Journalists, citizens face uncertainty in Afghanistan

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Updated 26 August 2021

Journalists, citizens face uncertainty in Afghanistan

Journalists, citizens face uncertainty in Afghanistan
  • The rapid withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan has left citizens and journalists concerned about their future, experts say
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists is receiving hundreds of appeals from journalists in Afghanistan every day

The rapid withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan, two decades after the conflict there began, has left citizens and journalists concerned about their future, journalism experts said Wednesday.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is receiving hundreds of appeals from journalists in Afghanistan every day, uncertain about their futures and worried about their safety, CPJ Asian Program Director Steven Butler said.

Veteran Arab News columnist Zahid Hussain said “chaos and uncertainty” had gripped the country, but that the situation could end well if the Taliban kept its promises.

But during an interview on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show,” broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News, Butler said his organization was being inundated with desperate appeals from journalists in fear for their lives.

 

“It has been in the thousands of requests for help … thousands. The media industry was one of the great successes of the last 20 years. You cannot say they created a successful democracy but there was a thriving media industry, and profitable too,” Butler said.

“In the morning I get up and we have this inbox, and it is filled with journalists saying ‘please help me, they are going to kill me if you don’t help me get out.’ It is really hard to read through it to be honest. We just hope and pray that it turns out the Taliban leaders mean what they say when they say they want to have a free press.”

The CPJ has brought in more staff to handle the daily appeals for help.

“This number is out of date but at least 50 news operations have been shut down across the country, in the provinces … some of the journalists see it coming and they flee. The Taliban has a history of brutality and many journalists have been assassinated over these past few years, and there is a high level of distrust,” said Butler, who worked throughout Asia including for the Financial Times and The Christian Science Monitor in the mid-1980s..

Hussain, who writes opinion commentary for Arab News and has published several books on the region, said that many people thought the transition would have taken far longer than the few weeks it did.

 

“It is a very chaotic situation. It is largely because of the way the Americans decided to leave Afghanistan, so that is one of the major reasons for the chaos. The other thing is that it was expected, or foretold, that the Taliban would be able to take over but no one expected things to move that fast,” he said.

“What happened is unimaginable … it caught everyone by surprise.”

Butler said that how the Taliban treats journalists during the coming months will define the country’s future. 

 

“It is a very uncertain environment right now, and we don’t really understand the degree to which there is coordination between the Taliban leadership, which says they are in favor of a free press — and whether they mean it — and the Taliban on the ground,” Butler said. 

“The Taliban have gone searching for certain journalists. They have gone through houses. We have had others, one incident where the Taliban knocked on the door and pushed their way in and the journalist escaped out the back and they were firing their weapons at him. It is very concerning. We just don’t know how far they are going to stay on this path, but it is very worrisome.

“Certainly, people who worked for foreign news outlets are in jeopardy. The people we are dealing with for the most part are Afghans working for Afghan news outlets who often made critical reports on the Taliban. They have been scrubbing their social media accounts trying to get rid of that, but people remember. People know the history of some of these people. They are well known in Afghanistan.”

Hussain said that “more of a fear of the unknown” was the biggest factor driving the growing concern.

“The Taliban are trying hard to assure them that they are not going back to that aggressive system. It will take time even if they show some sincerity. 

 

“It is very difficult for insurgents who have been fighting for 20 years, and suddenly they find themselves in this different role and go into this country which is basically so divided … obviously the fighters who have been there, the fighters on the ground, and that will be challenging for a Taliban government,” Hussain said, noting there seemed to be less concern in the north of Afghanistan, which has always been more liberal. “The situation is normal in many of the country’s other cities.” 

Butler and Hussain made their comments during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” sponsored by Arab News on the US Arab Radio Network, broadcast on live radio Wednesday morning in Detroit and in Washington DC.

For more information on the radio show visit Arab News at ArabNews.com.


Sky News Arabia launches new Arabic-language digital platform

Sky News Arabia launches new Arabic-language digital platform
Updated 23 May 2022

Sky News Arabia launches new Arabic-language digital platform

Sky News Arabia launches new Arabic-language digital platform
  • SNABusiness.com will cover business and economic news and analysis

ABU DHABI: Sky News Arabia has launched a new Arabic-language digital platform SNABusiness.com, featuring breaking news, economic analysis and in-depth reporting.

The launch of the platform is in response to “consumer demand for objective and actionable economic intelligence and insights,” according to a company statement.

“The launch of SNAbusiness.com reflects Sky News Arabia’s commitment to provide our audiences with the economic news and analysis they need,” said Youssef Tsouri, head of news at Sky News Arabia.

He added: “We are witnessing an increasing demand for business news at a time when the whole world is in greater need of this genre of information.”

The digital publication will cover all topics relating to business and economy across industries including financial technology, energy and oil, tourism, real estate, agriculture and other sectors.

The website’s content will include diverse content types including reports, videos and exclusive interviews. SNABusiness.com aims to present complex data in an easy-to-understand manner through charts, infographics and digital videos.

Tsouri said: “Our aim is to provide fast and accurate reporting to our viewers and deliver our brand promise to be ‘your reliable source of economic information’.”


Disneyland’s new advert calls Arab audiences to Paris this summer

Disneyland’s new advert calls Arab audiences to Paris this summer
Updated 23 May 2022

Disneyland’s new advert calls Arab audiences to Paris this summer

Disneyland’s new advert calls Arab audiences to Paris this summer

DUBAI: Leading entertainment resort Disneyland Paris has released its first advert specifically for Arab audiences featuring Dubai-based influencer Sara Karrit.

Airing in the UAE and KSA, the advert is produced by Dubai-based local agency ArabyAds, and features Karrit sharing her dream of visiting Disneyland with her son on the occasion of the destination’s 30th anniversary.

Samira Tachfint, sales and marketing director at Disneyland Paris told Arab News: “Arab audiences, especially those based in the GCC, have always been a major part of our international audience base.

“There is a strong appetite among Emirati/GCC families for Disney destinations and at Disneyland Paris they have access to the ultimate magical experience just 6 hours away by air.”

A large number of Arab families visit every year, particularly during summer, said Tachfint. “Our bespoke luxury offerings and our ever-evolving entertainment encourage repeat visits.”

Disneyland Paris’ 30th-anniversary celebrations include Premier Access Ultimate, a digital service being launched this summer that will provide guests with one-time expedited access to 12 of the most popular attractions, in addition to new shows and experiences.

Tachfint said: “As we mark our 30th anniversary, we produced this ad to celebrate the connection we have forged with our GCC visitors over the past three decades. The ad, produced completely in the GCC and starring local talent, showcases how the magic of Disneyland Paris is alive for different generations and genders.”

Disneyland Paris is the most visited tourist destination in Europe — ahead of the Louvre and Eiffel Tower combined — with more than 16 million annual visitors, according to the company.


Netflix launches new collection and features on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Netflix launches new collection and features on Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Updated 23 May 2022

Netflix launches new collection and features on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Netflix launches new collection and features on Global Accessibility Awareness Day
  • “Celebrating Disability with Dimension” collection features 50+ shows and films about people with disabilities

DUBAI: Netflix is marking Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 19) by launching a new collection, “Celebrating Disability with Dimension” that features over 50 shows and movies highlighting characters and stories about people living with disabilities.

The collection includes shows such as “Raising Dion,” “Special,” and “Atypical” and movies that include “The Fundamentals of Caring” and “Feel the Beat.”

“How we access stories has changed a lot,” said Heather Dowdy, Netflix’s director of product accessibility, in a blog post.

“Whether it’s video conference calls, texting, or the flashing doorbell, nowadays technology can build bridges to access for many people living with disabilities.”

Netflix is therefore expanding its language availability of Audio Descriptions (AD) and Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH). These features will be made available across more of the streaming giant’s catalog in languages including Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

“For decades, your access to entertainment was determined by where you lived and what language you spoke, meaning that until recently people who needed AD or SDH could only enjoy a story if it was made in their local language,” said Dowdy.

“By increasing our SDH and AD language availability to over 20 languages, we hope to give all of our members the ability to see their lives reflected on screen, no matter where you’re from, what language you speak, or what abilities you have.”

Netflix will also display badges for shows and films that have AD and SDH on web and iOS, as well as host accessibility screenings in select countries around the world.

“With over 1 billion people living with disabilities globally, the opportunity to tell more inclusive stories and bond within our communities over storytelling is tremendous,” said Dowdy.


Saudi Arabia’s largest theater chain launches Muvi Studios

Saudi Arabia’s largest theater chain launches Muvi Studios
Updated 23 May 2022

Saudi Arabia’s largest theater chain launches Muvi Studios

Saudi Arabia’s largest theater chain launches Muvi Studios

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s leading theater operator Muvi Cinemas launched Muvi Studios on Monday, and appointed Saudi film industry pioneer Faisal Baltyuor as its CEO.

Muvi Studios will focus on developing both Saudi and Egyptian films for the Saudi public, concentrating on films for the big screen. 

Muvi Cinema announced this step as part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build a stronger film industry since theaters reopened in 2018.

“I have been collaborating with Muvi Cinemas in various ways since it launched three years ago,” Baltyuor said. “Its growth in Saudi Arabia has been extraordinary. It has captured the imagination of the nation with 46 percent box office market share tapping into the pent-up demand for a globally inspired theater experience, complemented by local execution.

“Now, through the creation of Muvi Studios, we are intent on producing world class Arabic movies to entertain audiences in the Middle East and around the world,” he added.

“At the same time, this is another exciting development for the rapidly expanding Saudi film production sector, as the country evolves rapidly into a vibrant society.”

Formerly CEO of the Saudi Film Council, Baltyour also previously led an initiative with the Ministry of Culture to develop the Saudi film industry before founding the largest specialized Saudi film distribution company, CineWaves Film, in 2020. 

He is a board member of Manga Productions and holds several other roles in the Saudi film industry.

“The Middle East region, and especially Saudi Arabia, is witnessing a renaissance of its movie industry and we are excited to have Faisal onboard to lead the company into this new venture to develop Saudi and regional film content to the big screen,” Muvi Cinemas’ chief executive, Adon Quinn, said.  

“The cash we’re investing in Muvi Studios will be used to produce a slate of top-quality Arabic movies and we aim to release a minimum of three films within the next 12 months.”

Since its launch in February 2019, Muvi Cinemas has expanded to 22 locations across the Kingdom, operating 205 screens featuring the latest movie experiences, including Samsung Onyx, 4DX, ScreenX, Dolby Cinema and Xperience powered by CGS technology.


WEF unveils Global Collaboration Village to improve public-private cooperation

WEF unveils Global Collaboration Village to improve public-private cooperation
Updated 23 May 2022

WEF unveils Global Collaboration Village to improve public-private cooperation

WEF unveils Global Collaboration Village to improve public-private cooperation

DAVOS: An initiative to improve the functionality of the metaverse and increase public engagement within it was announced at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Monday.

The Global Collaboration Village, which was launched in partnership with Accenture and Microsoft, will improve public-private cooperation, a WEF statement said.

The initiative will provide immersive spaces where stakeholders can convene, create and take action on critical global challenges, it added.

“The metaverse will influence the way people, governments, companies and society at large think, work, interact and communicate for the purpose of collectively addressing issues on the global agenda,” said Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of WEF. 

“The Global Collaboration Village will be an extension of the World Economic Forum’s public private platforms and in-person meetings and will provide a more open, more sustained and more comprehensive process for coming together,” he added.

Julie Sweet, Chairwoman and CEO of Accenture, said: “While the metaverse is only in its early days, it already holds great promise, not only for redefining how organizations work and interact but also for fostering effective public-private partnerships.”

According to the statement, WEF wants to be a pioneer within the metaverse space and bring together others to co-create within it.