Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’

Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’
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Updated 24 March 2021

Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’

Lynx Festival director: ‘We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles’
  • Dubai’s festival chief Thea Skelton talks to Arab News about the changing role of men, women in advertising

As festival director of the Dubai Lynx, you are in a unique position where you get to view work from across the region. Can you shed some light on the trends you have seen in the work over the last few years in terms of both the portrayal and representation of women?

In 2019 we launched Glass: The Award for Change. The award recognizes work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of male or female gender inequality or prejudice, through the conscious representation of gender in advertising.

It is about ideas intended to change the world or work that sets out to positively impact ingrained gender inequality, imbalance, or injustice.

The jury awarded four pieces of work and they came from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Pakistan, so it was a good spread.

The Grand Prix went to J. Walter Thompson Riyadh for “Akhou Nora,” its campaign for Saudi Telecom Co. (STC), which built on the transformational year of 2018 where in Saudi Arabia restrictions on women eased and a decree was passed that allowed them to drive.

It reminded those opposed to change that the change was not new and that it was actually a woman – Princess Noura – who drove her brother to lay the foundations of the new Kingdom in 1902.

Our jury president in 2019, Candace Kuss, said that the work “celebrated a woman as the hero, rather than defending women as victims,” and I hope that is a trend that we will continue to see in the region – using and celebrating women as strong role models.

The Lynx has collaborated with the UN Women Unstereotype Alliance to implement new guidelines encouraging jury members to consider whether the work perpetuates negative stereotypes and inequalities. How is this actually implemented and what happens when a piece of work is indeed found to perpetuate negative stereotypes?

There has been a notable shift in attitudes toward gender representation across the region recently and it’s time to propel this forward, from the ground up. This is why we have partnered with the Unstereotype Alliance because it puts the issue of stereotypes at the heart of the creative process.

The guidelines are designed to encourage every jury member reviewing entries to consider whether the work perpetuates negative stereotypes and inequalities and they also support the festival’s commitment to encourage diversity and inclusion throughout the regional industry to impact the wider world.

We want our awards to champion inclusive, empowering, forward-thinking ideas, and these guidelines are about helping to ensure that the work honored at Dubai Lynx is admired not only for its creative brilliance but for its reflection of equality and tolerance in our region.

Are there any other measures that Dubai Lynx or Cannes Lions have implemented pertaining to this topic?

We’re really proud of our See It Be It initiative. It is an acceleration program designed for women working in the communications industry who face diversity challenges. It was established at Cannes Lions in 2014 and we’re delighted that we have been able to bring it to Dubai Lynx for women in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

It means that we can focus on the barriers and challenges specific to them and the region through tailored training, mentoring, and networking. For the women who make it into the program, it’s an experience that raises profiles, expands contacts, builds confidence, and accelerates them down the path to leadership.

What are some of your favorite pieces of work promoting gender equality and fair representation?

All of the 2019 shortlisted and winning work from Glass was so interesting … work such as “#SheDrives,” and the “Bridal Uniform.”

Over the next few weeks our juries are judging work from across the region. What they award will provide the new benchmark in creative excellence for MENA and put a spotlight on the work that is truly driving progress across society and business.

We’ll be announcing our winners in April and I’m looking forward to spending some time immersing myself in the latest work and seeing the real picture of how our region’s industry is tackling gender equality.

Rewriting gender stories isn’t just about fairly portraying women, but also men. What are your thoughts on this, and can you give any examples of work you have seen?

I would agree with this, and that’s why our Glass award focuses on issues of both male and female gender inequality. We need to be lifting both genders out of stereotypical roles, and that needs to be ingrained at the start, at the idea stage.

The Glass Award Shortlist for 2020/21

#LockdownNotLockup by Leo Burnett Beirut for ABAAD, an NGO serving as a resource center for gender equality

Art Gap by TBWA\RAAD Dubai for Standard Chartered

Traditional Virginity Test by TBWA\RAAD Dubai for M.A.L.I, an alternative movement for individual freedom

Equality Spell Check by Wunderman Thompson Dubai for Lenovo

The Kitchen is for Everyone by VMLY&R Dubai for Betty Crocker

The New National Anthem Edition by Impact BBDO Dubai for An-Nahar newspaper

Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage

Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage
Updated 16 October 2021

Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage

Google cyber-threat arm exposes Tehran’s online espionage
  • An Iranian-government aligned group has tried to steal personal information and passwords of notable individuals across Europe and the US through 2021
  • Iran set to continue on the same cyber-espionage path despite the exposure of their tactics, expert tells Arab News

Tech giant Google has exposed how Iranian-backed groups attempt to use its platforms to carry out espionage on behalf of the government in Tehran.

In a blog post released on Thursday, Google’s Threat Analysis Group exposed the work of APT35, a shady hacking group that Google said is linked to the Iranian government.

Ajax Bash, of TAG, said: “This is the one of the groups we disrupted during the 2020 US election cycle for its targeting of campaign staffers. For years, this group has hijacked accounts, deployed malware, and used novel techniques to conduct espionage aligned with the interests of the Iranian government.”

APT35 “regularly conducts phishing campaigns targeting high risk users,” Bash said.

In one instance, he said, Iranian hackers targeted lecturers from a British university — the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London — and impersonated them in an attempt to trick others in the academic community into divulging their personal information and passwords. This form of cyber espionage is called credential phishing.

“APT35 has relied on this technique since 2017 — targeting high-value accounts in government, academia, journalism, NGOs, foreign policy, and national security,” said Bash.

“Credential phishing through a compromised website demonstrates these attackers will go to great lengths to appear legitimate — as they know it’s difficult for users to detect this kind of attack.

“One of the most notable characteristics of APT35 is their impersonation of conference officials to conduct phishing attacks,” said Bash. He explained that Iranian-backed operatives impersonated officials from the Munich Security Conference and an Italian think-tank to steal passwords and information.

Amin Sabeti, the founder of Digital Impact Lab and an Iran-focused cyber security professional, told Arab News that Google’s blog exposes how Iran continues to build on its national cyber security strategy.

“This report shows again that Iranian state-backed hackers are very good in social engineering and they have improved their technique,” he said.

“For example, using a legitimate website to convince the target to enter the credential details of their online account is something new that we didn’t see a few years ago.”

Sabeti also said that, despite Google unmasking Iran’s cyber-espionage activity, it is unlikely that they will change their strategy entirely.

“I think we will see the same techniques but with new ideas.”

Google’s Bash said: “We warn users when we suspect a government-backed threat like APT35 is targeting them. Thousands of these warnings are sent every month, even in cases where the corresponding attack is blocked.  

“Threat Analysis Group will continue to identify bad actors and share relevant information with others in the industry, with the goal of bringing awareness to these issues, protecting you and fighting bad actors to prevent future attacks.”


Credential phishing

It is a form of cyber attack in which hackers impersonate a reputable entity or person to steal user ID or email addresses and password combinations, then use the victim's credentials to carry out attacks on other targets.

Goal of new UAE-based creative agency to prove role, value of empathy to balance humanism with capitalism: Mimi Nicklin

The goal of FREEDM is to prove the role and value of empathy to balance humanism with capitalism, says Mimi Nicklin. (Supplied)
The goal of FREEDM is to prove the role and value of empathy to balance humanism with capitalism, says Mimi Nicklin. (Supplied)
Updated 15 October 2021

Goal of new UAE-based creative agency to prove role, value of empathy to balance humanism with capitalism: Mimi Nicklin

The goal of FREEDM is to prove the role and value of empathy to balance humanism with capitalism, says Mimi Nicklin. (Supplied)
  • Virtual, hybrid agency FREEDM aims to bring togetherness to advertising world

DUBAI: FREEDM is a new UAE-based creative agency that was launched last month. Headquartered in Dubai, the majority of its team is spread throughout the world in countries including the US, Singapore, India, South Africa, and Sri Lanka.

Backed by investors Sean McCauley and Richard Aybar of The Devmark Group, who are founding board members, FREEDM is led by Mimi Nicklin, who has worked in the advertising industry for 15 years and is the author of “Softening the Edge,” which explains why empathy is critical to turning around businesses.

Nicklin told Arab News: “When I arrived in the Middle East three-and-a-half years ago, I took over a business that needed a substantial amount of turnaround and I decided to do that with empathy at the core.

“It worked against all sorts of criticism, and we turned around to be a phenomenal small business — with empathy at the heart.”

She pointed out that empathy levels had been declining for three decades, a situation that has had far-reaching consequences, such as mental health issues.

“We have over 300 million people with depression, which is one of the heaviest costs on our healthcare services worldwide today; and anxiety issues are almost out of control — even the World Health Organization has recognized burnout as an official workplace-related illness,” she said.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has made many mental health issues worse inspiring Nicklin to combine the learnings of the global health crisis, her past work experiences, and research on empathy, to create a new kind of agency.

“If we don’t take the learnings of the trauma that hit our world, then we’re just going backward and I don’t understand why the business world seems to want to revert to 2019 with such ease,” she added.

On how to translate empathy to the workplace in the fast-paced agency world, she said: “It translates to elevating our people in order to balance people and profit rather than sacrificing our people in order to drive profit.”

Nicklin noted that advertising agencies have been under increasing pressure in the last two decades as client demands have increased and team sizes shrunk.

“We are an industry that doesn’t sell product, we sell creativity. And creative people need space and time that procurement can’t put a price on. As creative talent is being deprioritized, creative effectiveness is suffering.”

Today, creative businesses contribute to 3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, employ 30 million people globally, and are the biggest job providers for workers aged 18 to 25, according to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

“That basically makes us the industry of tomorrow, and my belief is that the industry of tomorrow cannot function as it did yesterday,” said Nicklin.

FREEDM’s vision is to create an environment free of biases and restrictions that allows creativity to flourish. That includes recruiting talent from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, or economic background.

“We are not a particularly strong industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion. And this business is set to change that by being founded in a very different way,” she added.

For clients, it does not only mean access to exceptional work that addresses their marketing goals, but also being able to fulfill social and personal goals by “directly impacting human beings by creating freedom for them,” she said.

“I believe that we are all people before we are employees, leaders, or executives. And I think the last two years, particularly, have created a shift in society where we are all more aware of our collective role in improving and sustaining the world around us.”

The results speak for themselves with the agency receiving a phenomenal response within one month of its launch and winning new clients every day for at least an entire week. As of September, the agency already had nine clients with more in the pipeline.

From the outset, FREEDM has aligned its business with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and UNESCO’s International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

UNESCO believes that the creative economy needs to accommodate creators, through careers in the creative industry that are “viable, and characterized by dignified working conditions, decent pay, and growth opportunities.” In order to fulfill this goal, it has called on policymakers and global leaders to conduct an exhaustive policy review that includes employment, intellectual property, and education.

“That means we have to reformat our entire business and our industry. So, it’s an incredibly big challenge, but at the same time, I believe you can’t create change without discomfort,” Nicklin added.

Rights watchdog presses Houthis to release abducted journalist

Rights watchdog presses Houthis to release abducted journalist
Updated 15 October 2021

Rights watchdog presses Houthis to release abducted journalist

Rights watchdog presses Houthis to release abducted journalist
  • Youness Abdelsalam suffers from health issues, says CPJ

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged the Houthis to free a journalist they abducted in August and to end their “campaign against journalists.”

Youness Abdelsalam was seized in Sanaa and the CPJ said it feared he could be executed for his reporting.

His family said he had not been formally charged with a crime.

Abdelsalam, who worked for local papers, criticized the Houthis and also the Yemeni government.

“The Houthis must release Youness Abdelsalam immediately and stop abducting journalists,” said the CPJ’s senior Middle East and North Africa researcher Justin Shilad. “The Houthis’ campaign against journalists knows no bounds, and now more than ever the international community needs to take action.”

The CPJ said Abdelsalam suffered from health issues and that his family had only been able to visit him once since his arrest.

He is being held with at least four other journalists, all of whom face the death sentence, the CPJ said, adding that the Iran-backed militia had “assaulted, imprisoned, and forced out journalists from areas under the group’s control over the last several years.”

Imprisoned journalists experienced torture, isolation, and the deprivation of critical healthcare services while in detention, their familes warned.

They said the brother of Abdulkader Al-Murtada, who is the head of the Houthi prisoner affairs committee, tortured the journalists himself or incited other captors to mistreat them. They also said they had been forced to bribe Houthis to deliver life-saving injections to one diabetic journalist.

“We bribe the Houthis to allow us to send him an injection every 20 days. We do not know if he received them or not,” a family member said.

The Houthis have committed human rights and other abuses since they took power from the internationally recognized Yemeni government in 2014. 

Since then, and with the assistance of Iranian weapons and training, they have executed a bloody campaign in order to control the whole country. 

Disgraced BBC religion editor asked Pakistani PM if he was ‘ashamed’ to be Muslim after 9/11

Disgraced BBC religion editor asked Pakistani PM if he was ‘ashamed’ to be Muslim after 9/11
Updated 15 October 2021

Disgraced BBC religion editor asked Pakistani PM if he was ‘ashamed’ to be Muslim after 9/11

Disgraced BBC religion editor asked Pakistani PM if he was ‘ashamed’ to be Muslim after 9/11
  • Journalist criticized for “deceitful” treatment of Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Politician said question was part of West's “rising Islamophobia”

LONDON: The BBC’s former religion editor Martin Bashir asked Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan if he was “ashamed of being a Muslim” after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Khan revealed in his autobiography that he was “shocked” by Bashir’s line of questioning when he was contacted after the tragedy.

“After 9/11, I will never forget he (Bashir) rang me up and he said: ‘Aren’t you ashamed of being a Muslim,’” said Khan, who was interviewed by the journalist in Pakistan.

“‘As a Muslim, aren’t you embarrassed by the attacks?’ was his immediate question. I was shocked,” Khan wrote.

“Implying all the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims should feel responsible for an act of a handful of criminals is like asking a Christian to feel responsible for Hitler or Stalin’s atrocities, or asking a Catholic if they support the IRA blowing up children at Omagh. I expected a backlash after 9/11, but had not anticipated its ferocity,” he added.

It was part of the “rising Islamophobia” in the West that falsely portrayed all Muslims as “baddies,” said Khan, who was elected as Pakistan’s leader in 2018.

He said the phone call with Bashir, who then worked for ITN, was an example of how some in the West used the Sep. 11 attacks to put “all Muslims on trial” and merely “alienated many normal Muslims.”

Bashir, Khan concluded, was “not the best of journalists.”

The journalist, who retired from the profession in May this year citing health reasons, has also been the subject of significant scrutiny for his reporting methods in other cases, most prominently with his treatment of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper revealed last year that Bashir had used forgery and deception to trick her into giving him an interview in 1995 that some blamed on her eventual split from Prince Charles. She died in 1997 in a car crash.

Following an inquiry, the BBC found that Bashir had used “deceitful” methods to secure an interview with her and that a “woefully ineffective” internal investigation had covered his tracks.

Khan and Diana were friends and she visited Pakistan numerous times. He attended her funeral alongside Hasnat Khan, her former boyfriend and a distant relative of the cricket star.

Abu Dhabi Media to create Arabic versions of popular reality game shows

Abu Dhabi Media to create Arabic versions of popular reality game shows
Updated 15 October 2021

Abu Dhabi Media to create Arabic versions of popular reality game shows

Abu Dhabi Media to create Arabic versions of popular reality game shows
  • Dori Media Group’s unscripted formats “The Selfie Challenge” and “Win the Crowd” expected to be popular with younger audiences

DUBAI: Dori Media Group has signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi Media to create Arabic versions of two unscripted shows, “The Selfie Challenge” and “Win the Crowd”. Both show formats were originally created by Israeli content house Studio Glam.

Abu Dhabi Media has ordered 15 episodes of each format, which will be adapted for its flagship channel, Abu Dhabi TV, and the ADtv app.

“The Selfie Challenge” is a modern reality game show filmed that draws inspiration from the selfie phenomenon. Two groups of three friends must quickly replicate selfies they receive. The competition has five rounds, which become progressively tougher and more daring.

“Win the Crowd” is a talent competition series where the street is the stage and the public is the audience. There are no votes and no judges—contestants simply have to win the crowd. Artists from a variety of art forms are invited to perform on a busy street corner, covered with hidden cameras. Each performer has seven minutes to attract as many viewers as possible. For every person that stops to watch, they score one point. The performer who has the largest crowd will win a cash prize.

“We are confident these two unique formats by Studio Glam will be successful, especially among young adult audiences. We are very excited about this new relationship and we look forward to introducing more content to the UAE market in the near future,” said Haitham Al-Kathiri, Acting Executive Director of TV at Abu Dhabi Media.

The step is in line with the media group’s “international ambitions in the region” and reinforces Abu Dhabi TV network’s strategy to “expand its partner pool and target a wide base of regional and international audiences through the provision of unique and compelling content that is entertaining, informative and engaging,” he said.

“We are delighted to be collaborating once again with Dori Media Group (DMG) on two of our innovative formats. It has been said that television speaks the universal language. These two shows are an excellent example of that, and networks from around the world will find the shows very flexible and easily replicable,” said Ilan V. Glam, CEO & Head of Business Development of Studio Glam.

The Arabic version of “The Selfie Challenge” is slated to air at the end of this year and will be produced by Highways Arabia, while “Win the Crowd” will air at the start of 2022, with the production company soon to be announced.