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Mon 17 May 2004 04:00 AM

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BBC Arabic gets first Arab chief

Hosam El Sokkari's new role as head of BBC Arabic marks a major victory for the Arab world.

The BBC has, for the first time, chosen an Arab to head its Arabic news service since its launch in 1938. 42-year-old Hosam El Sokkari, who currently heads bbcarabic.com has been appointed head of BBC Arabic.

"I think it's an important development because this is the first time since the (beginning of the) BBC Arabic service that an Arab runs the operation,'' Sokkari, who hails from Egypt, said. “I definitely think that it sends a positive signal. It means that the BBC is serious about looking into the competences rather than the origin or the nationality,'' he added.

Commenting on the new appointment, Nigel Chapman, acting director of BBC World Service said: “The appointment is key to implementing current BBC Arabic strategy, one of the aims of which is to greatly strengthen the ties between BBC News and the Arabic service. Hosam El Sokkari has a strong track record of innovation in the Arabic Service. He has led the BBC's Arabic news and information website, bbcarabic.com, with great imagination and success. He recently introduced interactive radio programming, which caught the imagination of many in the Arab world. He played a vital role during the Iraq war in generating vibrant debate on radio and online and involving our audiences in the heart of our output.”

Sokkari began working for the BBC in 1994 as a presenter and producer in the Arabic division before moving for a few months to the Qatari-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera in 1996. Three years after returning to the corporation, Sokkari was chosen to run the BBC's Arabic internet operation. Sokkari said his challenge would be to maintain the BBC's traditional impartiality, balance and objectivity while reporting in a compelling way. We must "keep the traditional, loyal listeners of the BBC and win more young listeners,'' he said.

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