‘His voice will never leave us,’ Saad Silawi remembered

Updated 04 September 2018
0

‘His voice will never leave us,’ Saad Silawi remembered

LONDON: “Wake up Saad, it is Jerusalem we are talking about, and we cannot have a Palestinian state where Jerusalem is not its capital,” said the former PLO leader Yasser Arafat in an interview with my dear friend and colleague Saad Al-Silawi, who died on Saturday.
Saad was waiting for a couple of days before Arafat received him at dawn for an interview. The delay was normal if you were to seek to see the main man, and as a dedicated journalist Saad would wait. Yet at the crucial moment — and as Arafat was emphasizing the importance of Jerusalem for the Arabs and Muslims everywhere — Saad nodded off. This pushed Arafat to raise his voice and cry out “It is Jerusalem ya Saad!”
The interview took place to coincide with Arafat’s unilateral declaration of the formation of the State of Palestine in 1988.
Saad was a pioneer journalist-broadcaster, and in 1992 reported for the newly established Middle East Broadcasting Center — now known as MBC Group — which was the first independent pan-Arab TV channel.
After Saad’s death aged 55, Jordan’s King Abdallah tweeted a few words remembering him and another journalist who passed away at the same time.
“They were generous in the morals and their love to the country. Media and art have noble messages and heavy responsibility which Saad and Yasser had delivered with honor and professionalism, bypassing all borders and entrenched in the hearts and minds of their audience,” the king wrote. “Our condolences to their loss that the homeland that gave birth to them will always be generous and giveth.”
Saad was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 2012 and underwent larynx-removal surgery in 2013 in Canada’s Montreal General Hospital. His vocal cords were removed but he would not be silenced; in his first TV appearance since having a special voice machine fitted, he said: “Please do not listen to the quality of my voice. I am not a singer; listen to my words … I want people to listen to me for what I’m talking about.”
Saad’s illustrious career included a stint at Al-Rai, where he covered several wars and crises, including the Iraq-Iran conflict in the 1980s, the first Gulf War and the first and second Palestinian intifadas.
Saad was based in Jordan, but his career with MBC and later Al Arabiya spanned over three decades, during which he reported from across the Arab world.
He interviewed almost every relevant leader of his times, including King Abdallah of Jordan, president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, and the late King Hussein of Jordan. Both King Hussein and Arafat had asked Saad to be their media adviser, an offer he turned down saying: “I was born a journalist and I want to be a journalist.”
In 2014, King Abdallah bestowed the Order of Al Hussein for Distinguished Contributions of the First Class on Saad on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of independence of Jordan.
Saad’s reporting took him to many places, but the impact of his work was felt especially in his home town Amman. I would often ask my colleague how long it would be before he toppled the next government in Jordan. Many of his investigative reports on national issues embarrassed the government, and was the catalyst for many governmental reshuffles, as he revealed corruption, ministerial failures and maltreatment.
This was a glimpse into Saad’s professional work, but there was also Saad the human being, the father, son and the friend. Even after his cancer operation and the loss of his vocal chords, he would be at the airport to meet any colleague visiting the kingdom on business or pleasure. If your work took you to Amman en route to Baghdad or elsewhere, Saad and his team were waiting to receive you, for a day or two of warm hospitality regardless of your deadlines.
Saad has finally fallen asleep — but his voice will never leave us.


WhatsApp says working with India’s Reliance Jio to curb fake news menace

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 min 16 sec ago
0

WhatsApp says working with India’s Reliance Jio to curb fake news menace

  • More than 30 people have died this year in mob violence triggered by vitriolic messages on social media and WhatsApp, according to unofficial estimates, and police have previously told Reuters that minorities have been targeted

MUMBAI: Facebook’s WhatsApp is working closely with Reliance Jio to spread awareness of false messages, weeks after the Indian telecoms operator opened up the messaging service to tens of millions of customers using its cheap Internet-enabled phone.
Jio this month gave its more than 25 million JioPhone customers, many of them first-time Internet users, access to WhatsApp at a time when the messaging service is battling false and incendiary texts and videos circulating on its platform.
Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, launched the JioPhone last year at a refundable deposit of 1,500 rupees ($20.60). The device is Internet enabled but didn’t initially allow the use of WhatsApp or have several popular smartphone features.
All new users of the JioPhone get educational material that tells them about spotting a forwarded WhatsApp message and encourages them to share messages thoughtfully, WhatsApp spokesman Carl Woog told Reuters.
“We are working closely with Jio to continue our education campaign for WhatsApp users,” Woog said.
In India’s smaller towns and villages, deep-seated prejudices, often based on caste and religion, and cut-price mobile data can aggravate the so-called fake news problem. Such regions are a key market for cheap devices such as the JioPhone.
More than 30 people have died this year in mob violence triggered by vitriolic messages on social media and WhatsApp, according to unofficial estimates, and police have previously told Reuters that minorities have been targeted in some remote and rural regions.
That has prompted New Delhi to call on WhatsApp to take immediate action to “end this menace.”
WhatsApp has already taken some steps to quell the rise of fake news. It has launched print and radio ad campaigns to educate users and introduced new features on the app including limiting message forward as well as the labelling of forwarded messages.
It has also partnered with Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), a New Delhi-based non-profit organization, to spread digital literacy in India’s towns and cities.
DEF will host a workshop in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi this week, WhatsApp’s Woog said.
WhatsApp also plans to expand its outreach program to existing JioPhone users.
Reliance Jio did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
With more than 200 million users, India is a key market for WhatsApp but one where it has had to delay the official launch of its payments services due to the country’s push on data localization.
WhatsApp is currently looking for an India chief and a policy head for the country.
It last month appointed a grievance officer for Indian users at its Menlo Park, California headquarters, like other global tech firms whose grievance officers sit outside of India.
India has, however, said it will toughen up its laws including pushing US tech giants to have their grievance officers in India.
($1 = 72.8000 Indian rupees)