40 YEARS OF ENGAGED JOURNALISM
Al Watan Al Arabi was launched in Paris (France) in 1977 by Walid Abou Zahr a Lebanese citizen, owner and editor-in-chief of Beirut-based politically daily Al Moharrer. Al Watan Al Arabi was the first Arab magazine to be published from Europe and the pioneer in “emigrated Arab journalism”. In 1976, due to the civil war, Walid Abou Zahr –among thousands of Lebanese- was forced to leave Lebanon and stop the presses of Al Moharrer. He decided to settle in Paris where he started preparing the first issue of Al Watan Al Arabi, a political pan Arab magazine.
The project faced doubts from friends and fellow Arab journalists. Indeed, addressing an Arabic audience from a European country seemed odd, yet it would turn out to be on the magazine’s main strengths. In February 1977, the first issue of Al Watan Al Arabi came out and through its freedom of speech and independence it started a new phase in Arab journalism. Al Watan Al Arabi’s audience broadened week after week making it the most read newsmagazine in the region.
Yet, the well-known daring tone of the magazine had its risks; the 22nd of April 1982 the magazine’s offices located at the 33 rue Marbeuf in Paris were bombed in a failing attempt to shut down the magazine. Despite threats, Al Watan Al Arabi continued publishing with the same tome and style, maintaining a leading position among other political publications that had appeared in Europe and Arab countries.
Thus, for many journalists, the magazine was reckoned as a graduating school of journalism. Through-out the years, Al Watan Al Arabi has tackled many issues and achieved numerous scoops. Its ability to reveal upcoming political and economic event before any other news outlet has become a landmark and today millions of Arab readers and prominent personalities witness the changes in the region through the title.
As the media landscape changed, Khaled Abou Zahr who had taken over since the passing away of his father in 2004, took the necessary steps to make the title evolve and in 2013, he decided to stop printing and focus on a full digital version of the title which proved to be the correct decision as many were doubting this step. The actual state of many newspapers and magazines is proof of this.
This was not the only change, content had to be adapted and while keeping its editorial beliefs it became much more analytical and today provides critical thinking to the events of the region. It is still recognized for revealing information before any other media in the region and there for followed by decision makers and influential figures -both public and private- in the GCC.
Yet, in recent years, there has been a bigger interest from the young and old GCC generation for geo-strategic level analysis of the region and what is happening.
This is where Al Watan Al Arabi makes the difference in giving unbiased “Think Tank” level information but in a newsy and appealing format. The website also publishes interviews with high ranking officials from the GCC on these strategic issues.