Friends, Arab media veterans mourn loss of ‘gentle giant,’ Youssef Khazem

Youssef with UNITAF troops in Mogadishu, 1992. (Khazemmedia.com)
Youssef with UNITAF troops in Mogadishu, 1992. (Khazemmedia.com)
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Updated 16 September 2021

Friends, Arab media veterans mourn loss of ‘gentle giant,’ Youssef Khazem

Youssef with UNITAF troops in Mogadishu, 1992. (Khazemmedia.com)
  • Tributes pour in after death of British Lebanese journalist who worked for more than a dozen media organizations in the UK, the Arab World and Africa during a 30-year career
  • His area of expertise as a reporter was Africa, a beat he covered for 16 years; later, he made use of his extensive knowledge and experience as an in-demand consultant and trainer

LONDON: Renowned British Lebanese journalist Youssef Khazem has died after a battle with cancer. He was 64.

“I will miss a friend I have known since my university days in Beirut,” said his close friend Najia Al-Houssari, an Arab News reporter. “That friendship with Youssef did not break over decades. How can a friendship be broken with someone with such nobility, sincerity, calmness and love.

“Youssef, who had plenty of plans left to fulfill, was let down by cancer. Doctors gave him two years to live, but he was close to his fourth year. When the pain intensified, Youssef stopped fighting and surrendered to his destiny. He said he wanted to rest. Rest in peace my friend.”

Khazem was a pillar of strength within an often chaotic news industry. During a 30-year career he worked at more than a dozen newspapers and media organizations in the UK, the Arab world and Africa.

His area of expertise as a reporter was Africa, where he covered famine, wars and other conflicts for 16 years. Later, he made use of his extensive experience as a consultant for a number of newspapers, including Arab News where he was instrumental in its relaunch.

“He was kind, patient and incredible,” said Noor Nugali, assistant editor-in-chief of Arab News. “Arab News was going through a major transformation and he proudly showed off the pages and the new design, even asking for my opinion and taking into consideration my thoughts. He was a gentle father figure.

“My heartfelt condolences to his loving family. We have lost a great man but he will always be remembered as the knight in shining armor guiding the way.”

In addition to Arab news, Khazem’s reports appeared in many other newspapers, including pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Hayat and As-Safir in Lebanon, and Saudi daily Al-Watan. He also contributed to Al-Arabiya English and the BBC.

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“This is very sad news for the media community,” said Ghassan Charbel, editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. “Youssef used to leave his mark on both the professional level, and the level of personal friendship.

“When he went on a mission abroad, he used to look at things from a different angle to come back with a unique and different press report. As for his work at the office, he left a mark through his patience and openness when dealing with his colleagues and junior journalists.

“On the level of personal friendship, Youssef was keen to always be friendly with everyone, even if they had different opinions and political orientations. His eyes were set on the future for the sake of development, and he turned to training in order to leave a footprint in the future of journalism through junior journalists.”

Eyad Abu Chakra, senior editor with Asharq Al-Awsat and an Arab News columnist, worked with Khazem for years and remembers him fondly.

“It is painful indeed to talk of Youssef Khazem in the past tense, as we knew and befriended each other for several years,” he said. “Our first meeting, in London, was during his work at Al-Hayat. My first impression then was that he was a gentle giant, very kind, approachable and sociable.




Youssef with Somali armed guards in Mogadishu, 1991. (Khazemmedia.com)

“Personality aside, his professional expertise was also pretty impressive. He was undoubtedly one of the best Arab experts in African affairs, especially the horn of Africa, in which he became a reliable authority and highly respected source.”

In addition to his written work and reporting, Khazem’s media expertise was highly sought after globally as a trainer for organizations such as the BBC World Service Trust, Internews Europe, the British Council, the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and Fojo, the Swedish Institute for Further Education of Journalists. He also organized multimedia training programs with the UK Press Association.

“In his presence, I felt inspired, intellectually stimulated and wanted to always squeeze his brain with in-depth discussions of the state of our region,” said Eman El-Shenawi, a former opinion editor at Al-Arabiya English. “I remember him breaking down the Nile dam crisis to me, and the way he explained it was so effortless I immediately asked for a piece,”.





Youssef with Iraqi troops in Shat al-Arab, Basra, 2005, during the first democratic elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein. (Khazemmedia.com)

“His writing was smooth, easy reads that you actually learned from. Rest in peace dear Youssef, a kind and gentle giant who I will never forget.”

Ali Al-Zaid, from the Saudi Ministry of Media, said: “In my personal experience with Mr. Youssef, his name was always connected to his mission to improve journalism in Saudi Arabia and put it on the same level as global journalism in terms of courage and integrity. He never had personal gains or opinions that stood between him and his goal.

“I worked with him for three years at Al-Watan newspaper and I can remember his (contribution to) making Al-Watan one of the best Saudi newspapers at that time.”

Arab News Business Editor Wael Mahdi said: “The first time I met Youssef was in 2009 when he was working on developing a Saudi local newspaper, as he was trying to introduce newspapers to survival methods in this dynamic environment.

“He was always quiet, sitting remotely in his office, but he was following everyone from far. I met him again years later when he was working with Arab News, and I can say that he always brought new ideas everywhere he went.”

Saudi journalist Jasser Al-Jasser said: “Youssef Khazem was one of the most prominent journalists at the Saudi Al-Watan Newspaper. He had developmental skills in every institution he worked at and left his mark everywhere he worked.

“In addition to being a person gifted with a set of journalistic skills, he was a creative individual. He left a significant developmental mark in every newspaper he worked at. On a personal level, Khazem was a very well-mannered person with a cheerful spirit.”

To honor Khazem and the work he did for Arab News, the Arab News University (ANU) will be named after him.


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 59 min 37 sec ago

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.


Microsoft shutting down LinkedIn app in China amid scrutiny

The company said in a blog post Thursday it has faced a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.” (File/AFP)
The company said in a blog post Thursday it has faced a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.” (File/AFP)
Updated 15 October 2021

Microsoft shutting down LinkedIn app in China amid scrutiny

The company said in a blog post Thursday it has faced a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.” (File/AFP)
  • LinkedIn will replace its localized platform in China with a new app called InJobs

REDMOND, Washington: Microsoft is shutting down its main LinkedIn service in China later this year as Beijing tightens its internet rules.

The company said in a blog post Thursday it has faced a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.”

Microsoft is the latest American tech giant to lessen its ties to the country after years of trying to tailor its services to the demands of government censors.

LinkedIn said it will replace its localized platform in China with a new app called InJobs that has some of LinkedIn’s career-networking features but will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles.

Chinese regulators have been escalating a broad crackdown on the internet sector, seeking to exercise greater control over the algorithms used by tech firms to personalize and recommend content. They have also strengthened data privacy restrictions and expanded control over the flow of information and public opinion.

LinkedIn in March said it would pause new member sign-ups on LinkedIn China because of unspecified regulatory issues. China’s internet watchdog in May said it had found LinkedIn as well as Microsoft’s Bing search engine and about 100 other apps were engaged in improper collection and use of data and ordered them to fix the problem.

Several scholars this summer reported getting warning letters from LinkedIn that they were sharing “prohibited content” that would not be made viewable in China but could still be seen by LinkedIn users elsewhere.

Tony Lee, a scholar at Berlin’s Free University, told The Associated Press in June that LinkedIn didn’t tell him which content was prohibited but said it was tied to the section of his profile where he listed his publications. Among his listed articles was one about the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and another comparing Chinese leader Xi Jinping with former leader Mao Zedong.

Lee said Thursday it is “wishful thinking for LinkedIn to maintain its presence in a different form” without social media elements, its distinctive selling point against other online job boards. He said LinkedIn is better off pulling out of the country entirely than “practicing censorship dictated by China” that damages the company’s worldwide credibility.

It’s been more than seven years since LinkedIn launched a site in simplified Chinese, the written characters used on the mainland, to expand its reach in the country. It said at the time of the launch in early 2014 that expanding in China raised “difficult questions” because it required censoring content, but that it would be clear about how it conducts business in China and undertake “extensive measures” to protect members’ rights and data.

Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, bought LinkedIn in 2016. LinkedIn doesn’t disclose how much of its revenue comes from China, but it reports having more than 54 million members in mainland China, its third-largest user base after the U.S. and India.

“LinkedIn once served a crucial role, as the only social media network on which Chinese and Western colleagues could communicate away from (Chinese Communist Party) censorship and prying eyes,” said Eyck Freymann, another scholar who received a censorship notice letter this year, in a text message Thursday.

Freymann, a doctoral student in China studies at Oxford University, said it is “shameful that Microsoft spent months censoring its own users — and, worse, pressuring them to self-censor” but that the company ultimately made the right choice to pull the plug.

Google pulled its search engine out of mainland China in 2010 after the government began censoring search results and videos on YouTube. It later considered starting a censored Chinese search engine nicknamed Project Dragonfly but dropped the idea following internal protest in 2018.

Other US-based social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked within China.

Microsoft’s own search engine, Bing, was temporarily blocked in China in early 2019, leading the company’s president, Brad Smith, to reveal that executives sometimes have difficult negotiations with the Chinese government over censorship and other demands.

“We understand we don’t have the same legal freedom that we do in other countries, but at the same time, we stick to our guns,” Smith told Fox Business News in January 2019. “There are certain principles that we think it’s important to stand up for, and we’ll go at times into the negotiating room and the negotiations are sometimes pretty darn direct.”

Adding to the sensitivities this year was a massive hack of Microsoft’s Exchange email server software that U.S. officials have blamed on criminal hackers associated with the Chinese government.