Malika Favre: Artist who put Saudi women in the driver’s seat 

Updated 24 June 2018
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Malika Favre: Artist who put Saudi women in the driver’s seat 

  • In September 2017, King Salman issued a decree declaring an end to the decades-long ban from June 2018
  • Some three million women in Saudi Arabia could receive licences and actively begin driving by 2020

French artist Malika Favre has created iconic covers for “The New Yorker” magazine, with animations that have gone viral online. So she was the natural choice for Arab News to illustrate our souvenir edition commemorating the day when women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
As Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News, explained: “Our website and newspaper — which today features a striking cover illustration by artist Malika Favre — will provide comprehensive coverage of both the immediate impact and wide-reaching, long-term social benefits of this move.”
From her base in London, Favre explained why the idea immediately appealed. “For me, it’s exactly the kind of subject that I want to work with and tackle today. I’ve been increasingly involved with women’s issues over the past few years, with The New Yorker as well.
“These stepping stones are extremely important, and they should be celebrated. It’s also something that as a woman I feel very strongly about.”
What made our global creative director, Simon Khalil, think that the in-demand artist would take his assignment on? “As a champion of women for years through her unique creative style, Malika Favre was the obvious choice,” he said. “Her illustration brilliantly captures the significance of this moment on the day Saudi Arabia changed forever.” 
For the illustration, called “Start Your Engines,” Favre began with the idea of “something quite subtle, not aggressive, something celebratory,” coming up with an image of a “beautiful, Arabic woman” that tells a story within a story. 
“So, basically, I had this idea of looking at the car from the point of view of the woman who is driving, and so maybe the first thing you see is a woman with a headscarf and quite a colorful image, but then on the second layer you see what’s happening and you see that she is driving the car,” Favre said. 
The image of her hands on the wheel, and that iconic Gulf vehicle, a white SUV, are reflected in her sunglasses. These are animated online. “I really like the idea of this woman being on the road, because I think symbolically it’s about going forward,” she said. “That is also a positive element, to create a positive image of what this historic moment will change.” 
The topic also resonated with Favre because her mother, while she was born in France, is Algerian. “For her, she always wanted to have the same rights as everyone else. She was a big advocate for that. She raised me in that way as well. So for her it’s also an important cover on a personal level.” 
When asked about her favorite assignments, Favre referenced “Operating Theatre” for The New Yorker’s “Health, Medicine & the Body” issue last year. 
“It was an extremely important project because it went totally viral.” 
In her illustration, female surgeons are arranged in a circle looking down, as if the viewer is on the operating table. In the animation, the image is viewed as if through a blinking eyelid. Women surgeons around the world started re-enacting Favre’s cover, sharing more than 5,000 photos, with the hashtags #NYerORCoverChallenge and #ILookLikeASurgeon. 
“For me, it was a very important moment,” Favre said. “It reached out to an audience that wasn’t design-focused. It was something very profound that spoke to these women, and they took it as a very strong statement of let’s celebrate women surgeons.” 
Does Favre think the women of Saudi Arabia are up for such an assignment? “I think it definitely has the potential to do that as well,” she said. Challenge accepted. 


• Download our free #SaudiWomenCanDrive mobile phone background designed by renowned artist Malika Favre:  https://startyourengines.21wallpaper.design


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.”