EXPOSED: Al Arabiya reporter reveals how Qataris harassed him to prevent coverage of BeIN’s Al Kheleifi’s Swiss trial

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Updated 30 September 2020

EXPOSED: Al Arabiya reporter reveals how Qataris harassed him to prevent coverage of BeIN’s Al Kheleifi’s Swiss trial

  • Al-Fridhi can be seen reporting from outside the court in Switzerland when two men standing behind him begin taking pictures and speaking loudly in an attempt to disrupt the coverage
  • The men also hurled insults and used derogatory terms, Al-Fridhi said, before flashing an image of the Qatari Emir Tamim Al-Thani

LONDON: In nearly 30 years of field reporting from across the world, Noureddine al-Fridhi had only twice resorted to hiring personal security in order to do his job - the first being in conflict-hit Afghanistan in 2002.

The second was just last week - far from any dangerous warzone - in peaceful Switzerland where he was standing roughly 40 square meters in front of the court holding the trial of BeIN Sports Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Al-Fridi, a respected Brussels-based reporter working with pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiya was covering corruption trial of Al-Khelaifi who is accused of corruption in the attribution of World Cup TV rights.

During his live coverage, al-Fridhi can be seen reporting from outside the court in Switzerland when two men standing behind him begin taking images of and speaking loudly in an attempt to disrupt the coverage.

They also begin hurling insults and use derogatory terms, Al-Fridhi explained, before flashing an image of the Qatari Emir Tamim Al-Thani. 

“I realized that in Bellinzona that this is the second time I asked to be assisted by a security man. First one was in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2002 and the second time was here,” al-Fridhi told Arab News.

“You can imagine that since 1991, how many times I have been in the popular suburbs of Brussels and Paris, covering the whole issue of migration in Europe, reporting from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.”

“This is really with whole humility that I asked to be assisted by a security man thanks to him, he deterred the bodyguard of the Nasser Al-Khelaifi delegation.”

The harassment and disruption had gone on throughout the trial’s coverage, which prompted the correspondent to hire private security given the Swiss Court Police’s inactivity to the abuse, claiming it was “public space.”

“I was not convinced with the democratic rules they invoked; I was not convinced by their explanation,” al-Fridhi said, adding that, “How can he [Al-Khelaifi] allow his bodyguard to behave that way with us? Whatever he thinks of our channel, he is free, but we were doing only media coverage.”

Veteran journalist Abdellatif El-Menawy, who was until 2011 the head of news at Egypt’s national broadcaster, condemned the incident, calling the use of any method of harassment of journalists while performing their work as “unacceptable.” 
  
“The attack on the Al Arabiya team by people affiliated with Qatar and raising the image of the Emir of Qatar is an attack on the freedom of the press, Qatar's responsibility is clear in this incident,” El-Menawy told Arab News.

One of the men seen harassing the team was identified by al-Fridhi as possibly being Jordanian-national Mohammed Abu Ghazala – a member of Khelaifi’s personal entourage.

“The story changes completely, this isn’t just the sort of provocation you face in a popular suburb in Brussels or any crowded area, this is a bodyguard of an official, a state minister. Mr. Khelaifi is a state minister, he is a very rich businessman, he is the owner of Paris Saint-Germain, he’s playing a big role in professional football – business and sport.”

Paris Saint-Germain president Al-Khelaifi and FIFA’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke went on trial in Switzerland on Monday accused of corruption in the attribution of World Cup TV rights.

The two men would each face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

“We know FIFA is a business association, bringing in more than 1 billion dollar income yearly, but you have to think about how there are hundreds and hundreds of millions – if we only speak about the Arab countries – who love football and love to watch the World Cup and for some reason they cannot have that,” al-Fridhi said.

“So, allow me to say myself, I don’t accept that. Football is not only about business and the players in the stadium, football is a very social event, maybe the most social event in a country or a society – mainly the World Cup.”

Al-Khelaifi is charged with inciting Valcke to commit “aggravated criminal mismanagement.”

According to the prosecution, the case relates to a meeting on October 24, 2013 at the French headquarters of BeIN, when Al-Khelaifi allegedly promised to buy a villa in Sardinia for five million euros ($5.9 million), granting its exclusive use to Valcke.


Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

Updated 20 October 2020

Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

  • Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets
  • Shoueiry founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region

RIYADH: Publicis Groupe MEA today announced the departure of Kamal Dimachkie, chief operating officer, Publicis Communications, UAE and Lower Gulf. Dimachkie is a senior executive who joined Leo Burnett in February 1985. The company has appointed Samer Shoueiry to assume the role in conjunction with his current responsibilities as chief digital officer, Publicis Communications, Middle East from Dec. 1. Dimachkie’s decision to leave comes after 33 years with the company. He will leave his current position on Dec. 31 and continue to act in a consultative capacity until June 2021 in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets including the US, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

Raja Trad, executive chairman at Publicis Groupe MEA said: “I respect Kamal’s decision. He has been a friend and a colleague for over three decades, and not just I but the entire Publicis Groupe family will miss him. His tenure at the Groupe has been characterized by a clear commitment to values that are central to our philosophy. Kamal’s adept leadership propelled the agency to new heights — we won more than 250 accolades and added numerous international and local clients to our roster. I want to thank him for his immeasurable contribution to the Groupe and wish him all the best for his professional future.”

Dimachkie added: “Leo Burnett and Publicis Groupe have been my life for the past 33 years, and I am proud to have been a part of a glorious journey during which I have had the opportunity to serve the company in different roles in six countries, to have contributed to numerous clients and raised the bar internally and within the industry. Part of this has been the joy of working with a wonderful team and leadership, whom I have partnered with, learnt from and shall forever call my friends and brothers in arms. I am grateful to have lived the glory days of advertising with one of the best agencies in the world and to have worked with some of the most inspiring and creative people. I look forward to working with Samer on the upcoming transition and wish him success in his new role.”

Shoueiry, who will take on Dimachkie’s role, has over 21 years of experience across business, design and innovation. He has consistently delivered a robust performance in Publicis’ Experience Design and Experience Strategy, founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region.

Commenting on his appointment, Trad said: “Samer has a record of leadership and value creation, deep experience in generating groundbreaking brand experiences, as well as a focus on strategic design, innovation excellence and a strong technological footing. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him to drive our digital transformation in the region and support the spread of innovation through investments in our people, technology, platforms and tools. Together, we will ensure that we continue to move our business forward in the Connected Age through a data-led, digital-first approach.”

Shoueiry further added: “Kamal has built a strong foundation for future growth, including strengthening our team and expanding our scope of work. The current climate has accelerated digital transformation globally, and we are looking at a future where online and offline coexist to augment consumer experience in an interconnected brand universe. E-commerce is a necessity, digital equities are your flagship stores, search and social your new outdoor. With this new beginning, I will focus on further strengthening our creative strategy-to-results development to offer the best consumer-centric experiences and build brand value.”