Saudi media group SRMG inks deal to launch ‘Bloomberg Al Arabiya’ network

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Prince Bader bin Abdallah bin Mohammad bin Farhan Al Saud (L) with Mr. Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. and former mayor of New York City at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York. (AN photo)
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Dr. Ghassan Alshibl, MD and CEO of SRMG (R) signing the Agreement with Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media in Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. (AN photo)
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Dr. Ghassan Alshibl, Managing Director and CEO, SRMG (first right) Justin B Smith, CEO, Bloomberg Media (first left), John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg (second left) and Mr. Abdulrahman Alruwaita, Chairman of the Executive Committee, SRMG. (AN photo)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Saudi media group SRMG inks deal to launch ‘Bloomberg Al Arabiya’ network

RIYADH: Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) today said it has entered a long-term agreement with US-headquartered media firm Bloomberg to launch a multi-platform Arabic-language business and financial news service.
SRMG — publisher of Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News and Aleqtisadiah — plans a 24-hour television and radio network and dedicated digital platform under the “Bloomberg Al-Arabiya” brand.
It will also publish “Bloomberg Businessweek” magazine in Arabic and launch a new conference and live events series, according to a statement from the company.
The Bloomberg Al-Arabiya platforms will provide Arabic-speaking audiences around the world with news and analysis on the companies, markets, economies and politics shaping the Middle East, the statement said.
Prince Bader bin Abdullah Al-Saud, chairman of SRMG, said the deal would give a boost to the regional media industry.
“We are very pleased with this promising partnership with Bloomberg. In addition to the many business opportunities this collaboration brings, we believe the partnership will greatly enhance the media landscape in our region,” he said.
“This is an exciting development for SRMG and a strong progression in our quest to offer the highest quality financial and business journalism from, and about the Middle East.”
Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg and former mayor of New York City, said, “The Middle East is an important, economically diverse region and our agreement with SRMG allows us to deliver the sharpest global business and financial insights to a critical audience of business decision makers.”
Headquartered in the Gulf, the Bloomberg Al Arabiya team will be managed by SRMG with support from Bloomberg, and will draw on its financial and economic content and data as well as its 2,700 reporters and analysts globally.
“Our partnership with SRMG is a significant milestone in our regional growth story, building on the introduction of an expanded suite of new media platforms in the Middle East last year,” said Justin B. Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media Group. “This agreement is an integral part of our strategy of forming partnerships with leading news providers in markets that have a compelling economic growth story, as we look to further expand our localized international presence.”
Dr. Ghassan Al-Shibl, managing director and CEO of SRMG, said: “As one of the biggest media publishing houses in the Middle East, this partnership between SRMG and Bloomberg will see us expand into the international television business. With the new era of business and economic transformation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, such a significant agreement between two leading brands will pave the way for a multi-platform ecosystem of specialized business and financial content of international standards. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of media and publishing in the region.”
Bloomberg editor in chief John Micklethwait said: “Bloomberg Al Arabiya will enable us to build on more than 20 years of newsgathering across the Arab world to deliver the best of Bloomberg’s news, insight and analysis.”


Taliban confront fake news and social media in propaganda war

Updated 15 February 2019
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Taliban confront fake news and social media in propaganda war

  • The Taliban’s official spokesman now tweets real-time updates about battlefield operations
  • Its media arm stays in direct contact with journalists on a range of messaging apps

ISLAMABAD: Fighting “fake” news, wrestling with social media, and deploying an intern army — the Taliban’s sprawling propaganda machine embraces modernity even as the group vows to enforce Islamist controls on journalists if it returns to power.
Notorious for banning TV and radio under its iron-fisted 1996-2001 regime, the militants have proven surprisingly deft at adapting to the ever-changing nature of modern media.
The Taliban’s official spokesman now tweets real-time updates about battlefield operations and its media arm stays in direct contact with journalists on a range of messaging apps.
“Media is considered one side of the struggle,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP via Whatsapp.
“We are not against modern technology,” a senior Taliban source with links to the insurgents’ media wing told AFP.
“This is the need of the hour and using it is not against Islamic shariah.”
But the source admits his team struggles at times to control their own narrative.
High-profile interviews have taken place without the media wing’s knowledge, sparking hurried denials along with confusion over the identity of the interviewee and whether he can really claim to speak for the Taliban.
Unverified leaks to media outlets from alleged Taliban sources are frequent.
Fake or unauthorized accounts sprout often on social media, while their official Facebook pages and Twitter handles are regularly banned only to be restarted under another name.
Even the official spokesman, Mujahid, is widely believed to be not one man but a moniker used by the information wing to issue statements.
The operation can be dizzying, admits the Taliban source.
The increasingly refined production has not gone unnoticed, with NATO regularly briefing top officials on Taliban content.
“It gives us an idea of what the group is thinking about that day,” said Col. Knut Peters, spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Kabul.
The casualty figures they release are often wildly exaggerated, but the group has been known to describe their operations more accurately, with fewer outlandish battlefield claims.
“The Taliban have discovered that truth has a greater impact than fiction,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for International Crisis Group.
Journalists said insurgents are also often more responsive than the government.
“When a journalist was killed in Farah province, (a few) weeks back, I wrote to the Taliban spokesman, and I got the reply in minutes,” said A. Mujeeb Khalvatgar, the director of an Afghan media support group, who said he is still waiting for a statement from the president’s office.
Information remains difficult to verify, however. Pakistani senior journalist Tahir Khan, who showed AFP a stream of messages, photos and voice notes from the Taliban on his mobile phone, said the information was “not usually correct.”
But in a campaign like this, the battle for the truth might not matter. “This war... one major factor is psychological propaganda,” he added.
Its value is demonstrated by how high the media operation goes.
The Taliban leadership gives orders to a handful of high-ranking militants responsible for the group’s media strategy, the militant source said.
They work across five different language services — Pashto, Dari, English, Urdu and Arabic — with dozens of volunteers who produce multimedia content.
Print magazines target rural audiences without mobile phones, while slick propaganda videos and songs reach the illiterate.
The army of interns include journalism school students, along with IT experts who monitor the latest trends, the source claimed.
“They are servants of God, volunteers,” he said.
The Islamists maintained strict control over media during their brutal rule. Most foreign journalists fled the country, while Afghan reporters often worked undercover for fear of being violently harassed or accused of spying.
In the 17 years since the US invasion, Afghanistan’s media has flourished.
But their success has made them targets, starting in 2016, when the Taliban killed seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo — the first major attack on Afghan media since 2001.
Journalists have faced killings, attacks and abductions. In 2018 Afghanistan was ranked the most dangerous country for journalists in the world.
“Now (the Taliban are) using media a lot. It doesn’t mean they believe in freedom of expression,” said Khalvatgar.
“It means that they know how to use the media... as a propaganda tool, not as a right of the people.”
Meanwhile unprecedented talks between the Taliban and Washington have sparked fears of a potential US exit and a possible return to power for the insurgents.
The Taliban source said the group has no wish to shutter Afghan outlets — but journalists would have to comply with an unspecified “code of conduct” in line with Islamic shariah.
Female anchors, common in Afghanistan today, would not be allowed on camera.
“It’s better that they stay at home or join some other respectable profession,” said the Taliban source.
But foreign media would be welcomed, he claimed, unlike in the past.
“We sheltered Osama [bin Laden] and provided him all our respect because he was our guest,” he said.
“Everyone who comes from any other country will be our guest.”