Al Arab staff start to re­ceive fi­nal set­tle­ments af­ter clo­sure of chan­nel

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS - By Austyn Al­li­son

Staff at Saudi Prince Al­waleed Bin Talal’s shut­tered Al Arab News Chan­nel have re­port­edly started to re­ceive their fi­nal set­tle­ments more than two months af­ter the sta­tion ter­mi­nated their con­tracts. Em­ploy­ees in Cyprus have re­ceived cheques af­ter writ­ing to the Prince to make a ‘humanitarian ap­peal’.

The 24-hour pan-Arab news chan­nel launched out of Bahrain in Fe­bru­ary 2015, but was pulled af­ter only hours, fol­low­ing an in­ter­view with a Bahraini op­po­si­tion leader.

In March last year, Cam­paign re­ported the sta­tion was plan­ning to re­launch out of Qatar in the third quar­ter of 2016, af­ter Bin Talal signed a deal with the Qatari govern­ment. Mem­bers of staff un­able to get visas for Qatar were re­port­edly based in their home coun­tries or Cyprus un­til a new home was found for the chan­nel. These in­cluded na­tion­als of Iraq, Syria and Pales­tine, among them the high-pro­file Iraqi an­chor Laila al Sheikhly, who had joined Al Arab from Al Jazeera.

Af­fected staff signed a let­ter on April 5, pe­ti­tion­ing the Prince’s of­fice to help them re­ceive their dues. These in­clude fi­nal salaries, end-of-ser­vice en­ti­tle­ments and other pay­ments such as flight al­lowances and travel insurance.

On 6 Fe­bru­ary, staff had re­ceived an email from Sul­tana Al Ruwaily, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of HR and ad­min af­fairs, say­ing “the man­age­ment has de­cided to cease [the sta­tion’s] op­er­a­tion with an im­me­di­ate ef­fect”.

She wrote: “Over the com­ing few days you shall all be con­tacted by our HR team to fi­nalised your em­ploy­ment sta­tus with the or­gan­i­sa­tion.” How­ever, those calls never came.

Ex-staff es­ti­mate the to­tal amount due to for­mer em­ploy­ees is in the re­gion of $5m-7m. Al Arab is reg­is­tered in London, where Com­pa­nies House lists Al Ruwaily as a di­rec­tor, along with gen­eral man­ager Jamal Khashoggi. Staff say ap­peals to both direc­tors were not ini­tially an­swered, hence their ap­proach to Prince Al­waleed, Al Arab’s chair­man.

In March, Saudi web­site Sama News re­ported some staff were con­sid­er­ing ap­ply­ing for asy­lum in Europe rather than re­turn to their trou­bled home­lands.

King­dom Hold­ing did not re­ply to re­quests for com­ment. Nor did Cam

paign re­ceive a re­ply from the ad­dress from which the staff’s email was sent.

Prince Al­waleed Bin Talal: the Saudi bil­lion­aire runs King­dom Hold­ing and is chair­man of Al Arab

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