Likes’ are no substitute for action, Jordan’s queen tells online influencers

Queen Rania argued social media should be harnessed as a tool to remove barriers between people, rather than create more divisions in society. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2018
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Likes’ are no substitute for action, Jordan’s queen tells online influencers

  • Speaking at the third Arab Social Media Influencers Summit in Dubai, Queen Rania said people should use their online platforms to generate positive change
  • Winners recognized at the event included Queen Rania, who was named personality of the year for using social media to support humanitarian causes

LONDON: Jordan’s Queen Rania has urged social media influencers to use their online presence to pursue the truth and promote humanitarian causes.
Speaking at the third Arab Social Media Influencers Summit in Dubai on Monday, she said people should use their online platforms to generate positive change.
The summit brought together 70 speakers from 25 countries to discuss the power of social media.
“(In our virtual world) the truth is losing ground to emotional rhetoric and sensational rumors. So do we blame these technologies and exonerate ourselves?
“We owe it to the truth to seek it out and distribute it. It might not be the most appealing or fascinating, but not all that glitters is gold. Let us aim to give truth the final word,” she said in her keynote speech in the presence of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.
Queen Rania argued social media should be harnessed as a tool to remove barriers between people, rather than create more divisions in society.
“I come to you … the influencers … the people whose voices are heard, to urge you to use your time to break barriers and open communication channels … to rally support for those who need it most to champion the truth and communicate through values,” she said.
Queen Rania warned influencers that collecting “likes” or “shares” of a post alone was “no substitute for action.”
Speaking at the summit’s award ceremony, Sheikh Mohammed urged young people to use social media to benefit their communities.
“The success of nations is built on optimism, hope and a positive vision for the future backed by planning and hard work. You have a responsibility toward your communities.
“We rely on you to be a role model for the community and to promote tolerance and openness in today’s fast-paced age,” he said.
Winners recognized at the event included Queen Rania, who was named personality of the year for using social media to support humanitarian causes. Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel was named political personality of the year for using social media in three different languages while conducting public diplomacy.
Saudi Arabia’s Princess Reema, vice president for development and planning at the General Sports Authority, won the sports category award for her efforts in promoting sports via social media.
Saudi media personality Abdulrahman Al-Rashid was the winner in the media category for being one of the most active social media influencers in the media world.
The financial news portal Argaam won in the business category section.
Argaam’s CEO Islam Zween told Arab News: “It is our honor to be rewarded today as social media influencer in economy. We are really pleased to have such recognition after more than 10 years of day-to-day engagements with our readers and subscribers.”


US Congress leaders demand probe into Al Jazeera’s status

Updated 25 June 2019
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US Congress leaders demand probe into Al Jazeera’s status

  • Legitimate questions are raised about whether the news outlet should register as a foreign agent

CHICAGO: Six Republican leaders of the House and Senate called for the expulsion of the Qatari-owned satellite television news network Al Jazeera accusing it of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Six GOP US senators including Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are demanding an investigation into why Al Jazeera is permitted to operate on American territory while two major Chinese government-controlled news agencies, Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network, are required to register under FARA.

The senators and representatives are calling for the Department of Justice to open hearings into Al Jazeera’s work in the US, accusing the government-owned Arabic and English-language news outlet of being an “agent” of the government of Qatar, which has been criticized as a safe haven and sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious extremist groups. Qatar is also accused of being an ally of Iran.

“News articles have reported activities in which Al Jazeera Media Network (Al Jazeera) is engaged that raise legitimate questions about whether it should register as a foreign agent,” the letter addressed to US Attorney General William Barr argues.

“Al Jazeera is a global organization spanning dozens of countries, including the United States, and reaches hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In 2016, its offshoot, Al Jazeera America, closed. However, Al Jazeera expanded its digital presence via Al Jazeera Plus (AJ+), its online news channel which is headquartered in the United States.”

HIGHLIGHT

The senators and representatives are calling for the Department of Justice to open hearings into Al Jazeera’s work in the US, accusing it of being an ‘agent’ of the government of Qatar.

The letter, dated June 18, 2019, argues that Al Jazeera, founded in 1996, is owned and operated by members of the Qatari royal family.

“Al Jazeera’s videos on YouTube are stamped with the disclaimer, ‘Al Jazeera is funded in whole or in part by the Qatari government.’ Thus, Al Jazeera is not only a foreign principal, but it is also owned by a foreign principal – the government of Qatar,” the Congressional and Senate leaders claim.

“Several members of the ruling family of Qatar have held senior positions at Al Jazeera: Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar, is the chairman of Al Jazeera; Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani is the CEO of Qatar Media Corporation and a board member of Al Jazeera;  Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani served as the director general of Al Jazeera from 2011 until June 2013.

“Given that members of the ruling family are in charge of managing the media network, it is more likely than not that the government can and will assert editorial control over media content.”

All of the signatories of the letter are outspoken critics of the Palestinian cause, and champions of Israel, and are among the largest recipients of campaign contributions from Israel’s American-based lobbying umbrella network, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). AIPAC, whose network donates hundreds of millions to the election campaigns of thousands of elected officials from senators all the way down to local legislators, is also not registered under FARA.

The letter comes as Qatari officials are launching a “charm offensive” to woo the administration of President Donald Trump. Trump is expected to meet in July with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the White House.

Critics, predominantly pro-Israel, have argued that Al Jazeera exploits its Arabic and English-language dual roles, embracing extremist and often anti-Semitic rhetoric in its Arabic broadcasts while softening language in its English online platforms.

In response to the criticism, Al Jazeera announced it was suspending two of its reporters for accusing Israel of being “the biggest winner from the Holocaust.”

Since its foundation, Al Jazeera has drifted further and further to the extreme. After its launch, it was banned from being broadcast or carried by many American-based cable TV systems that routinely carry news broadcasts from most other foreign countries including Israel. That changed after September 11, 2001, and Al Jazeera began to spend millions on opening offices in 12 American cities including in New York City in 2013.

Al Jazeera responded in a statement released to several US news outlets that it “is not owned by Qatar” and that “its reporting is not directed or controlled by the Qatari government nor does it reflect any government viewpoint.”