Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sacks senior aide for ‘slapping’ a journalist behind him live on TV

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has sacked one of his most senior aides after he appeared to slap a journalist standing behind the king live on TV.

The incident was caught on camera as the new king exchanged a warm greeting with Morocco’s King Mohammed at Riyadh airport on Sunday.

In the background behind the pair Mohammed al-Tobayshi, Salman’s head of royal protocol, appears to turn to a photographer and hit him around the face.

According to a decree published on Tuesday by the official SPA news agency, Tobayshi has now been removed from his post and replaced by 56-year-old Khalid al-Abad. No reason was given for the move in the decree.

But the decision was hailed by journalist Abdullah al-Bergawi as “a great day for journalists and the media”.

He told Gulf News: “Removing the head of the royal protocol in support of a journalist is a clear consolidation of the status of the media and a victory for journalism.

“King Salman is again showing that no-one is above the law and that all people, officials or not, are to be held responsible for their words and deeds and for not respecting people’s right to dignity.”

Bloggers and social media users, who had drawn attention to clips showing the apparent slap in the first place, praised the decision to sack Tobayshi as “justice” and “decisive” on the part of the king. One, named Said, said: “Salman is obviously the champion of the needy.”

According to BBC News, Salman sanctioned a senior member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Mamdouh bin Abdul Rahman, after he appeared on a TV talk show and made comments considered to be racist.

At the end of April, Salman oversaw a major reshuffle of the Saudi cabinet, demoting his brother from the role of crown prince and appointing the country’s first new foreign minister for 40 years.

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