in 1981 were David Therough (UK), Randall Palmer (US), Rick Thompson(US and Jim (US).
A new editor 'Ski' (Polish / US) was appointed to direct the papers growth and sales to expatriates grew slowly.

A chief Photographer was appointed in 1981, Chris Wheatley, who re-built and taught the local photographers to use modern film tanks and timed film development. Until that point Okaz photographers used a tray, dipped the film into tray in darkness, hearing the film scrape on the tray bottom and timing it with a popular song, sung by the photographer. The published photos were often too dark and off kilter, with Towers leaning at 35 degrees etc. Doug was appointed junior staff photographer in 1982 and Jamal was the Sudanese photographer on the street, armed with western style practices, he soon became the star amongst the native speaking photographers.
With the edition of an English Sports editor - the publication figures soared and overtook the Arab news for the first time in its history.

The Gazette had two female staff journalists in 1981 - 83, and three or four female stringers, including Saudi nationals - so these events pre-dated the claimed gender revolution by 20 years.
The quality of the paper surged dramatically and a Friday (weekend) family pictorial publication was launched.

The photography department got the first photos of King Fahd's inauguration and David Therough the first interview with the new king.
Some investigative journalism was attempted - a first for Saudi Arabia, the under staffing, lack of pharmaceuticals and funding of Baha Hospital resulted in the termination of American Hospitals Management (AMI) and the physical building collapse of The National Commercial Bank building (sub-standard construction) in Jeddah were major coups for the paper. Of course these stories were honed back and inspected by the Ministry of Information, but eventually allowed a s new freedom started to emerge in Arabia. Unfortunately the rising of local militants and internal bombings put an end to this new freedom.

In 1982, Dr Saud Islam left his post and most western journalist went with him as Pakistani and Indian staff were brought in to save money back the Okaz Director; unfortunately the quality of the paper decreased dramatically, sales went down and the paper virtually disappeared for the next decade and a half.

External links

"The Kingdom of Silence" by Lawrence Wright, January 5, 2004, The New Yorker

Saudi Gazette terrorism coverage and editorials (2004–2007) by Rob L. Wagner
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