I never expected devoting my column to counter the claims a Saudi journalist made in a national newspaper on the controversy surrounding the glorification of the Kingdom’s flag. This colleague wrote an article refuting a story published in Asharq Al Awsat on July 7, 2005 in which Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Bin Nasser Al Obeikan discusses his edict on the necessity to glorify the flag. In the course of defending his position, our dear colleague libeled our publication and wrote that “the leading newspaper, the international Arab newspaper was unable to distinguish between ‘saluting’ and ‘glorifying’ the Saudi flag.”
I refer the reader to Wednesday’s front page were Shiekh Al Obeikan confirms he has issued an edict “permitting the glorification of the Saudi flag”. Did our colleague concern himself with the truth? In that case, why didn’t he ask Sheikh Al Obeikan for his opinion directly, no complicated endeavor as the religious figure is known for his openness to the media?
On the subject of the credibility of Asharq Al Awsat, the answer is clear and simple. We follow a strict system in ensuring the information we obtain is accurate. We are also proud to be the first to acknowledge our mistakes. Instead of hiding behind our errors, we rectify them. Regrettably, I still find myself in the position were I need to respond to accusations by fellow journalists. Consider, for example, the case of a colleague who copied our news coverage, sold it to another publication that featured a series on terrorism, and finally, had the audacity to republish the same information under his name in his newspaper!
Yet another fellow journalist informed an American publication that a news story we published on political developments in Syria , a month ago, was dictated to us by the Saudi government. Instead of taking responsibility for missing out on breaking news, the journalist criticized our coverage! In this case, however, the development had been independently verified by five sources. Upon hearing the news, I remember telling our Washington D.C bureau, “The last thing I want is for the White House to deny this.”
I don’t want to take too much of the reader’s time discussing problems of the trade or, more accurately, the sly attacks Asharq Al Awsat periodically experiences. I wish journalists who make baseless accusation would, instead, focus, on their own work.
Asharq al Awsat bases its success on the respect of its sources, its readers, and itself. We admit and correct our mistakes whenever possible and never discriminate in our coverage. We were the first to identify Abdel Aziz Al Muqrin as the leader of al Qaeda inside Saudi Arabia . We also exposed Younes Ibrahim Al-Hayari and his followers. Asharq Al Awsat has extensively covered terrorism in New York City , Riyadh , Cairo , Morocco , Kuwait , Doha , London , and Beslan, without discriminating or dwelling on religious or racial factors. The same coverage applied to the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Lebanon , and the deaths of Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan and Yasser Arafat. Our newspaper remains at the forefront of events.
Before Sheikh Al Obeikan’s religious edict and after it, we say to our readers: “Salute the flag! Glorify the flag!”