‘Social media should unite people, not divide them’

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Mona Al-Marri, president of the Dubai Press Club and chairperson of the AMF Organizing Committee, at the last year’s Arab Media Forum. (WAM)
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Alia Al-Theeb
Updated 01 May 2017
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‘Social media should unite people, not divide them’

DUBAI: The Arab media should be doing more to fight hatred and discrimination, much of which is spread online, according to the organizer of a major industry event starting today in Dubai.
The 16th edition of the Arab Media Forum (AMF), to be held on May 1-2 at the Madinat Jumeirah, is being held around the theme “civil dialogue.”
Alia Al-Theeb, director of the Dubai Press Club (DPC), which last week unveiled the schedule for the AMF, said that the media industry has a responsibility to promote civil dialogue and is not currently doing enough.
“This year we thought that the most pressing issue was these hate messages we are seeing and a lot of discriminatory messages that people are exchanging, especially on social media,” she told Arab News.
“We thought that the Arab media should play a better role in terms of leading this dialogue and directing it toward a civil dialogue, which should be based on the pillars of tolerance, acceptance of the other, respect and coexistence.”
Many messages of hatred are spread by individuals via social media, Al-Theeb said. “Social media should be used to unite people rather than divide them,” she added.
But the problem is not just confined to hatred spread on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Some players of the established media are also sending out discriminatory messages, Al-Theeb said.
“In some media outlets, we did notice that they do slip into promoting hate messages, indirectly or directly, intentionally or unintentionally,” she said.
“There has been a lot of different hate messages: Discrimination between countries, between nationalities and even discrimination based on religion.” An example of this is when certain media cover a terror attack and put undue emphasis on a perpetrator’s religion or nationality, Al-Theeb said.
“Then you are kind of ‘programming’ people’s minds to think that all Muslims are terrorists, or all Christians are terrorists.”

Keynote speakers
This year’s AMF is expected to attract over 3,000 participants and experts in the media industry.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League secretary-general and the UAE’s Minister of State for Tolerance Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al-Qasimi will give the keynote addresses on the first and second days, respectively.
Al-Theeb said that the aim of the event is to open “the door for a clearer and open discussion, bringing different points of view.”
Noura Al-Kaabi, minister of state for Federal National Council Affairs and chairperson of the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority, will present a panel session on “Constructive Dialogue,” while Minister of State for Youth Affairs Shamma Al-Mazrui will be launching a media initiative for Arab youth.
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of DP World, will speak at a panel discussion titled “The Silk Road.” The session — moderated by Nadine Hani, business news presenter at Al Arabiya News Channel — will address the role of business in enriching civil dialogue between nations.
International media figures will also be partaking in the annual event, including Richard Buangan, managing director for international media at the US Department of State, who will be talking during a session titled “Successful Political Dialogue.”
Alex Aiken, the UK executive director of government communications, will speak at AMF about the “Dialogue of Tolerance.”

Dubai Press Club
The program was announced last week by the DPC, of which Al-Theeb was named director late last year. She praised the leadership of Mona Al-Marri, who is president of the DPC and chairperson of the AMF Organizing Committee.
“It is a great opportunity for me to be part of (the) Dubai Press Club,” Al-Theeb said. “I think I have a big challenge to build on the success of this club, and add to it. Because it is already a very well-established club.”
Al-Theeb has experience working in the media, spending six years at the Gulf News daily in Dubai and having studied journalism at Zayed University.
“Working as a journalist is a different world in itself… You learn to work under pressure,” she said. “All these challenges are now helping me.”
She spoke to Arab News ahead of her latest, and biggest, deadline to date: Finalizing the plans for this week’s AMF.
“The deadline is a key issue. You have a lot of things to follow up at the same time and making sure that things are completed on time,” she said. “The Arab Media Forum is a big event and everyone’s expectations are very high.”


US media in court showdown over White House access

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta (L) leaves US District Court after a hearing in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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US media in court showdown over White House access

  • CNN’s suit was backed by a broad coalition of media groups including rival Fox News, which is controlled by Trump ally Rupert Murdoch and often draws praise from the president
  • Trump’s administration initially said Acosta was banned for inappropriately touching a White House female intern as he struggled to hold on to a microphone

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s effort to revoke a CNN reporter’s credentials went to court Wednesday, in what media groups said was a matter of press freedom — while the White House argued it had a broad right to restrict access to the US president.
Lawyers for CNN and the White House argued before US District Judge Timothy Kelly, appointed last year by Trump, on the cable news channel’s request for an order reinstating correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House pass.
In an emergency hearing, CNN’s lawyer Ted Boutrous asked the judge for a temporary order allowing Acosta to get his pass back ahead of a full hearing on the matter.
Boutros argued banning Acosta violated the constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of a free press because it was “based on the viewpoint of Mr. Acosta” and not his behavior.
“They don’t like the reporting” of the CNN White House reporter, the lawyer said.
US Justice Department lawyer James Burnham echoed comments filed in a legal brief earlier in the day for the administration, saying that “there is no First Amendment right to access the White House” and that the rationale behind the decision was that Acosta “disrupted” a news conference last week.
Judge Kelly said he would issue his decision at 3:00 p.m. (2000 GMT) Thursday.
CNN’s suit was backed by a broad coalition of media groups including rival Fox News, which is controlled by Trump ally Rupert Murdoch and often draws praise from the president.
Fox said earlier Wednesday the banning of Acosta raises concerns over press freedom.
“Fox News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential,” the news channel’s president Jay Wallace said in a statement, indicating it would join an amicus brief on supporting CNN.
“Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” he said.
“While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the president and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

Others backing the CNN arguments in court included the Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media Works, Gannett, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, NBC News, The New York Times, Politico, Press Freedom Defense Fund, EW Scripps Company, USA Today and The Washington Post.
“Whether the news of the day concerns national security, the economy, or the environment, reporters covering the White House must remain free to ask questions,” the media groups said in a joint statement ahead of the hearing.
“It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the president and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons.”
The White House said in its legal filing it has “broad discretion” to restrict media access to the president, disputing the argument that its actions violate the constitution.
“The President and White House possess the same broad discretion to regulate access to the White House for journalists (and other members of the public) that they possess to select which journalists receive interviews, or which journalists they acknowledge at press conferences,” said the brief.
The filing by US Justice Department lawyers argued that “the president could choose never to hold another press briefing again and cancel all press passes, without implicating due process protections.”

The White House brief argued there is no imminent harm to CNN or Acosta because he “remains able to practice his profession and report on the White House” and that CNN “has roughly 50 other employees who retain hard passes and who are more than capable of covering the White House complex on CNN’s behalf.”
Acosta, CNN’s chief White House reporter, had his press pass lifted November 7 after a testy exchange with Trump at a White House news conference.
CNN — part of the WarnerMedia division of AT&T — filed suit on Tuesday.
Trump’s administration initially said Acosta was banned for inappropriately touching a White House female intern as he struggled to hold on to a microphone. The White House cited a video which analysts said had been sped up, giving the appearance that Acosta struck the intern’s arm.
Trump later said other journalists might be barred as well if they were not “respectful.”
Free speech activists have warned the case has important implications, and that public officials should not be able to bar access to journalists if they dislike news coverage.
The White House has dismissed CNN’s complaint as “grandstanding” and vowed to “vigorously defend” against the lawsuit.