How Arab News helped support one Saudi woman’s dreams

How Arab News helped support one Saudi woman’s dreams
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Updated 20 April 2020

How Arab News helped support one Saudi woman’s dreams

How Arab News helped support one Saudi woman’s dreams
  • Lina Almaeena was teen editor in chief of the Jeddah Girls Gazette
  • Her 1995 article ‘Wild Female Dreams’ envisioned more freedoms

JEDDAH: “Wild Female Dreams” is the title of my article as a teen editor in chief of the Jeddah Girls Gazette in 1995. Writers and contributors were dynamic high-school friends and family members. My uncle Tariq was our mentor and publisher. 

It took 25 years for all my teenage dreams to come true. My first dream turned into reality on June 24, 2018, when women were allowed to drive, not just their cars but also the country’s development. It was one of the most liberating feelings I have ever experienced, simple as it may have seemed to women living outside the Kingdom.

I dreamt in my article about women in the police force, only to see in 2018-2019 women progress as far as joining security services, drug enforcement and military jobs, with possible ranks from private soldier to sergeant in the army’s branches of ground, navy and air defense.

My third dream, as simple as it may have seemed, related to the sense of modesty for women. In the 1990s, there were no women in retail, and salesmen dominated female apparel outlets. The campaign in 2008, headed by Reem Assad and aimed at replacing salesmen with women in lingerie shops, made waves and eventually victory was achieved by a royal decree in 2011.

My fourth dream was to buy tickets to attend a local match in Saudi Arabia. That came true in January 2018 when I attended the first local match in King Abdullah Aljohara Stadium between Alahli Club and Al-Batin FC. It was an ecstatic feeling with beautiful and respectful cheering crowds, eroding certain segments’ fears regarding a possible catastrophe with women attending games in stadiums. 

My fifth dream was to switch on the TV and watch girls play basketball. That came true in 2017 when Jeddah United women’s basketball team participated as the first local team under the Saudi Arabian Basketball Federation in the fourth Arab Club tournament in Sharjah, the UAE, and winning the tournament’s sportsmanship award.

As I reflect 25 years later on the Jeddah Girls Gazette article, I realize I had listed six dreams, of which the last long-awaited one came true in August 2019: The lifting of a travel ban for women without a male guardian. Even though the travel permit was not a personal issue, I still felt the relief for many women of all ages with various circumstances. Widows who had to get permission from their sons was an ironic example.

Twenty-five years may seem like a long time, but in the context of women’s evolution, and considering the young age of Saudi Arabia as a country united in 1932, it is considered a fast pace. I say that now since all restrictive walls have fallen.

That is not how it felt years ago, with continuous frustrations and limitations, especially as a teenager. But women have endured and struggled for decades all over the world; in Saudi Arabia, it took less than five years since the announcement of our Vision 2030 reform plan on April 25, 2016, for transformation to take place.

A famous Japanese proverb states that a vision without an action plan is a daydream, but an action plan without a vision is a nightmare. I am proud and humbled to say we have one of the most promising and empowering visions. Vision 2030 has enabled 50 percent of the population to play an active part in nation-building. 

That is not to say women did not contribute prior to that. If I just look at my immediate family, my mother Samar Fatany was one of the first TV and radio presenters in the Ministry of Information in the 1970s.

During her 35 years at the ministry, she was the chief broadcaster of the English section at the Jeddah Broadcasting Station, a columnist for Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, and a participant in many local and international conferences. She also has four publications to her name, the last titled “Modernizing Saudi Arabia,” published in 2013. 

Times have changed, indeed. It was only in 2013 that women joined the Shoura Council. I am honored to have joined the 2016 second term for women on the council as I strive to recommend reformist legislation and participate in a friendship committee that communicates with parliamentarians around the world.

Reflecting on all my dreams, and on this occasion of the 45th anniversary of Arab News, the newspaper known as the “Green Truth” played a huge role in female empowerment. It was one of the first papers that hired women in a mixed environment. It was the only local paper that was happy to cover our first women’s street basketball tournament in 2006-2007, when all other publications politely refused. 

If I were to ask myself what my dreams are today, I would say I dream of more women actively participating in decision-making in Saudi Arabia and the globe. I dream of world peace, I dream of a green planet, but above all in these times, I dream of a healthy planet, conquering COVID-19 and having treatments available for all illnesses.

As we experience the curfew, I also get to do something I was never able to do in the past. I ride my bike safely around my neighborhood before the 3 p.m. curfew and visit the mini-market next to my house. 

All I can think about is the last two questions in my article “Wild Female Dreams.” Can these dreams be reality? Can the impossible be possible? The answer is a double YES. But we will need a newspaper to document this, and what better one than Arab News to do so. Happy 45th anniversary and many more anniversaries to come.

• Lina Almaeena is a member of  the Shoura Council, co-founder of the Jeddah United Sports Co., and on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women in the Middle East. She is also a member of the Top 20 Young Leaders of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Region.


How a Wikipedia error took root in the world’s media: Ahmad Zaki Yamani, the ‘first OPEC secretary-general’ that never was

Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani, a key player in the first oil shock of 1973, has died at the age of 90 on February 23, 2021. (AN collage)
Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani, a key player in the first oil shock of 1973, has died at the age of 90 on February 23, 2021. (AN collage)
Updated 25 February 2021

How a Wikipedia error took root in the world’s media: Ahmad Zaki Yamani, the ‘first OPEC secretary-general’ that never was

Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani, a key player in the first oil shock of 1973, has died at the age of 90 on February 23, 2021. (AN collage)
  • A factual mistake in the Arabic language Wikipedia page of the late Saudi oil minister has exposed a professional crisis among some of the region’s leading media outlets

LONDON: Ahmad Zaki Yamani, the longest-serving Saudi petroleum minister who oversaw the infamous oil embargo of 1973, is considered among the towering figures of the global energy market. It is therefore no surprise that his death at the age of 90 on Tuesday was picked up by international news agencies.

What is surprising, however, is how many of these reputable media outlets — including ones in Yamani’s native Saudi Arabia — got one major fact wrong about the late minister’s career. 

Indeed, several major news outlets in the Kingdom referred to Yamani as the first ever secretary general of OPEC. These outlets include the Kingdom’s main business daily Al-Eqtisadiya, the English-language daily Saudi Gazette, the highly quoted Okaz newspaper, news portal Akbaar 24 and even the Saudi Broadcasting Authority’s official state newscaster, Al-Ekhbariya. 

 

Of course, as per the list of secretary generals on OPEC’s official website, the first official to hold this position was Iran’s Fuad Rouhani. Saudi Arabia was one of OPEC’s five founding members in 1960, represented at the time by former oil minister Abdullah Touraggi, who was succeeded in that role by Yamani in 1962. 

The only Saudi national to become OPEC secretary-general was Mohammad Saleh Joukhdar — the fourth official to take helm — from Jan. 1, 1967, until Dec. 31 the same year.

An editorial review of the published Arabic-language articles containing this factual error suggests the source of the mistake was Yamani’s Arabic language Wikipedia page. The page lists “First secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC” under Yamani’s professional milestones. 

Wikipedia Arabic entry on Ahmed Zaki Yamani lists “First secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC” ​​​​as one of his professional experiences. (Screenshot)

However, none of the outlets that relied on the Arabic Wikipedia entry noticed that this information was unattributed to any source, and was excluded altogether in the English-language version of the same page. 

A cursory skim of OPEC’s official list of secretaries-general would have revealed that Yamani’s name does not appear as the first — or indeed at all. Despite his legendary standing and influence, the late minister was never a secretary-general, but was in fact the first Saudi representative on the OPEC board of governors. 

Many international media outlets, including the Russian state-owned RT Arabic, formerly known as Rusiya Al-Yaum, relied on local Saudi press coverage — namely Okaz — and failed to verify the facts for itself. 

Other outlets that got it wrong were the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency and the US-State Department-funded Alhurra News Channel, which tweeted a homage to Yamani, claiming he was “the first secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), for a period of 25 years.”

Interestingly, Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera claimed Yamani was the first secretary-general of OPEC for five years since the organization’s establishment in Geneva 1960 and its move to Vienna in 1965. 

 

However, as is often the case with the controversial Doha-based broadcaster, the mistake was limited to its Arabic-language platforms, while its English-language service appears to have got it right.

An official from OPEC confirmed to Arab News that Yamani was never a secretary-general, nor was he the first conference president. He was in fact the fourth — a role he presided over seven times, first in 1962.

“It all comes down to the basics of journalism fact-checking and verification, the bread and butter of every professional and self-respecting journalist,” Dr. Jad Melki, associate professor of journalism and media studies at the Lebanese American University and director of the Institute of Media Research and Training, told Arab News.

“In the rush to report first in a 24-hour news cycle, many news outlets are making basic errors that can easily be avoided. They risk losing credibility in the long run and that will spell their demise.”

  • Tarek Ali Ahmad is the head of Arab News Research & Studies; Twitter: @Tarek_AliAhmad

Discovery+ comes to STC’s Jawwy TV 

The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. (Supplied)
The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2021

Discovery+ comes to STC’s Jawwy TV 

The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. (Supplied)
  • The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform

DUBAI: Discovery+ has signed a long-term partnership with the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) through its media arm, Intigral.

The agreement will provide Discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. Users can sign up for the add-on subscription, which will be valid for 12 months.

“We are delighted to enter this new partnership with the leading telco operator in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and combine our strengths to provide customers access to our much-loved brands and content on discovery+,” said Kasia Kieli, president and MD of Discovery EMEA. “This agreement with Intigral reaffirms our digital strategy as we continue to grow our global footprint.”

Discovery+’s offering will include 4,000 hours of on-demand content featuring original and global shows such as “Shark Week,” “MythBusters” and “Amy Schumer Learns to Cook (Uncensored)” as well as other Discovery channels such as Fatafeat, TLC, Discovery Family, Animal Planet, Discovery Science and Investigation Discovery, with more to follow.

Discovery+ and STC also plan to make the Discovery+ app available to STC’s mobile customers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain as an added value to the existing service.

“As the entertainment arm of STC, we are thrilled to have partnered with Discovery to offer its extensive content portfolio to our subscribers,” said Markus Golder, CEO of Intigral.


New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia

New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 February 2021

New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia

New YouTube research highlights viewing trends in Saudi Arabia
  • Most-trending categories in the Kingdom were gaming, learning and sports

DUBAI: YouTube held its first online festival for advertisers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where it unveiled new research on audience viewership in Saudi Arabia.

The most-trending categories in the Kingdom were gaming, learning and sports, and the most-watched content was locally produced.

The last 12 months saw steady growth in gaming content streaming in Arabic. Puzzles and adventures were the most popular genres, followed by combat sports such as wrestling and boxing, and e-sports such as FIFA.

Viewership of educational videos on YouTube also witnessed an increase. Watch time of science and maths videos increased by 200 percent, while 95 percent of users watched DIY content.

In August of last year, YouTube reached over 20 million people in Saudi Arabia, who watched videos on the platform for an average of 55 minutes per day. Seven out of 10 most-watched videos in the Kingdom were locally produced.

“People in Saudi Arabia come to YouTube to catch more personalized content and high-quality entertainment produced by local creators. They are looking for relevant and relatable video content that may not always be available in more traditional media,” said Souheil Soueid, head of advertising products and solutions at Google and YouTube in MENA.

“This is evident in the continuous growth in watch time on the platform across all devices, including TV, and the popularity of new content genres like gaming and learning amongst others.”

FAST FACTS: SAUDI YOUTUBE CONSUMPTION HABITS

• Watch time of science, maths videos up 200 percent.

• 95 percent of users watched DIY content.

• Average watch time 55 minutes per day.

• YouTube reached over 20m people in KSA last year.


TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users

TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users
Updated 24 February 2021

TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users

TikTok ‘live show’ series to educate users
  • Experts and influencers to offer insights on marketing, health, motivation

DUBAI: Short-form mobile video app TikTok has launched a new live series, #LearnonTikTok, to support the recent surge in educational content on the platform.

With the onset of the pandemic last year, TikTok witnessed a shift in the way audiences create and consume content on the platform, with knowledge-sharing and education-related content seeing a 300 percent growth.

“As people spent more time indoors during the pandemic, an upward trend emerged in the demand for educational content on TikTok,” said Rami Zeidan, head of video and creative at TikTok.

TikTok announced the initiative in the US in January last year, which included a partnership with the online study platform Quizlet. It also formed a $50 million creative learning fund, as part of its $250 million pledge to support its community during the pandemic.

As part of the #LearnonTikTok program, the platform partnered with prominent personalities including Bill Nye, Lilly Singh, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Tyra Banks to feature educational content on TikTok.

Building on the popularity of educational content on the platform in the region, TikTok will now be hosting live sessions every week, for a month from Feb. 25.

Topics include show business and social media; digital and influencer marketing; health and fitness; and motivation.

The sessions will be hosted by Al Arabiya TV presenter Mahira Abdel Aziz. Each session will be led by a regional celebrity or influencer such as TV presenter Azza Zarour; digital content creator Nael Abu Alteen; Egyptian activist and athlete Manal Rostom; and travel blogger and YouTuber Haifa Beseisso.

“The #LearnOnTikTok Live Show has been designed to enable users to discover new interests and passions while learning from regional experts in popular fields,” added Zeidan.


Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas

Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas
Updated 24 February 2021

Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas

Spotify announces Ramadan podcast in partnership with Obamas
  • ‘Tell Them, I Am’ podcast features a collection of narratives from Muslim voices including activists, artists, actors and athletes

Audio company Spotify’s partnership with Barack and Michelle Obama will bring to light diverse Muslim voices in its upcoming podcast “Higher Ground: Tell Them, I Am.”

In 2019, Spotify partnered with the Obamas’ production company Higher Productions to produce podcasts exclusive to the platform.

The “Tell Them, I Am” podcast features a collection of narratives from Muslim voices including activists, artists, actors and athletes.

It is hosted by Misha Euceph, a first-generation Pakistani-American writer, podcast host and producer.

The announcement was made at the company’s Stream On event, which included a performance by Justin Bieber and was attended by the former US president, the duke and duchess of Sussex, and Bruce Springsteen, among other notable personalities.

The first season aired during Ramadan in 2019, featuring personalities such as Egyptian stand-up comedian, actor, writer and director Ramy Youssef, comedian Ahamed Weinberg, and actress Alia Shawkat from TV show “Arrested Development.” The second season will air on the first day of Ramadan this year.

“The stories are universal and the guests are all Muslim,” Euceph said during the Stream On event. “The ultimate goal is for people to feel something, for them to fall in love with the people they’re listening to without ever thinking about who they are and what they look like.”

Spotify announced a second podcast with Higher Productions titled “Renegades: Born in the USA.”

The eight-episode series features conversations between Springsteen and Barack Obama as they explore topics of race, fatherhood, marriage and the future of America.

The company also announced its expansion to 80 new markets across Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America during the event.

Insert infographic

In the majority of these markets, Spotify will launch with its full podcast catalog. For the others, it will work with local partners to introduce more podcasts from its catalog, as well as Spotify’s proprietary creator platform Anchor.

FAST FACTS

Over $5bn paid out to rights holders in 2020.

Monthly consumption of podcasts on Spotify up 1,500 percent in 3 years.

57,000 artists represent 90 percent of monthly streams on platform.

On Spotify, artists receive over 80 percent of streams from outside home country.

Over last 4 years, number of recording artists whose catalogs generated over $1m a year up over 82 percent.

Over last 4 years, number of recording artists whose catalogs generated over $100,000 a year up 79 percent.