The Independent and SRMG announce major international expansion deal

The deal will see four new websites run exclusively by SRMG
Updated 19 July 2018
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The Independent and SRMG announce major international expansion deal

  • Four new websites will be created under The Independent branding
  • The sites will be operated by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group

LONDON: The UK and US-based online publisher The Independent and the Middle East media house, Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), have announced a new licensing deal that will see the creation of a series of new websites in four different languages.

The sites will offer news, insight and analysis on global affairs and local events, and will be published in Arabic, Urdu, Turkish and Persian.

In addition, each site will feature translated articles from independent.co.uk alongside content from teams of SRMG journalists based in London, Islamabad, Istanbul, and New York, as well as operations teams in Riyadh and Dubai.

The new sites – Independent Arabia, Independent Urdu, Independent Turkish, and Independent Persian – will be owned and operated by SRMG. And all editorial practices and output will conform to the standards, code of conduct and established ethos of The Independent.

The Independent – which started life as a national newspaper in the UK, has, over many decades, established a global reputation for respected independent coverage of the Middle East.

And now the brand has a recently strengthened its team. This new project is part of the strategic growth of the title, which has recently expanded its overseas reporting, with correspondents in Jerusalem, Delhi, Moscow and Istanbul.

Further roles in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and Seattle are planned, as well as additional staff in the main London and New York newsrooms, enriching the title’s international footprint at a time when many news publishers around the world are cutting back.

Zach Leonard, Managing Director, Independent Digital News and Media, said: “The Independent is known and respected around the world for the quality of its journalism and the trust and authority it has earned through 31 years. As a fully digital publisher, our influence and reach have never been greater, with a loyal user and subscriber base and a total readership in excess of 100 million each month.

“This new chapter brings an opportunity to build on that heritage and increase our reach at a fascinating time of rapid change in the Middle East. We look forward to showcasing new ideas and provoking debate with new audiences across the region and beyond.”

The four new websites – independentarabia.com, independenturdu.com, independentturkish.com and independentpersian.com – will launch later this year. Social media accounts will be publicized as the services are launched. The Independent will continue to publish its own content, as it does now, in the English language.

By 2022, it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population will be using smartphone technology. And much of this growth will take place outside of the more mature markets of the UK and Europe. For news publishers with a strong legacy and reputation for international reporting, this represents a huge opportunity.

Dr. Ghassan Alshibl, the Chairman of SRMG, said: “We deeply believe that SRMG, through this comprehensive partnership forged with The Independent, is growing the level of its international licensing businesses to a higher altitude. Our reach, with this multilingual project targeting hundreds of millions of readers around the world, will be farther, and our audiences will be enormously wider.

“As part of SRMG’s global business initiatives we began in 2006 with a number of the biggest publishers in the world, we have been demonstrating in all our partnerships, like today with IDNM, SRMG’s eagerness and commitment to grow and strengthen its content platforms to be distinctly competitive in the wider space of the global media industry based on the strong professional pillars of credibility, authenticity and knowledgeable authority of quality journalism.”


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.