Arab world politicians praise BBC Arabic on its 75th anniversary

Ahmed Kamal Mansour reads the news in 1942. Ahmed Kamal Mansour reads the news in 1942

Politicians from across the Arab world congratulated BBC Arabic on reaching its 75th anniversary on Thursday and recognised the role it had played in their region.

They praised it as a 'much-needed outlet' for news and views that had been suppressed by some state media and for training a generation of Arab and Palestinian journalists in impartial newsgathering.

The BBC began broadcasting in Arabic in 1938, the service then consisting of a single news bulletin.

Three quarters of a century on, it is a 24-hour multimedia service with bureaux across the Middle East. bbcarabic.com was launched in 1998 and BBC Arabic Television in 2008.

'Clear editorial guidelines'

Amr Moussa, former secretary of the Arab League, always tunes into its bulletins. 'There are key and clear editorial guidelines that BBC Arabic is always fully committed to,' he said.

Hoshyar Zebari, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, called the BBC a 'school of journalism' and 'a much-needed outlet for the Arab, Islamic and Middle Eastern audience to find news which was never covered in their state-run media'.

Mustafa Barghouthi, Palestinian democracy activist and Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, believed the BBC gave too much space to the Israeli voice, but he said its training of Arab and Palestinian journalists - some of whom had become 'icons of the Arab media' - had been among the BBC's 'most important achievements'.

Guests at the inaugural broadcast in 1938 Guests at the inaugural broadcast in 1938

Wael Abu Faour, Lebanese Social Affairs Minister, said BBC Arabic had been 'a public forum for those who could not find a platform in their country's media', while Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, Sudanese political leader and head of the National Umma Party, said its independence was 'highly appreciated'. 'Despite being funded by the British government, it has always been keen to give a platform for all views,' he considered.

Rare interviews

The BBC's oldest foreign language service is revisiting highlights from its archive to mark its anniversary. Two new radio programmes, Memory Lane and Music Box, are giving listeners another chance to hear rare interviews with political and cultural figures.

'This 75th anniversary has given BBC Arabic an opportunity to look back at the incredible reputation achieved over the years,' said Faris Couri, BBC Arabic editor. 'Celebrating the 75th anniversary of BBC Arabic means commemorating the name of journalists who built the Arabic services and left unforgettable memories among generations.

'Audiences have always shown a great interest in the accurate and impartial news we are offering,' he added. 'Many of them have told us that they were raised in an environment where the BBC was part of their daily lives.'

Audiences are currently up by more than 17% to a record high of 25.3m adults each week.

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