Akhbar Braille: Egypt’s first magazine for the blind

The magazine offers the visually challenged an opportunity to work in journalism.
Updated 25 August 2017
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Akhbar Braille: Egypt’s first magazine for the blind

CAIRO: In a long-awaited achievement, Egypt now has its first magazine in Arabic Braille, offering visually challenged people an opportunity to work in journalism. 
Akhbar Braille is published by Akhbar El-Youm, a semi-official daily newspaper in Arabic, and has columns on culture, art, sports, technology and politics. The Braille reading and writing system represents letters by raised dots.
The editor in chief of Akhbar Braille, Ahmad Al-Maraghy, told Arab News that the path to starting the magazine “wasn’t lined with flowers,” as it had to overcome many challenges to prove the idea was worth it. 
“Officials in charge of granting us a press license were surprised when they first received our first draft of the magazine, because it was an all-white paper print,” he said. 
The magazine’s team is made up of 20 editors who are all visually challenged. Nearly no reading material is available to the visually impaired in Egypt — some 3 million out of a population of 92 million. 
While the idea first occurred to Al-Maraghy in 2007 by meeting a visually impaired person by coincidence, he said he had several trials in Braille publications before this edition. 
“From a humanitarian perspective, I believe that being unable to see is the most difficult thing in the world,” he said.
Getting ads for the magazine was a challenge, he added, because people had never advertised in Braille before.
But it managed to attract some advertisers and receive sponsorship from a private bank. “I didn’t want the magazine to be seen as a charity or treat it that way,” he said.
“I’ve approached institutions who are aware of their social responsibility and are willing to develop their communities,” Al-Maraghy added.
“Our magazine is the first publication in Egypt and the Arab world to be published completely in Braille style.”
The 68-page publication currently prints 1,000-2,000 copies per month. Its free copies are distributed at public libraries, universities, schools or centers frequented by the visually impaired, in Cairo and other cities. 
Al-Maraghy wants to increase circulation throughout Egypt and start a daily publication. “It’s not a magazine about the blind, it’s for the blind, to serve their needs and interests,” he said.
“We hope our publication reaches audiences in the Gulf and the rest of the world.”


Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

  • Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability
  • Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is not close to launching a search engine app in China, its chief executive said at a companywide meeting on Thursday, according to a transcript seen by Reuters, as employees of the Alphabet Inc. unit called for more transparency and oversight of the project.
Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told staff that though development is in an early stage, providing more services in the world’s most populous country fits with Google’s global mission.
Hoping to gain approval from the Chinese government to provide a mobile search service, the company plans to block some websites and search terms, Reuters reported this month, citing unnamed sources.
Whether the company could or would launch search in China “is all very unclear,” Pichai said, according to the transcript. “The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options.”
Disclosure of the secretive effort has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations. They are concerned that by agreeing to censorship demands, Google would validate China’s prohibitions on free expression and violate the “don’t be evil” clause in the company’s code of conduct.
Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability,” according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday.
After a separate petition this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the US military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.
The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, “makes clear” that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate “are not enough.”
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” states the document seen by Reuters.
The New York Times first reported the petition on Thursday. Google declined to comment.
Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly, and their remarks at the company-wide meeting marked their first about the project since details about it were leaked.
Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.
Pichai told employees: “We’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here” on Dragonfly, according to the transcript. He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can “cause issues.”
Three former employees involved with Google’s past efforts in China told Reuters current leadership may see offering limited search results in China as better than providing no information at all.
The same rationale led Google to enter China in 2006. It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyberattacks against Google and other large US firms.
The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google. A Chinese official, who declined to be named, told Reuters this month that it is “very unlikely” Dragonfly would be available this year.