Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure

Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure
Roger Harrison was one of the speakers at a media forum in Riyadh in 2019. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 October 2021

Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure

Remembering Roger Harrison: He loved the Kingdom, and Saudis loved him back in equal measure
  • Family, friends and former colleagues mourn man of many talents with 25-year connection to Saudi Arabia


JEDDAH: Roger Harrison, who has died on the Spanish island of Mallorca at the age of 75, was a man of more than one career and many talents — among them an event organizer, a writer and photographer, a jeweler and gemologist, a lecturer and raconteur.
Here at Arab News, where he was a senior reporter from 2001 to 2013 covering Saudi affairs and expat life, he will be best remembered as a news magnet to whom stories simply happened.
Among Harrison’s many achievements was his work on the book Wings Over Arabia, a photographic record of a three-man glider team flying over and photographing spectacular and rarely seen areas of the Kingdom. The team included Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first Arab and Muslim astronaut, and Prince Bandar bin Khaled Al-Faisal.
In his preface to the book, Prince Bandar paid tribute to Harrison’s abilities and his work: “He captures the beauty of my country from a perspective that most of the population will never experience. I thank him sincerely for writing and photographing a definitive work that is both a fascinating story and, perhaps, a source of inspiration for future glider pilots.”
So fascinated was the British historian Robert Lacey by Harrison’s work that he wrote: “Lawrence of Arabia captured it from a camel. Roger Harrison captures it from the air. Both convey the magic of Arabia with breathtaking power.”
Harrison was also one of the last journalists to interview the famed explorer of Arabia and the Middle East, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, in 2002.
Stories had a way of coming to Harrison. One of his last visits to Saudi Arabia was in October 2019, when he was invited to a government-sponsored media conference just as visas on arrival became available to foreigners. Harrison flew into Jeddah from London, and offered to pay the visa fee by credit card, prompting a bank security request to enter a one-time password — which was sent to his cell phone back in London. It seemed an insoluble problem, but the Saudi officer at the airport offered to pay the fee. Harrison assured him he would be repaid as soon as the problem was sorted out, but the officer said: “You are our guest. You don’t have to worry.”
Later Harrison regaled the Arab News Jeddah newsroom with the tale, his eyes filling with tears as he told how a complete stranger had come unhesitatingly to his assistance. He loved Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis loved him back in equal measure.
Harrison was born in Eastbourne, England, in 1946. He arrived in Saudi Arabia with his wife Sian in September 1996, to teach at Jubail Industrial College, where he remained for four years. The couple then went back to London, but the Kingdom had made its mark on Harrison and he returned to Jeddah to teach English to the Saudi Navy.
Harrison’s career with Arab News began by accident — quite literally. He and his wife were involved in a collision with a car that came out of the desert and ran straight into them. Harrison wrote a letter to the newspaper describing the incident, and Arab News replied asking him to write it in the form of an article rather than a letter. The piece appeared on the front page under the headline: “Why throw yourself to death when you can drive there?” The article led to an offer of employment at Arab News.
“He loved the people he worked with and he loved the opportunities the paper gave him,” his wife Sian said. “He went to places he would never have visited and was even able to indulge his love of racing by test-driving cars he could never have owned. The articles he wrote, especially ‘Adam and Eid,’ showed the depth of his humanity and his love of Saudi Arabia and its people. There were so many articles that displayed this empathetic side of Roger. The one he wrote after the dreadful floods of Jeddah was more personal, about the many friends who helped us.”
The Harrisons left Jeddah in 2013 and went to live in Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE. He had visited once to write an article, and liked the idea of being there while still close to Saudi Arabia. The couple’s son Ben, a newly qualified teacher, came from London to join them and applied for his first teaching post — in Riyadh. “Roger was thrilled the Harrison connection was continuing in the Kingdom and gave him a reason to visit,” Sian said. “Ben left Riyadh in 2019 and was going to accompany Roger on a trip to Saudi Arabia in January, when they wanted to do a follow-up to the Wings Over Arabia book, but this time from the ground.”
Ben Harrison hopes to return for a visit, and would love to be able to honor his father’s last wish.
In 2017, the Harrisons moved to Mallorca, which they knew well from visits over the years. Why Mallorca? “We had been visiting the beautiful Spanish island for over 20 years since my sister had moved to live there,” said Sian. “My mother also sold up and left London to live in Mallorca. She was very close to Roger. They loved to debate and had many spirited conversations, and the highlight of their week was a shopping trip to Lidl where they discussed anything and everything.”
Sian has received many messages of condolence from people who knew her husband. “They have shown me a side of him that truly shows the honorable and honest man he was, his old-fashioned values of being true to your word, his love for the Kingdom and the opportunities it gave him. I can’t stress enough how much being in Saudi Arabia meant to him.”
Harrison had great respect for Saudi Arabia, and was adamant in correcting people’s misconceptions about the Kingdom. He regularly called UK radio stations and wrote letters to various publications out of a sincere desire to set the record straight. As Prince Sultan bin Salman once said, Harrison knew more about Saudi Arabia than most Saudis.
“Although I never had the pleasure of working with Roger, I have crossed paths many times with him covering events in Jeddah in the early 2000s. He was full of passion for journalism and for the Kingdom, was kind to everyone around him and was always the first to arrive and last to leave during any press event,” said Faisal J. Abbas, current Editor in Chief of Arab News.
“Obviously, we at Arab News extend our condolences to Roger’s family, and on behalf of all the editors and colleagues he worked with in the past, we thank him for all the work he has done and all his contributions to our newspaper,” he added.
Harrison’s motto was: “Everybody dies, but some never live.” He lived a remarkable life in a remarkable country, and documented all that he could for future historians and writers of Arabia. He was a gentle soul, a humanist first and journalist last. Among those who admired and respected him is Razan Baker, director of international communication at the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.
“He touched many lives, including my own, and for that I consider myself lucky,” she said. “I was honored to know him as one of my dearest Arab News family members. He was always inspiring and motivating. Nothing was impossible for him. He was like a generous moving library that challenged us all to learn, be passionate about what we love and do, and try to do it better.”


Australia to introduce new laws to force media platforms to unmask online trolls

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gestures during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gestures during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP)
Updated 28 November 2021

Australia to introduce new laws to force media platforms to unmask online trolls

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison gestures during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP)
  • The new legislation will introduce a complaints mechanism, so that if somebody thinks they are being defamed, bullied or attacked on social media, they will be able to require the platform to take the material down

MELBOURNE: Australia will introduce legislation to make social media giants provide details of users who post defamatory comments, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.
The government has been looking at the extent of the responsibility of platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, for defamatory material published on their sites and comes after the country’s highest court ruled that publishers can be held liable for public comments on online forums.
The ruling caused some news companies like CNN to deny Australians access to their Facebook pages.
“The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others are anonymously going around and can harm people,” Morrison said at a televised press briefing. “That is not what can happen in the real world, and there is no case for it to be able to be happening in the digital world.”
The new legislation will introduce a complaints mechanism, so that if somebody thinks they are being defamed, bullied or attacked on social media, they will be able to require the platform to take the material down.
If the content is not withdrawn, a court process could force a social media platform to provide details of the commenter.
“Digital platforms — these online companies — must have proper processes to enable the takedown of this content,” Morrison said.
“They have created the space and they need to make it safe, and if they won’t, we will make them (through) laws such as this.”
 


UK migrant deaths: Priti Patel demands BBC drop ‘dehumanizing’ language 

ritain will do whatever is necessary to help secure the French coast to stop migrants risking their lives trying to cross the English Channel. (Reuters)
ritain will do whatever is necessary to help secure the French coast to stop migrants risking their lives trying to cross the English Channel. (Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2021

UK migrant deaths: Priti Patel demands BBC drop ‘dehumanizing’ language 

ritain will do whatever is necessary to help secure the French coast to stop migrants risking their lives trying to cross the English Channel. (Reuters)
  • On Wednesday, 27 people headed for the UK drowned in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sunk

LONDON: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to ask the BBC and other media channels to abandon the use of the term “migrants,” claiming that the word is “dehumanizing.”

Patel made the pledge after being challenged by the Scottish National Party MP Brendan O’Hara on the BBC’s use of ‘migrants’ to describe the 27 men, women and children who died while crossing the English Channel earlier this week.

On Wednesday, 27 people headed for the UK drowned in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sunk. Those who drowned included 17 men, seven women — one of whom was pregnant — and three children.

Following the incident, O’Hara had told the House of Commons: “Last night, I tuned in to the BBC News to get the latest on this terrible disaster and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned.

“Migrants don’t drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown,” he added, urging Patel to take action and ask the BBC and other news outlets to “reflect on their use of such dehumanizing language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve.”

Patel responded positively to O’Hara’s request, and said: “Even during the Afghan operations and evacuation I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing.

“So yes, I will,” she pledged.

Patel had previously blamed France for the deaths of the 27 people, saying that it was up to the French to take action to prevent further tragedies.

She claimed that while there was no rapid solution to the issue of people seeking to cross the English Channel, she had reiterated an offer to send more police to France.


Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Updated 27 November 2021

Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
  • Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, a presenter at privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him
  • In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the violent attack on Afghani journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, who was assaulted in Kabul while on his way home. 

Ahmadi, a presenter at the privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him and attempted to shoot him. 

The men, whose faces were covered by black handkerchiefs, reportedly shouted, “Reporter! Stop,” demanded to see his identification card and asked him where he worked. 

“The Taliban has repeatedly failed to uphold its stated commitment to press freedom, as violent attacks against journalists continue and proper investigations or accountability are nowhere to be found,” said CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, Steven Butler.

“The Taliban should reverse this trend by thoroughly investigating the attack on Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, and holding the perpetrators accountable.”

Ahmadi’s assailants reportedly demanded he unlock his phone and open his WhatsApp and Facebook accounts. When Ahmadi refused, the men beat him with pistols and proceeded to shoot at him when he asked for help. 

The shots missed Ahmadi, but the men continued kicking him while he was on the ground, breaking his jaw. 

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers. 

In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul, and Taliban members beat and detained Zahidullah Husainkhil.


Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
Updated 26 November 2021

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
  • 88 entries shortlisted in 56 categories for 2021 Middle East Public Relations Association awards

DUBAI: This year’s winners of a prestigious Middle Eastern public relations awards scheme were revealed at a recent presentation ceremony in the UAE.

More than 88 entries were shortlisted across 56 categories in the 2021 edition of the Middle East Public Relations Association awards.

The communications industry has been seriously impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic with many companies and organizations cutting their advertising and marketing budgets.

And the latest MEPRA awards took into account the damage caused to the sector by the global health crisis through categories such as best creative approach and best internal communications response during COVID-19, and best social impact campaign in response to the virus outbreak.

The classes saw gold trophies awarded to APCO Worldwide for its campaign “Adapting UOWD’s Education Model in the Age of the Pandemic,” Mastercard MEA for its “Priceless Together” project, and Action Global Communications for “ADEK Back to School,” respectively.

During the awards ceremony held in Dubai on Wednesday, Red Havas bagged gold for best campaign in the Middle East with Adidas’ “Beyond the Surface,” and Hill+Knowlton Strategies took silver and bronze for its PUBG Mobile “Game on Henedy,” and Facebook Inc. “#MonthofGood” campaigns, respectively.

To mark MEPRA’s 20th anniversary this year, the awards featured a new category of people’s choice for the best Middle East campaign over the last two decades, won by Weber Shandwick MENAT and Environment Agency Abu Dhabi for the “Vote Bu Tinah!” campaign.

Special gongs on the night included the chairman’s lifetime achievement award that went to Jack Pearce of Matrix Public Relations, the small in-house team of the year accolade handed to Mastercard MENA, and the large in-house team of the year prize given to the UAE government’s media office.

Agency titles were awarded to Gambit Communications for best home-grown operation as well as small agency of the year, with Acorn Strategy being crowned large agency of the year.


New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2021

New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
  • New Zealand PM said tech giants and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online

LONDON: Tech giants like Meta’s Facebook and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019 after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch while live-streaming his rampage on Facebook.
This Christchurch Call initiative has been supported by more than 50 countries, international organizations and tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.
Ardern said on Friday the initiative had been successful in its first aim of establishing a crisis protocol, including a 24/7 network between platforms to quickly remove content, in response to events like those in Christchurch.
“We have had real world stress-testing of those systems and they have worked very effectively,” Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
“I am confident that we are operating more effectively than we have before,” she added. “The next challenge though, is to go further again.”
Asked what tech companies should be doing, Ardern replied: “much more.”
Ardern said the next step was to focus on prevention, looking at how people are finding or coming across hateful or terror-motivating content online and perhaps becoming radicalized.
“That’s where we are really interested in the ongoing work around algorithms and the role that we can all play to ensure that online platforms don’t become a place of radicalization,” she said.
A Christchurch Call conference earlier this year was attended by the United States and Britain.