Wednesday 10 July 2013

Arab offshore newspaper loses its soul

Abdelbari Atwan's portrait on the jacket of one of his books and next to al-Quds al-Arabi's logo

Overnight, I was shocked to read Abdelbari Atwan tweeting he was resigning from all his posts in the London-based pan-Arab newspaper  al-Quds al-Arabi, promising  to elaborate in his farewell editorial this morning.
I choked up reading his parting words to his thousands of readers:
There is nothing harder than biding farewell to ones loving readers, especially for someone like me whose loyalty throughout his quarter-of-a-century-long journalistic journey never let a day pass without writing.
I did not want this parting moment to coincide with the first day of the Holy Month of Ramadan, but circumstances and other sides played a role in this decision.
Today brings to conclusion my relationship as Board Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of al-Quds al-Arabi, the newspaper I proudly say stood without fail by our nation and its beliefs, fought fierce battles against occupation, foreign hegemonies and corrupt and repressive dictatorships, and always rooted for the oppressed and the downtrodden…
Atwan says he has one project in mind for the “initial directionless, difficult and long days ahead,” which is to write a new book -- his fourth in English.
His first three were:

Atwan has also contributed chapters and essays to several academic and specialist books and journals.
He is a regular guest on Dateline London on BBC, BBC World, Sky News, Aljazeera English and CNN World as well as on several Arab TV news networks.
Born in 1950 in Deir el-Balah, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Atwan studied journalism at Cairo University. In 1978, he moved to London, where he has lived and worked ever since.
Expatriate Palestinians founded al-Quds al-Arabi in 1989, when Atwan was named editor-in-chief, then board chairman as well.
The newspaper is now printed in London, New York and Frankfurt, and then circulated in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and North America. In addition to its modest London headquarters, the paper has representative offices in Cairo, Rabat and Amman.
Marc Lynch of Foreign Policy called al-Quds al-Arabi "the most populist/'rejection camp' of the major Arab papers."
Famed French-Lebanese journalist Randa Habib tweeted Atwan saying, “…You are and will remain always a legend.”
“You were my only trusted window to politics,” another tweep wrote him.
Personally, I firmly believe a newspaper or newsmagazine should have a “soul of its own.”
Atwan was the soul of al-Quds al-Arabi.
The soul of al-Hawadeeth was Salim al-Lawzi al-Hayat’s was Kamel Mroue, and an-Nahar’s was Ghassan Tueni.
I hope the purported new Qatari owners of al-Quds al-Arabi (at least according to have found a new “soul of its own” for the newspaper in Atwan’s supposed successor -- self-exiled Syrian poet-cum-journalist Basheer al-Baker.
You can read English texts of Atwan’s editorials at