Saudi media professionals strive to balance work and health during coronavirus curfew

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The use of technology, allowing journalists to edit and produce daily stories remotely, helps during the coronavirus curfew and restrictions. (AN Photo/ Ahmed Fathi)
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The use of technology, allowing journalists to edit and produce daily stories remotely, helps during the coronavirus curfew and restrictions. (AN Photo/ Ahmed Fathi)
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The use of technology, allowing journalists to edit and produce daily stories remotely, helps during the coronavirus curfew and restrictions. (AN Photo/ Ahmed Fathi)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Saudi media professionals strive to balance work and health during coronavirus curfew

  • The standard race against time to get news stories to readers has been challenged by the outbreak

RIYADH: The news cycle is a hectic environment, and the standard race against time to get news stories to readers has been challenged by the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The use of technology, allowing journalists to edit and produce daily stories remotely, helps, but the challenge remains, especially for those required to spend time outside “in the field,” risking their health and the health of their loved ones.

It is also a strange reality for many in the media industry, used to living life at a fast pace.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Jahlan, secretary-general of Saudi Journalists Association, said the association issued a statement to all journalists explaining to them how to work during current circumstances.

Arafat Al-Majed, a reporter for Riyadh Radio Channel, said she had taken online courses whilst in lockdown, using the opportunity for self improvement.

“I am under a lot of pressure because of self-isolation, but I feel happy because I get to spend much more time with the family and get closer to my children,” she said.

Al-Majed has not left home since curfew took effect, and uses online apps for delivery services, making sure to clean and sanitize all the deliveries she receives.

Other reporters, however, said that nothing much had changed in terms reporting and editing news stories.

Saudi journalist Khalid Al-Matrafi said that he was already used to utilizing smart applications and technology in scouting news stories and contacting sources.

The only change to his daily routine, he said, was having the time to read more.

Mohammad Al-Bishi, assistant editor-in-chief of Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper, said the new pandemic had made many journalists develop their technological skills to adapt their daily work routine.

“I still work from nine to five on a daily basis. I edit stories and articles and also review the pages of the newspaper before being sent to the press. Al-Eqtisadiah has a good system that allows its staff to work remotely without a glitch,” he said.

The only thing that has changed, in his opinion, is dealing with people, especially sources who he cannot meet in person.

The absence of events is also one of the major changes for media figures, who are used to coverage throughout the year — the news cycle, it seems, has slowed down. He advises field reporters to exercise extreme caution when reporting live or making videos.

Al-Bishi is happy that he spends more quality time with his family now and gets to play with his children and even help with their studies. “My children now know what kind of a cook I am,” he said jokingly.

Salman Al-Qarni, an anchor at Al-Ekhbariya TV channel, said COVID-19 had made him think twice before touching anything or using his hands. He sees sanitizers, gloves and masks everywhere he goes.

“I see the sign ‘don’t touch’ dangling in front of my eyes wherever I go and I think about it even when I hold the mic during an interview,” he said. “I wonder everyday what would be the COVID-19 impact on the stock market. I follow up closely with the stock market developments and wonder if they will ever collapse any moment.”

Lafi Al-Rashidi, a TV anchor, said he reads coronavirus news reports on a daily basis, and follows up closely with the coronavirus news to prepare daily updates on the latest developments of the disease.

“My daughter is concerned because of the disease and my son asks a lot of questions, but I reassure them that we are fine as long as we abide by the Ministry of Health’s instructions,” he said.

Ahmed Al-Dayhani, a reporter at Radio Monte Carlo, Saudi Arabia, said he spent most of the last two weeks reading up on culture and his hobbies and favorite sports. He works from home most of the time, and does not get to meet people as often as he used to.

“I’m more careful about how I deal with people, especially the delivery people and I ‘wash my hands after I receive any delivery. I rarely go to the supermarket and always open the windows in the morning to get fresh air,” he said.

Hamad Al-Mahmoud, manager of the Sky News Office in Saudi Arabia, commended the strong and robust internet infrastructure in the Kingdom, which has helped reporters and journalists do their jobs without any issues.

He works remotely and follows all official health instructions to ensure his safety and that of his family.


Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

Updated 01 October 2020

Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

  • It will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools

JEDDAH: Violations of Saudi Arabia’s anti-sexual harassment laws could be punished by “naming and shaming” following a decision by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to approve a defamation penalty.

The council voted in favor of the penalty during its session on Wednesday after previously rejecting the move in March this year.

Council member Latifah Al-Shaalan said the proposal to include the penalty was sent by the Saudi Cabinet.

Saudi lawyer Njood Al-Qassim said she agrees with the move, adding that it will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools.

“The penalty will be imposed according to a court ruling under the supervision of judges, and according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” Al-Qassim told Arab News.

“This will be a deterrent against every harasser and molester,” she said.

Al-Qassim said that legal experts are required to explain the system and its penalties to the public.

“The Public Prosecution has clarified those that may be subject to punishment for harassment crimes, including the perpetrator, instigator and accessory to the crime, the one who agreed with the harasser, malicious report provider, and the person who filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit,” she added.

“The Public Prosecution also confirmed that attempted harassment requires half the penalty prescribed for the crime,” said Al-Qassim.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment under which offenders will be fined up to SR100,000 ($26,660) and jailed for a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the crime. 

In the most severe cases, where the victims are children or disabled, for example, violators will face prison terms of up to five years and/or a maximum penalty of SR300,000.

Incidents that have been reported more than once will be subject to the maximum punishment. 

The law seeks to combat harassment crimes, particularly those targeting children under 18 and people with special needs.

Witnesses are also encouraged to report violations and their identities will remain confidential.

The law defines sexual harassment as words or actions that hint at sexuality toward one person from another, or that harms the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way. It takes into account harassment in public areas, workplaces, schools, care centers, orphanages, homes and on social media.

“The legislation aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations,” a statement from the Shoura Council said.

Council member Eqbal Darandari, who supports the law, said on Twitter that the defamation penalty has proven its effectiveness in crimes in which a criminal exploits a person’s trust.

“The defamation of one person is a sufficient deterrent to the rest,” she said.

Social media activist Hanan Abdullah told Arab News the decision “is a great deterrent for every harasser since some fear for their personal and family’s reputation, and won’t be deterred except through fear of defamation.”

The move will protect women from “uneducated people who believe that whoever leaves her house deserves to be attacked and harassed,” she said.

“Anyone who is unhappy with this decision should look at their behavior.”