There are cases when an individual’s history is the history of a group, a phase and a place. The history of a prominent media figure like Turki al-Sudairi is our history as journalists and is the history of a long phase of journalism.
With Sudairi’s death, we grieve for the dean of journalists in Saudi Arabia. Sudairi held this title for around three decades upon the desire of media figures as there were no associations or leagues to defend their rights. He played this role before he was officially tasked with assuming it. He would not have accepted this role if it hadn’t been for everyone’s trust. Turki al-Sudairi was the association of journalists and its chief.
Unlike the prevailing assumptions, Sudairi did not build his career without effort. He attained his status like most professional journalists. He moved up the ladder as at the beginning he was a junior editor and he improved his career through his hard work and professionalism.
Considering our love to him as a dear colleague and brother, it’s only normal that our opinion is not neutral. Sudairi was an influential character and he was the master of the arena of journalism for a long time leaving his fingerprints in the field. He was concerned over the profession’s traditions and laid out principles in the media sector and in terms of the government’s relations with media outlets and in terms of relations among the different media outlets. He volunteered several times to resolve problems of media institutions and journalists and defend them. Most of this was kept a secret and was later forgotten.
At early stages, when print media dominated the scene, there were continuous arguments between the relevant parties, like the ministry of information and journalists. Most of these disputes were related to spaces, freedoms and unreasonable expectations. Turki assumed the role of the lawyer and argued with ministers and officials.
Neither fierce nor gentle
He was neither fierce nor gentle. He was a determined man who defended every case and did all he can to finalize issues and end frequent disputes. He became a model to all of us. He was a courteous and convincing man who was concerned over the profession and over his colleagues regardless of which institution they worked for and regardless of whether they were his competitors or they opposed his opinions and stances. It was therefore not strange that we love Sudairi as we are from the same school and we proudly share the same humanitarian convictions and principles.
He professed his opinions, such as those related to the importance of women’s role in the very conservative Saudi society. He practiced what he preached. He defied what was common and gave women a chance to write thus enabling female journalists to work. Al-Riyadh newspaper was thus Turki al-Sudairi, with his modernizing intellect. He was a man with firm stances, unhindered by criticism.
With his death, we lost a noble man, a great teacher and a dear brother. May he rest in peace and may God grant his family patience and solace.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.