There are several editors in chief, several journalists and several column writers. Rare are those however who had a vision and who were able to properly read the future and be confronted with attacks at the beginning of their career and yet after so much hardship be able to pave the way to others.
Saudi Arabia has not witnessed a journalist, editor-in-chief or writer such as the late great Turki Al-Sudairi. This is not due to his professionalism alone or his leadership of the major “al-Riyadh” newspaper or even for heading the journalism syndicate in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf for several decades, but because he was among the first to confront extremism through his pen and journalistic work. He dedicated his newspaper to the nation first and foremost at a time when simply hinting at and criticizing hardliners could lead you into an endless dark tunnel and expose you to battles that are not easily won.
Even after beginning his voyage of criticizing forms of extremism and naming things as they are, he did that out of a national conviction that baffled his adversaries. He never overstepped his boundaries, insulted anyone or provoked the readers. Rationalism was his way and reason was his style. This is the path he chose for several years before paving the way for the rest of the media and opinion influencers to continue on enlightening the society.
Turki Al-Sudairi turned “al-Riyadh” newspaper into a journalistic pillar that is unique in thought and practice. He managed during his long career, which spanned 41 years, in transforming “al-Riyadh” into his country’s official newspaper without anyone asking that of him. Under Turki Al-Sudairi, “al-Riyadh”, reached heights that no one could easily reach. Arab and international media even began to consider it as the official mouthpiece of the state. Turki did that out of his high patriotism that enabled him to overcome all delicate issues that could have complicated his journalistic career. He was able to overcome all of those hardships, cementing “al-Riyadh’s” name as a solid media outlet that leads the media scene in Saudi Arabia. The vision that he set in place for over four decades led to this resounding success. I do not think that anyone can repeat his feats.
In December 2011, two months after my appointment as editor-in-chief of “el-Eqtisadiah” newspaper, I paid a visit to Turki Al-Sudairi at his “al-Riyadh” office seeing as he is the senior journalist in the country. Despite the age and height difference between us, he insisted on escorting me out at the end of my visit. All my attempts to dissuade him from doing so failed. During our walk from his second-floor office to the exit, I asked him for advice. He replied: “If you face any difficulties or problems within the newspaper or outside of it or with the official powers, do not hesitate to contact me.” I smiled and thanked him. He then added: “I am not humoring you, Salman, but I am asking you.” We departed with him telling me: “My son, I am by your side. Whenever you need me, you will find me.” This was a statement that he never failed to tell me whenever we met again in the future.
Indeed, whenever I contacted him, he never disappointed me, offering advice and guidance at times and correcting me at others. He would then make the same request, which was never an attempt at humoring me as much as it was a statement that he actually meant.
In March 2013, he wrote an article in his famous column, “Liqaa”, entitled: “Ignoring… and Ignorance.” He cited me in the article in words that have made me happy. I hope that I am up to the task he cited and I am proud to have been mentioned by a man of such high stature. I telephoned him at the time to thank him and express my gratitude. He again reiterated his “will” to me, asking: “Did you forget my request, my son? I am by your side. Whenever you need me, you will find me.”
Your son has not forgotten the father, teacher and educator. You are now departing and leaving us at a time when we need you the most and when men like you are so rare.