The editor-in-chief of one of Saudi Arabia’s largest newspapers was sacked after the daily published a report on massive abuse of ‘qat’, a drug-like herb, in the southern region close to the country’s border with Yemen.
Mohammed Al Tunsi, who had headed the ‘Okaz’ Arabic language daily for five years, was replaced by the paper’s previous editor-in-chief Hashim Abdo Hashim.
Saudi newspapers said on Wednesday Al Tunsi was fired after the ‘qat’ report triggered a furore in Jazan province and prompted local dignitaries and scholars to complain about the editor-in-chief to the Ministry of Information.
“Al Tunsi was sacked after he refused to apologise to the people of Jazan for the harmful report……he was replaced by Hashim, who had resigned from Okaz five years ago…Hashim is believed to have started work today (Wednesday),” the Saudi Arabic language daily Sabq said.
Newspapers gave no details of the ‘qat’ report but said it was published by Okaz last week, adding that a group of Jazan dignitaries contacted Al Tunsi and asked him to apologise but that he refused.
The paper said Okaz, one of the oldest private publications in the kingdom, published a lengthy report on the production of qat, which is grown in neighbouring Yemen, Ethiopia and other countries.
‘Qat’ is allowed in Yemen but banned in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and most other Gulf and Arab countries.