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Calls for saving Saudi press gain steam

Second columnist asks Saudi leaders to help stave off the ‘imminent death’ of print media

Gulf News

Manama: A second Saudi columnist has published a column calling for “protecting the print media from an imminent death” and journalists from “ending up in prison.”

Last week, Khalid Bin Hamad Al Malik, the editor-in-Chief of Saudi daily Al Jazirah penned a column urging King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to rescue the local print media from increasing financial pressures and risks to shut down.

“Over the past five decades, press institutions had made huge profits that spared them the need to seek state assistance or support,” Al Malik wrote in a column on Thursday.

He argued that the steep decline in advertising and the subsequent severe shortage in the resources of all newspapers had forced press institutions to engage in rationalisation programmes that vastly reduced their power to attract or keep competent journalists.

Newspapers were also pushed to reduce the number of their pages and edition copies, to shut down bureaus in Saudi Arabia and abroad, to sack sacked staff and to limit their website editions, he added.

“The surgical operations were ominous and frightening and called for an outstanding intervention from the state,” he said.

Writing for Saudi daily Al Medina, columnist Ahmad Abdul Rahman Al Arfaj (right) said that “as someone who will suffer immensely should the print media die”, he joined forces with Al Malik.

“Media all over the world, be it print, audio or online, is the façade and the mouth of the country, and since the press is suffering it should be rescued from humiliation,” Al Arfaj wrote.

“We want senior officials to have mercy and to offer a lifeline because the press, regardless of what has been said about it, is the pulse of the street, the mouth of the citizen and the voice of the people.”

Al Arfaj added that the press needed assistance “because it is at a vital and crucial point.”

“We want our official to protect the press from death. We appreciate the difficult economic situation across the world, but be assured that the people in the press are content with some assistance. I for one live from writing columns, and if there is no press, other columnist and I will be bankrupt and we will suffer enormously and we might end up in jail.”

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