These words are in honor and in memory of a journalist who has left his mark on the history of Saudi and Arab journalism.
He was a journalist and a publisher with controversial opinions; some agreed with them while others opposed them. A journalist is like rain: he has supporters and critics. Nevertheless, Mr. Hisham was an expert in the world of Arab journalism.
I never had the opportunity to meet the late Hisham Ali Hafez who founded this newspaper as well as other publications with his brother Ahmad. But he held two memorable views I remember very well, after I became Editor in Chief of Asharq al Awsat. I did not intend to write about the two incidents but his affliction prompted me to document my feelings toward him.
Mr. Hisham called my office one day. When I was told he was on the line, I thought it was a mistake. I do not know him personally and had never met him. I did not expect him to initiate contact with me at any time! I thought to myself, given that he had chosen to call me, he was undoubtedly angry about something the newspaper had published or with me. I took the call and welcomed him. He said, “Listen my son, I have never called editors of Asharq al Awsat before to comment on an editorial they had written. But I want to tell you that you have expressed my exact sentiments in your editorial today!”
I was surprised by his words. I was aware of the journalistic importance of the speaker and was well-aware of his history. I thanked him and told him I would never forget our conversation. And I haven’t.
Six months later, he called me again from Beirut and told me, “You are a son in law I have not chosen, [meaning I married his daughter Asharq al Awsat]. She chose him. As long as she loves him, I am satisfied with him”. He then spoke at length about how he admired our front page and how the front pages of other Arab newspapers were being distorted, adding, “I see in Asharq al Awsat’s front page what I have sought for twenty years.”
“My son, many Arab newspapers which were renowned for being models of professionalism no longer present what they used to. Nowadays, Asharq al Awsat is the only one able to do so. I want you to contemplate this and continue to innovate.” He ended the conversation by saying that we would continue to discuss the matter in our next meeting and asked me to meet him in Beirut or France.
He repeated the expression my son but he did not use a fatherly voice. Instead, his tone was that of a concerned journalist who loved his trade. In the anxiety of the journalist, one finds the accuracy of information.
I wrote today because I value these words and in appreciation of the person who said them to me and in loyalty to a journalist who loved his trade. Mr. Hisham, as I have mentioned, has a long history, full of excitement, work and achievements. He also has sons in the world of journalism. The journalist who immortalizes his names is the one who leads the way for other journalists and not only contributes his words. God bless his soul!