Ridah Larry: Doyen of Saudi journalism passes away

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Professors, media experts, businessmen and members of the Board of Directors of Okaz Organization for Press and Publication have described the death of Ridah Larry, a prominent journalistic figure, as a big loss to Saudi journalism.

Larry passed away early Friday following a prolonged stay in hospital. He was admitted to the ICU last September for brain hemorrhage and was being treated at King Fahad Hospital.

Larry was buried at Our Mother Eve Graveyard and the funeral prayer was performed at al-Juffali Mosque after Asr prayer. The family will accept condolences until Sunday.

Those who had come in touch with Larry remember him as a kind-hearted man who strongly stressed on the importance of ethics and values. This made one and all respect him regardless of whether or not they were on the same page as him. He had a courage of conviction and spoke his mind clearly and succinctly.

Larry’s contribution to journalism and Okaz Organization started about 36 years ago when he was appointed Okaz editor-in-chief and later Saudi Gazette editor-in-chief. Larry was a strong defendant of Arabic- and English-speaking reporters.

Dr. Abdul Aziz Khoja, Minister of Culture and Information, described Larry as a prominent figure in journalism who had a strong vision and was special in everything. “My deepest condolences to his family and the media as well,” he said.

There was fulsome praise from Okaz Organization’s board members. Abdullah Saleh Kamel, chairman of Okaz Board of Directors, said Larry had an easygoing personality and always stuck to his guns and will always be remembered for his immense contributions. “He had done a lot for this organization and held strong opinions. He has left a heavy legacy to his son Muhammad, who is still with us in the organization.”

Dr. Waleed Arab Hashim, deputy chairman of Okaz Board of Directors, said Larry was loved by everyone, not only because of his endearing nature, but largely due to his politeness. He participated in several social and cultural forums and left a strong legacy in the organization. He played a pivotal role in the success of the organization.

Waleed Kattan, Okaz Organization’s director, said Larry loved to help all — novice and experienced staff. “We have lost a kind person who had done a lot for this organization.”

Dr. Ahmad Al-Yousuf, Okaz Organization’s board member and former Saudi Gazette editor-in-chief, said Larry was one of the pioneers in Saudi journalism who gained considerable experience from his tenure as a diplomatic official at several Saudi embassies abroad.

He was known to be a strong defender of all journalists working with him and always stood by them. “Undoubtedly, he had added a lot to Saudi Gazette and his tenure was one of the best in the paper’s history.”

Hussein Shobokshi, Okaz Organization’s board member, said no one can deny the important contributions Larry made to Saudi journalism and Okaz newspaper.

A towering personality with a baritone voice, Larry was an engaging speaker and regaled his audiences with anecdotes from his checkered career.

Yasin Alireza, a prominent Saudi businessman from Jeddah, on learning about Larry’s death, said, “I’m very sorry to learn about his sad demise. Saudi Arabia has lost one of its shining stars in the field of journalism. In these times when journalists and the media have become nothing but PR agents for the policies of countries and political groups his absence will be badly felt.”

Family and friends fondly remembered the doyen of journalism as a honest and just person. Larry’s brother, Abdul Badi Larry, remembered him as an honest man who called a spade a spade and always voiced his opinion.

Abdul Badi related the sequence of events that led to his death. He said Ridah fell one day on his head, which caused hematoma. Then his heart problems exacerbated and he had to be hospitalized for a long time.

Saudi Gazette’s Editor-in-Chief Khaled Almaeena, a close friend of Larry, said, “He was somebody to whom I looked up to. His pen was always at the service of people. He was a kind and generous man and always served the needy. He will be truly missed by family and friends.”

Larry’s son Muhammad, Okaz Organization’s board member, said his father was very nice to everyone and “instilled in us brothers the importance of dialogue in our minds.”

Muhammad Etah, Larry’s close friend, said he met Larry in Spain when he was working in the military attaché office in the embassy there. “We have been friends since 1960s. He was a loyal friend who stuck by his principles no matter what.”

Barbara Ferguson, a former Saudi Gazette US correspondent during Larry’s stewardship, said it was a sad day.

“He was like a brother and friend. A part of me died today.”

A holder of a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cairo University (1964), Larry was born in 1938. He received his elementary and secondary education in Jeddah. He held several government and diplomatic positions. From 1953 to 1957 he worked for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. From 1957 to 1964 he worked for the Ministry of Finance (Customs Authority).

Larry joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a diplomatic attaché and was promoted later to second-rank secretary between 1964-74. He was chargé d’affaires in Senegal and Spain.

The Spanish and the Senegalese governments awarded him Knight medals for his services.

His career in journalism began with Okaz newspaper as a translator and a writer. He was appointed deputy editor-in-chief and later editor-in-chief from 1977 to 1980. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Saudi Gazette in 1985 and remained in this post until 1997.

He was also a member of the general assembly and member of the board of directors for Okaz Organization for several years. He resigned his position and had his son Muhammad replace him in 2008.

Larry wrote political, cultural, and social articles in several local and Arabic newspapers. He participated in numerous radio and TV programs in addition to global conferences abroad. He wrote “Occidental Desert: Past, Present, and Future” in addition to other works currently being published.

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