Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat-The decision last month to appoint former Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja to the post of information minister was not a surprise to many.
The former ambassador enjoys great popularity within literary and cultural quarters that perhaps equals his reputation in the world of diplomacy. He is a poet and an intellectual and occupied several posts at cultural institutions, despite him holding an academic degree in chemistry, his first field of specialty, to which he will resort in an effort to find a successful formula to achieve more openness to the outside world. This is in addition to his focus on local issues within an atmosphere of increased freedom, which the new minister has promised.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat after his appointment as the new Saudi minister of culture and information, Dr Abdulaziz Khoja said that he is “determined to open new vistas for the Saudi media that are more open to the world.” He made a pledge to journalists and media practitioners that he will continue to consider himself as their colleague and will never close his door or telephone in their face.
Khoja said that he is “very proud to have gained this great trust from the custodian of the two holy mosques.” He added: “I ask God to grant me success and help me carry out this duty in the best possible way.” He went on: “I consider the Information Ministry my second home.” He added: “I was very pleased to work at the Information Ministry for sometime. I consider media practitioners and intellectuals in this dear homeland my mentors and colleagues.” He continued: “I will put my hand in their hands to create a clear vision that will allow us to bring to completion the cultural and media journey in a manner that best serves our religion and homeland and fulfils the inclinations of the custodian of the two holy mosques, in terms of demonstrating rational openness – on the inside and the outside – in dealing with all those who are living with us in this universal village that is so-called earth.”
Concerning the most prominent features of the next stage, the new Saudi information minister said that “openness to others and freedom of opinion are the prominent characteristics during the next stage.” He added: “I intend to bring about great openness and I have a clear vision that everyone in this world is open to one another.” He went on: “This brings us face-to-face with a reality with which we must deal with courage, acumen, and a clear vision.” He said that “the Saudi Ministry of Information and media will play a major role in foreign policy in the upcoming period.” He noted that “the media plays a great role in keeping abreast of the kingdom’s foreign policy, clarifying it, following up on it, and exposing it to the world.”
Khoja said that he will “devote equal attention to the various cultural and media outlets, whether they are newspapers or video and audio outlets.” He explained: “All institutions will be subjected to equal development.”
Khoja was born in 1942. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and geology from the Riyadh University and a PhD degree in chemistry form the University of Birmingham. He worked as a chemistry teacher in the Faculty of Education in honorable Mecca. He was appointed as dean of the Faculty of Education and as general supervisor of the university in Mecca. He also worked as a teacher in King Abdulaziz University, assumed the position of the undersecretary of the Information Ministry for media affairs, and was the general director of the Gulf Television. Moreover, he was the head of several councils, including the Executive Council of the Organization of Radio Stations in Islamic States, the Executive Council of Islamic News Agency, and a number of media conferences. Khoja is also a member of several councils. He joined the diplomatic corps at the end of the 1980’s, when he was appointed as ambassador to several states, including Turkey, the Soviet Union, and the Kingdom of Morocco. The most recent post he occupied before his appointment as minister was Saudi ambassador to Lebanon.
In addition to his work in the diplomatic and academic fields, the Saudi information minister is considered one of the most prominent poets in modern Saudi literature. He has several collections of poetry and published poems, in addition to some scientific writings in the fields of chemistry and reaction mechanism. Moreover, as a poet and intellectual, he is the subject of several literary studies and criticism.