By Courtney Trenwith
The general manager of Prince Alwaleed’s Alarab TV station, suspended on its second day of broadcasting from Bahrain, says it will resume without compromising its independent reporting standards
Suspended Alarab TV, launched by billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, is planning to resume “with [the] same planned reporting standards”, the satellite channel’s general manager and editor-in-chief Jamal Khashoggi has revealed to Arabian Business.
The network stopped broadcasting within 24 hours of its launch on February 1. Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority said that the channel had failed to obtain the required licensing approval to begin broadcasting in the country, and that it had “failed to match the standards of regional and international practice agreements, to take account of efforts aimed at stemming the tide of extremism and terrorism throughout the region and the wider world”.
Arabic daily Akhbar Alkhaleej claimed programming was suspended due to the fact the station aired footage of a member of the Bahraini opposition, Khalil Al Marzooq, which was deemed offensive to the government.
Khashoggi said the station would relaunch and would refuse to back down on its uncensored reporting standards. However, he could not confirm where or when this would happen.
“We are not commenting on [the] Alarab matter for now other than that Alarab will resume with [the] same planned reporting standards that make an effective news outlet in our troubled region, where and when? That to be released by HRH later,” he wrote in an email responding to questions from Arabian Business, referring to Prince Alwaleed.
The station, said to have 280 staff including correspondents in 30 countries, was set to be a competitor to two other international networks based in the Gulf: Qatar-backed Al Jazeera, established in 1996, and Dubai-based Al Arabiya, which was launched in 2003 by Waleed Al Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of Saudi Arabia’s late King Fahad.
Both of those stations have been accused of being a front to promote the political views of their owners.
Khashoggi has insisted Alarab TV would be objective.
“We are not going to take sides,” he said prior to the launch.
“I think a news channel should not have a political agenda... We should just be a news channel that provides accurate, objective information.”
Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist, was himself forced to resign from Saudi Arabia’s Al Watan daily after it ran an opinion column that angered religious conservatives in 2010.
Despite its largest bureau being in Riyadh, with 20 employees, Alarab TV was forced to set up in Bahrain because Saudi Arabia does not allow independent broadcasters.
Prince Alwaleed is chairman of Saudi-based Kingdom Holding, which has stakes in media companies such as News Corporation, Twitter and Rotana Group, which runs entertainment TV channels in the Middle East.
Its diverse interests also include the Disneyland Paris theme park, Citigroup and Four Seasons hotels.
Prince Alwaleed, who does not hold any government role, has been critical of the highly conservative Saudi government under the late King Abdullah, who is his uncle.
In December, he said some Saudi ministers were arrogant and superior and needed to “do more for the Saudi citizen” during an interview with the English daily Saudi Gazette.
He also has implored the government to establish a sovereign wealth fund to protect it against the sliding oil price, while describing its reliance on oil revenues for 90 percent of the budget income as “a mistake”.
* The quotes attributed to Jamal Khashoggi in an earlier
version of this article quoted him as saying the Alarab TV station would resume
“with [the] same banned reporting standards”. However, this was a typo by Mr
Khashoggi and he meant to say it would resume “with [the] same planned
reporting standards”. The story has therefore been changed to reflect this.