BBC appoints its first Arab to head Arabic Service

The BBC has appointed its first Arab head of BBC Arabic Service in the 66-year history of the department.

Hosam El Sokkari, currently head of BBC Arabic Online, will take up the post at the helm of BBC World Service's oldest and largest language service after a six-month secondment to BBC News.

In the meantime Liliane Landor, current acting head of BBC World Service news and current affairs, will be seconded from BBC News as interim head of the Arabic Service.

El Sokkari's appointment fills the vacancy left by Gamon McLellan, who retired at the end of last year. McLellan was in charge when two of his producers, Abdul Hadi Jiad and Adli Hawwari, were summarily dismissed amid controversy just over a year ago.

Deputy Mustapha Anwar was interim head of the service.

Born and educated in Egypt, El Sokkari joined the Arabic Service in 1994 and was appointed head of BBC Arabic Online in 1999.

He previously worked in Finland and Germany as a cartoonist and newspaper journalist before joining Deutsche Welle as a correspondent in 1988.

Nigel Chapman, acting director of BBC World Service, said El Sokkari "has a strong track record of innovation in the Arabic service".

"He has led Arabic Online with great imagination and success. He recently introduced interactive radio programming, which caught the imagination of many in the Arab world. He played a vital role during the Iraq war in generating vibrant debate on radio and online," Chapman added.

The service expanded after the start of the second Iraq war in March 2003, opening a production centre in Cairo.

By Wale Azeez

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