Arab women break the gender bias in the Middle East media industry

Special Arab women break the gender bias in the Middle East media industry
Aya Ramadan, a Syrian TV host for Al-Aan in the UAE, began her career on social media before moving into television. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 March 2022

Arab women break the gender bias in the Middle East media industry

Arab women break the gender bias in the Middle East media industry
  • Thanks to greater opportunities for work and training, Arab women are increasingly visible in news media
  • Despite recent progress, women are still underrepresented in media ownership, production and decision-making

RIYADH: At 7 a.m. sharp, Samar Al-Mizari’s alarm clock signals the start of another busy day in the world of broadcast news. Each morning, at the breakfast table before heading out the door, she scrolls through her emails and social media apps to get up to speed with the day’s events.

Al-Mizari is a Palestinian journalist and producer at Al-Arabiya in Dubai — part of a young and ambitious generation of Arab women making a name for themselves in the region’s flourishing media industry.

“When I studied media at the American University in Dubai, what caught my attention was how most media classes had more girls than men, and this is evidence that the media today and tomorrow will be presented by Arab women,” Al-Mizari told Arab News.

“In our class, there were students from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan, and we were working and staying up all night together to prepare press materials using our different backgrounds. We were all young ambitious ladies, and, in one way or another, we worked really hard on our talents and always fought battles, and this made the class more fun.” 




Razan Tariq, a Saudi TV presenter on SBC, says her father initially disapproved of her decision to pursue a career in the media. (Supplied)

Indeed, thanks to greater opportunities for work and training, Arab women now regularly host prime-time television news and report from the scenes of major stories.

“It is often said that women are driven by their emotional characters or are too sensitive, that they are unable to face difficulties in their careers,” said Al-Mizari.

“When I entered into my challenging profession, I saw honorable and hardworking examples of women of all different ages leading tasks required of them thoroughly.”

And yet, despite recent progress, women are still underrepresented in media ownership, information production and in decision-making positions worldwide.

These gender inequalities are even more pronounced in media content, with the subjects of news, features and programming dominated by men. 




Samar Al-Mizari, a Palestinian journalist and producer at Al-Arabiya in Dubai, is part of an ambitious generation of Arab women making a name for themselves in the region’s flourishing media industry. (Supplied)

A 20-year study by UN Women found that, as of 2015, just 24 percent of the subjects quoted, interviewed or written about in newspapers, on television and on radio news were women.

According to a Reuters Institute fact sheet published in 2020, which analyzed the gender breakdown of top editors in a strategic sample of 200 major online and offline news outlets in 10 different markets across four continents, just 23 percent of top editors were women, despite the fact that, on average, 40 percent of journalists in the 10 markets were women.

To address this imbalance, efforts are being made to increase the presence of women in the media and in leadership positions.

Al-Mizari says it is essential that women are properly represented, both in media production and as subject matter, as no one is better qualified to explain or document the experiences of Arab women than Arab women themselves.

Like Al-Mizari, women in the Arab world have worked hard to overcome barriers to entering traditionally male-dominated industries. 

Many universities have established media and communications programs, which have aided young women in their pursuit of careers in journalism. Among them is the Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication in Dubai, which offers students the chance to attend on full scholarships.

Mousa Barhoum, a professor of journalism at MBRSC, says most of his students nowadays are ambitious Arab women.

“I am one of those who expects an increased feminization in the Arab media in the future,” Barhoum told Arab News. “From my experience teaching media students at MBRSC, I found that they are creative, intellectually liberated, and have a desire to produce different and creative media.

“I don’t like the phrase ‘women’s empowerment’ because it suggests that the action comes from outside. The Arab woman is now grabbing her role and status, and empowering herself on her own.” 

Reem Hambazaza, a Saudi journalist who studied journalism at the University of Business and Technology in Jeddah, says media and journalism courses have evolved in recent years, allowing women to keep pace with an ever-changing profession.

“Women have a strong presence in the media industry, as many of my coworkers are female,” said Hambazaza. “This field has altered dramatically in the last 10 years and Saudi Vision 2030 will enable women to play more prominent roles in the media.”

Arab women have also progressed rapidly in the industry thanks to the advent of social media, which has enabled the growth of citizen journalism and microblogging. For instance, Aya Ramadan, a Syrian TV host for Al-Aan in the UAE, began her career on social media before moving into television.

“Western media doesn’t care if the presenter is female or male,” Ramadan told Arab News. “The Arab world is also adopting this way of thinking. They search for qualified individuals that can do the job and this is why there is strong support for women in all media specializations, such as broadcaster, telecaster, news director, producer, journalists and more.” 

While a combination of college courses, job opportunities, social media platforms and raw ambition have fueled this rapid development, cultural attitudes have been slower to change. Many women continue to face opposition from family members and wider society.

Razan Tariq, a Saudi TV presenter on SBC, says her father initially disapproved of her decision to pursue a career in the media.

“At first, my father was against me being in the media and refused to let me study it because he comes from a conservative family and until now, some of my family members don’t talk to me,” Tariq told Arab News.

“But with time, he changed his mind and now he likes my TV show and he always posts about me on his Facebook account. Also, I am fortunate to have the support of my great husband, who is also in the media industry, and whenever I feel tired from my job, he supports me and believes that what I’m doing is important.”

Tariq says she was inspired by the words of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a recent interview with Bloomberg.

“I support Saudi Arabia, and half of Saudi Arabia are women,” the crown prince told the outlet. “Therefore, I support women.”


Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans
Updated 31 January 2023

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans

Tech giants in Europe could pay for 5G, fiber networks under fresh EU plans
  • Proposal aims to offset costs of data-heavy companies including Google, Netflix
  • But ‘fair share’ vision could threaten net neutrality, civil society groups warn

LONDON: ‘Data-heavy’ tech companies in Europe recording high levels of internet data traffic could be required to contribute to telecom infrastructure costs under new EU plans, sources said on Monday.

Under the proposal, companies including Netflix and Google will be required “to help pay for the next generation of internet infrastructure” across the continent.

The initiative to charge companies over their bandwidth usage — data transfer measured in bits per second — is part of the “fair share” vision being pursued by the EU.

“Fair share,” also known as the sender-pays principle, is based on the argument advanced by leading European telecom carriers that online platforms fail to contribute to network expenses while benefiting from the digital economy.

A draft document suggested that tech firms might contribute to a fund to offset the costs of building 5G mobile networks and fiber infrastructure, as well as take part in the creation of a mandatory system of direct payments to telecom operators.

The European Commission, which is developing the proposal with industry players, is reportedly floating a “threshold” proposal that would help identify companies that generate large amounts of data traffic, similar to the concept of “gatekeeper” companies introduced as part of the Digital Markets Act.

According to a European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association study, a small number of internet companies — including Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Netflix — account for more than 56 percent of global data traffic.

The proposal to force tech giants to contribute to telecom costs was first brought forward in May 2022 but was met with skepticism by some members of the EC, who called for broad consultations with relevant stakeholders.

Tech companies and civil society organizations have also expressed alarm about the move, warning that it might jeopardize net neutrality, which promotes the democratization of the internet and freedom for individual users.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen said in December that the EU “intends to launch a thorough discussion on the future of Europe’s connectivity infrastructure,” adding: “The amount of data exchanged and harvested is larger than ever and will increase.”

EU lawmakers are aiming to move ahead of the curve with legislation focusing on the growth of the data-intensive metaverse and virtual worlds.


SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp

SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp
Updated 31 January 2023

SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp

SRMG Academy launches registration for journalism boot camp
  • Classes start on April 30 in Riyadh and run for six months
  • The program features lectures by a group of SRMG journalists

RIYADH: SRMG Academy has announced that registration for its signature journalism boot camp is now open until Feb. 18, 2023.

The six-month program, which kicks off in Riyadh on April 30, seeks to discover new media talents and develop emerging journalists in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

The SRMG Academy Boot Camp offers 20 participants hands-on classroom training and the opportunity for work experience at SRMG’s most prominent publications.

The rigorous program is led by world-class Arab and international journalists who have experience in regional and global news organizations. It will also feature lectures by a selection of SRMG’s leading journalists.

“I can’t think of a better gateway to begin a career in journalism in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world than taking part in this unique program,” said SRMG Academy Managing Director Alaa Shahine Salha.

“Each day, the training will offer new challenges to the participants,” he added. “They will be presented with real-life situations that are faced by journalists and the students will have to make quick decisions…about how to address them.”

The first edition of the program is open to residents of Saudi Arabia who are recent university graduates or have a maximum of two years of work experience.

The best-performing trainees will receive job offers from SRMG publications. The selection will be based on a combination of talent and the needs of the business.

Launched in December last year, the SRMG Academy is the editorial training arm of the Saudi Research and Media Group, which owns more than 30 leading publications and platforms across the Middle East and North Africa region, including Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Asharq News and Independent Arabia.

The SRMG Academy Boot Camp is designed to offer participants a gateway to building a career in the industry by equipping them with the skills needed in today’s media world. The course will include fundamental skills, such as writing, editing and beat reporting, in addition to different story formats, such as mobile journalism, podcasting and broadcast journalism.


Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia

Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia
Updated 31 January 2023

Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia

Advisory firm Salient launches in Saudi Arabia
  • Industry veterans behind company hail Kingdom’s ‘leading role on global stage’

LONDON: Newly formed communications advisory firm Salient has launched in Saudi Arabia.

The company was launched by industry veterans Andrew Bone and Sean Trainor. Salient specializes in corporate reputation and organizational culture management.

“Saudi Arabia is the most exciting market globally for communications professionals,” said Abdullah Al-Muzaini, co-founder and non-executive director.

“Salient is committed to building local capacity to enhance the reputation of leading organizations and increasing familiarity and favorability toward the Kingdom.”

Headquartered in Riyadh, Salient combines global expertise and local insights to build the reputations of organizations in the region.

The two veterans behind Salient said that the company will provide communication expertise to corporates operating across a wide range of industries, and will support organizations in the country as the Kingdom continues to implement its far-reaching Vision 2030 national transformation program.

“Guided by Vision 2030, the pace of change is accelerating every day as Saudi Arabia takes a leading role on the global stage,” Trainor said.

“The communication challenges and opportunities are unprecedented, and Salient is committed and well positioned to support the country in this dynamic marketplace.”

Bone said that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is an ambitious project “the likes of which has never been witnessed before worldwide.”

He added: “Collectively we have been working at the center of government in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade helping the nation to tell its compelling story.”

The company aims to support a new generation of Saudi industry leaders by blending global talent and local professionalism, the pair said.

“Our fresh, innovative approach to communication is the perfect learning environment for nurturing Saudi talent to become global communication consultants,” Salient general manager Osamah Alqusayer said.

“Blending the best of global talent with smart, inquisitive young Saudis is an attractive proposition for organizations looking for standout communications with impact.”


Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content

Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content
Updated 31 January 2023

Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content

Russian court fines Amazon’s Twitch $57,000 over Ukraine content
  • Court said Twitch failed to remove “fakes” from its platform

LONDON: A Russian court on Tuesday fined streaming service Twitch 4 million roubles ($57,000) for failing to remove what it said were “fakes” about Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported.
Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moscow has long objected to foreign tech platforms’ distribution of content that falls foul of its restrictions, with Russian courts regularly imposing penalties.


Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios
Updated 30 January 2023

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios

Peter Smith to depart from MBC Studios
  • Smith will stay as adviser to the group

LONDON: Peter Smith, the managing director of MBC Studio, is stepping down from his role, the company announced.

“Peter Smith is stepping aside as managing director of MBC Studios,” said MBC CEO Sam Barnett.

“Pete has made invaluable contributions to the growth of MBC Studios during his four-year tenure, leading the production of numerous flagships, including ‘Rashash,’ ‘Rise of the Witches,’ ‘The Devil’s Promise,’ ‘Slave Market,’ and the launch of MBC’s slate of long-running dramas including ‘Al Mirath’ and ‘West Al Balad.’ 

“On behalf of the group, I would like to express my gratitude to Pete for his hard work and dedication during his tenure.”

The veteran TV executive is stepping down from the role after four successful years during which he assisted in the launch of the production arm of the free-to-air network MBC.

Over this time, the former president of NBCUniversal supervised an expansion in production activity as the company ramped up its investment in Saudi Arabia as part of the Kingdom’s ongoing attempt to support the growth of its film and media industry.

In a statement, Barnett said Smith will continue to act as an adviser to the group, particularly on the production of “Desert Warrior” and the distribution of premium content.

Smith’s successor has not been named yet, but the company said the new managing director will be announced “in due course, in coming days.”

The news comes a few days after the leading media and entertainment group in the Middle East and North Africa region announced a new partnership with next-gen platform Vice Media, which will see the American-Canadian company creating Arabic content exclusively for MBC Group.