The almost unlimited financial resources at the disposal of the press in the oil-rich Saudi Arabia have bestowed a luxurious form on the Saudi newspapers: endless pages, many foreign correspondents and plenty of colour photos. The material wealth has, however, had little effect on improving the journalistic content or strengthening the independence of the press. On the contrary, the surplus of financial resources at the disposal of the ruling elite in Saudi Arabia has led to a situation where all Saudi newspapers are owned either by members of the ruling family, their subordinates or business associates. Furthermore, the combination of wealth and political interests has deprived the Saudi press of any independence.
Due to the tight control of the media, with all newspapers having almost the same headlines about the latest statement of the King, the Saudi readers are increasingly using news websites and blogs as their sources of information on national issues, while the Pan-Arabic satellite television stations cover their need for information on foreign affairs.
Did you know?
The oldest newspaper in what is now Saudi Arabia was called Al Falah (“The Peasant”) and appeared in Mecca in 1920. Al Falah was followed in 1923 by Um al Qura (“The Mother of Villages”), one of Mecca’s names in Arabic), which was the official newspaper of the newly founded Saudi Kingdom.
Language: Arabic Established: 1992 Published daily
The leading financial daily, Al Eqtisadiah provides an extensive coverage of the general economic activities, the real estate markets and the stock exchange in the kingdom. Al Eqtisadiah also covers social and political issues, such as unemployment, housing policy, however, from a purely economic perspective.
Language: Arabic Established: 1972 Published daily
A pro-government daily. Al Jazirah extensively covers the activities of the ruling Saudi family and provides an uncritical assessment of the government's policies on most of its 60 daily pages. Al Jazirah is weak on columnists and debate and is specialized in providing extensive daily sports and financial supplements.
Language: Arabic Established: 1937 Published daily A Hijaz-based newspaper with pro-government views, Al Madina nonetheless has a critical coverage of non-political local news such as social, health and educational issues. Al Madina also has relatively critical columnists, though not when treating national politics.
Language: Arabic Established: 1965 Published daily
A pro-government newspaper with relatively liberal views, Al Riyadh, which is published in the capital, is very influential and its editorials - when they are not panegyrics - give a good insight into what the Saudi official view on different matters. Al Riyadh has a very impressive website, where readers can comment on articles.
Language: Arabic Established: 2000 Published daily
A pro-government newspaper based in the Assir province in the south-west of Saudi Arabia, Al Watan provides extensive but uncritical coverage of local news in addition to the usual positive reporting on the activities of the ruling family and the government. It hosts relatively liberal columnists such as Turky Al Dakhil, Amira Kash'ari and Mahmoud Sabaagh.
Language: English Established: 1975 Published daily
The leading and oldest English-language newspaper, Arab News covers not only Saudi Arabia but also most of the Arab region. In spite of its close ties to the government, Arab News shows for a less submissive journalism, mainly due to the fact that its readers are mostly English-speaking expatriates. The paper has many syndicated writers on its opinion pages and a good website.
Language: Arabic Established: 1960 Published daily
One of the oldest newspapers in Saudi Arabia, Okaz was originally a cultural weekly based in the city of Hijaz. Besides a critical coverage of social issues, Okaz dares cover almost taboo subjects, like the overzealous treatment of women by the religious police. The newspaper has several well-respected columnists such as Juhair bint Abdallah Al Musa'id and Abdallah Al Jufri.