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Pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat officially closes after decades of journalism

Daily was founded by veteran Lebanese journalist Kamel Mrowa in Beirut in 1946 and became one of the Arab world's major papers
A man reading al-Hayat newspaper at a cafe in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, November 2017 (AFP)

Al-Hayat, the famous Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily newspaper, on Tuesday took down its website, officially ending decades of journalism after it stopped its printed issues in June 2018.

The paper was founded by the veteran Lebanese journalist Kamel Mrowa in Beirut in January 1946 and became one of the Arab world's major dailies.

Mrowa was assassinated in his Beirut office in 1966 amid tensions over Syria between Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

At the time, Mrowa favoured the Saudis and Jordanians' policies, to battle Nasser’s influence in Damascus and Lebanon.

The veteran journalist launched al-Hayat’s Beirut-based English sister, The Daily Star, in 1952. Last month, The Daily Star suspended its print edition, citing financial difficulties exacerbated by Lebanon's financial crisis. The website is still functioning normally, though employees are reportedly struggling to be paid.

In 1976, the Lebanese civil war forced al-Hayat to cease publication after reportedly surviving 13 bombing attempts of its Beirut office.

In 1988, it re-emerged in London and was relaunched as a 20-page paper by Mrowa’s son, Jamil, and Adel Bishtawi after being bought by Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan. It published a daily pan-Arab edition from London and a Saudi-focused one in Riyadh.

Translation: After seven decades, al-Hayat newspaper closes its door after its editor-in-chief Saud al-Rayes resigns.

Al-Hayat (...) was a platform for the prominent Arab writers and intellectuals who wrote rich and diverse content (...)

Saud al-Rayer, the editor-in-chief of al-Hayat for 19 years, resigned last week. 

Al-Hayat suffered from a severe financial crisis and its employees endured more than 11 months of unpaid salaries.

Its biggest bureau in Beirut was closed in June 2018, followed by offices in Cairo, Dubai and London. Freelance journalists were reportedly being paid their fees in April 2017.

Some of al-Hayat’s senior editors, columnists and reporters are now employed by London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat and the newly-founded Independent Arabia news site, both of which are financially backed by the Riyadh government.

Al-Hayat went online in 2002. Critics said that a failure to cope with the new media industry, inefficient management and a fall in advertisement led to its closure.

The press in Lebanon has been in crisis for several years, both as it struggles to adapt to the digital era and deal with the country's ailing economy. 

In late 2016, Lebanese newspaper As-Safir shuttered 42 years after it published its first edition, with the founder saying it had run out of funds.