How Saudi Arabia's print biz has remained stunted

Senior journalist Ashraf Padanna brings up two news items from Arab News, one from 2003 and the other from 2009, to highlight the pathos of the English newspaper scenario in Saudi Arabia.
Says Padanna: "Riyadh Daily, the newspaper with which I started my career nearly two decades back, folded in 2003, while the Saudi economy was still booming. Its editor died last year aged 53. No new newspaper has come up in Saudi Arabia since to give competition to Arab News and Saudi Gazette, despite the country being the largest economy in the Middle East."
Here are the two news items:
Riyadh Daily Closes Down
Staff Writer

RIYADH, 31 December 2003 — Riyadh Daily, one of the Kingdom's three English dailies, has folded. After 19 years of financial losses, the paper's last issue appears today.
"All I can say is that it was a management decision," Talaat Wafa, Riyadh Daily's editor in chief, told Arab News.
He said the management would pay the newspaper employees their end-of-service benefits besides two months' additional pay as part of the contract.
Wafa will re-join the daily's sister publication at Al-Yamama publishing house, Al-Riyadh, where he has been managing editor and chief of the Washington Bureau.
The decision to close down Riyadh Daily ends a period of uncertainty among its employees, who were given to understand that it would continue in a truncated form of eight pages, as against 24 pages in its heyday.
"We didn't speak to one another today, our last day. That should give you an idea of the office atmosphere as the curtain went down," a staffer said.
Founded in 1967, Riyadh Daily was launched as a tabloid and was later converted into a broadsheet.
Veteran Saudi journalist Talaat Wafa passes away
Mohammed Rasooldeen I Arab News
RIYADH, January 6, 2009: Veteran Saudi journalist and former editor in chief of the now-defunct English-language newspaper Riyadh Daily, Talaat Fareed Wafa, died yesterday in Riyadh after a brief illness.
He was buried at the Ummul Hammam Cemetery following funeral prayers at King Khaled Mosque. A large number of people, including journalists, senior government officials and diplomats, attended the funeral.
Wafa, 53, was adviser to the editor in chief of Al-Riyadh Arabic newspaper. He had undergone treatment in the United States for malignancy for over a year.
Wafa graduated in mass communications from King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh and completed his master's in political communications at the American University in Washington DC. He joined Al-Riyadh newspaper in 1976 as a full-time journalist, soon becoming the managing editor at its Washington Bureau. He was appointed editor in chief of Riyadh Daily in 1989 and became adviser to the editor in chief of Al-Riyadh newspaper in January 2004.
His last article published in Al-Riyadh newspaper was on US President-elect Barack Obama and his future policies. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Faten Zamil, a lecturer at King Saud University, and two daughters: Taala, a microbiologist who is doing her master's in Houston, and Lana, a secondary school student. His father Fareed Wafa was a general in the Saudi security forces and his brother, Hani Wafa, is the political editor in Al-Riyadh newspaper.
In recognition of his services to the media, Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, met the full costs of Wafa's treatment both in the United States and in the Kingdom.
Arab News Editor in Chief Khaled Almaeena described Wafa as a journalist of repute both at home and abroad. "He was a good friend who helped me when I left Arab News for some time. He made me write a column for his daily, which gave me a moral boost in those days," Almaeena.
Vinod Menon, a former journalist with the Riyadh Daily, said, "I have worked with many editors in chief, but Talaat Wafa was different. He was truly a kind-hearted human being. He would never speak ill of anyone."

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