The Kingdom condemns hate speech ‘of all kinds and forms,’ Saudi official tells UN

Sulafa Mousa speaking at the United Nations General Assembly meeting held on Monday in New York. (SPA)
Sulafa Mousa speaking at the United Nations General Assembly meeting held on Monday in New York. (SPA)
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Updated 22 June 2022

The Kingdom condemns hate speech ‘of all kinds and forms,’ Saudi official tells UN

Sulafa Mousa speaking at the United Nations General Assembly meeting held on Monday in New York. (SPA)
  • Mousa underlined Saudi Arabia’s belief that tolerance is the basis for coexistence and creating civilizations, and also stressed the significance of combating hate speech and abstaining from violence

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has told the UN that it denounces hate speech “of all kinds and forms,” reiterating that its efforts to promote tolerance, as well as combat all aspects of extremism and violence, are continuing worldwide.

The Kingdom’s comments were made during a UN General Assembly meeting on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York to mark the first International Day for Countering Hate Speech.

Sulafa Mousa, head of the social, humanitarian, and cultural committee of the Saudi permanent delegation to the UN, said that the commemoration “comes at a very important time, as humanity suffers from the repercussions of epidemics, conflicts and natural disasters, which have added new dimensions to the cohesion and resilience of societies.”  

She underlined Saudi Arabia’s belief that tolerance is the basis for coexistence and creating civilizations, and also stressed the significance of combating hate speech and abstaining from violence.




Dr. Zeid Al-Fadhil, the director of the cultural program at the Gulf Research Center. (Supplied)

Mousa said that the Kingdom has a proven record of fighting hate speech, as well as encouraging tolerance as a way of life and a universal value among people.

The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue played a significant part in advancing these ideas and ensuring they are ingrained in society, she said.

Mousa said that the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology established in the Kingdom is “working on implementing a roadmap to curb hate speech and close in on its propagators.”

This strategy includes stifling sources of hatred in media and social networks, encouraging people to report hate crimes, enhancing the role of education in combating hate speech, and fostering a culture of cooperation.

The Saudi Ministry of Education has released a document of human rights concepts in school curricula to incorporate the values of equality and rejection of hatred, and to emphasize that tolerance is one of the main pillars in developing Islamic studies curricula.

Mousa said that the widespread use of social media has produced a favorable environment for the promotion and dissemination of hate speech by terrorist organizations. Increased international efforts and the creation of strategic plans to thwart their tactics are needed, she added.

The King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue is working to advance dialogue, strengthen coexistence, respect diversity, accept pluralism and support shared citizenship between nations, she said.

This year, the Kingdom hosted a forum on “Common Values among Religious Followers,” which sought to increase collaboration and trust between global spiritual leaders, encourage moderation and harmony, and support initiatives to promote tolerance and peace.

“Differences between people in terms of races, religions and ideas will never go away or be eliminated,” she said. “Hate speech is based on the non-acceptance of the other, and tolerance and acceptance of others are the only ways to create a stable and secure international community free from unrest, tension and division.”

According to Zaid Al-Fadhil, director of the cultural program at the Gulf Research Center, Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in promoting tolerance and rejecting extremism.

He said that the Makkah Declaration of 2005 “has unquestionably established the discourse of tolerance and the reduction of hate speech, which was recently strengthened in the Makkah document issued by the Muslim World League.”

The declaration emphasized a culture of tolerance, and was approved by the leaders of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and many intellectuals, where for the first time eight Islamic sects were recognized.


Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh
  • Thousands of people were examined in the new scheme

RIYADH: A new scheme combatting blindness and its causes in Bangladesh was launched on Monday by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).

The KSrelief voluntary medical team examined 6,600 cases, and performed 150 successful cataract procedures.
This latest scheme serves as an extension of projects combating blindness by the Saudi charity, for families with low incomes in a number of countries.


All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
Updated 11 August 2022

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
  • Kingdom’s media regulator says new law to take effect from October, with all social media influencers affected

LONDON: As more Saudis connect through their social media profiles and even begin to profit from these platforms, the Kingdom has launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry.

From early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).

For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.
 

The incoming influencer license “is not a permit to censor or to block,” Esra Assery, CEO at GCAM, told Arab News. “It’s more of a permit to enable the maturity of the sector. We want to help those individuals grow, but grow in a professional way so they can make a career out of (social media revenue).”

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

“The market is so unregulated,” said Assery. “We’re not against influencers or those individuals. Actually, we want to enable them. If you check out the new bylaw, it protects them also, because the bylaw regulates their relationship with the advertisers.”
 

Esra Assery, CEO at Saudi Arabia's General Commission for Audiovisual Media. (Supplied)

Currently, anyone in Saudi Arabia is able to advertise on social media and earn money from deals with private entities — with payments per post climbing into the thousands of riyals, depending on the number of followers an influencer can reach.

Concern has been expressed that introducing permits and regulations will undermine how much money influencers can make and might even constitute censorship. However, GCAM insists the permits are designed to ensure transparency between influencers and their clients.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.

“While some influencers may focus on the short-term loss of paying the license fee, there is a huge benefit to licensing coming in as it legitimizes the sector on a national level,” Jamal Al-Mawed, founder and managing director of Gambit Communications, told Arab News.

“This is crucial in the influencer industry as it has been a bit of a wild west for marketing in the past, with no clear benchmarking for rates or contracts.”

Al-Mawed said that the new measures can protect brands that are susceptible to fraud “when they pay huge budgets to influencers who are buying fake followers and fake engagements. This creates a vicious circle, as hard-working content creators are undermined by the bad apples.”

Although the new license is unlikely to solve every issue overnight, “it does create a foundation for more professionalism and accountability,” Al-Mawed added.

Under new rules, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom are prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. (Shutterstock image)

In June, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom were prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. Those who ignore the ruling face a possible five-year prison sentence and fines of up to SR5 million.

GCAM announced the ban after finding “violations by numerous non-Saudi advertisers, both residents and visitors, on social media platforms.”

“After checking their data, it was found that they had committed systemic violations, including lack of commercial registrations and legal licenses, and they are not working under any commercial entity or foreign investment license,” the commission said at the time.

Now, with a regulated license, such violations will be easier to monitor and the sector will be better regulated to ensure full transparency.
 

Businesses such as bakeries or hair salons that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services are not covered by the prohibition. (Shutterstock image)

Although Saudi influencers will be able to hold full-time jobs while earning on the side through promotional campaigns on their social media profiles, the law states that non-Saudis can work only in one specific role while residing in the Kingdom.

However, the system does not apply to businesses and entities — such as bakeries or hair salons — that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services on these platforms. Only individuals are affected by the new law.

There are certain exceptions, however, such as individuals who have been invited to the country by a ministry or government entity in order to perform, including musicians and entertainers.

With the rise of social media over the past decade, content creators and so-called influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms have drawn audiences away from traditional outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines, to new and largely unregulated media.
 

Sensing the shift in content consumption, advertisers have followed the herd. Crystal-blue waters caressing white, sandy beaches at luxury resorts and scrumptious feasts at the finest restaurants are now commonplace on influencer profiles as businesses rush to take advantage of more “natural-feeling” product placement.

However, regulators have struggled to keep up with this rapid transformation, leaving the process open to legal disputes, exploitation and abuse. That is why authorities elsewhere in the world have also been exploring influencer permits.

Dubai, widely seen as the influencer hub of the Middle East, is among them.

In 2018, the UAE’s National Media Council launched a new electronic media regulation system, which required social media influencers to obtain a license to operate in the country.

The cost of the annual license is 15,000 AED (roughly $4,000). Those who fail to obtain or renew the license can face penalties including a fine of up to 5,000 AED, a verbal or official warning, and even closure of their social media accounts.

The rules apply to influencers visiting the UAE as well. They must either have a license or be signed up with an NMC-registered influencer agency to operate in the country.

With Saudi Arabia progressing in the entertainment and creative industries, the introduction of the license is viewed as a step in the right direction.

“It’s great news for the industry,” said Al-Mawed. “When someone is licensed by the government to offer their services, that gives them a level of safety and trust and can help filter out the scammers who prefer to fly under the radar.”

 

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4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   
Updated 11 August 2022

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

RIYADH: A fourth group of health security trainees graduated from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday. 

A total of 4,291 male and female graduates will join the job market. 

Dr. Aws Al-Shamsan, secretary-general of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, said that health security plays an important role in improving healthcare services.

The program includes practical and theoretical training for three months, in addition to two weeks of field training in one of the health sectors, allowing trainees to benefit from hands-on experience.

Health security graduates receive a diploma allowing them to work in the Kingdom’s health sector.


Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits
Updated 11 August 2022

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

JEDDAH: Pilgrims sheltering from heavy rain in Makkah on Tuesday received a helping hand when the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques handed out umbrellas to visitors at the Grand Mosque.

Khaled bin Fahd Al-Shalwi, assistant for the general president for social, voluntary and humanitarian services agency, said that the “Umbrella of Mu’tamer” initiative is part of a range of services designed to help visitors perform their rituals. 

Programs and services come under the direction of the President for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, who strives to provide a safe environment to allow visitors to the Grand Mosque to complete their rituals with ease, he added. 

According to the presidency’s website, the presidency has also employed more than 200 supervisors, 4,000 female and male workers, and utilized more than 500 items of equipment to deal with the rain at the Grand Mosque through its environmental protection agency. 

Ahmed bin Omar Bilaamash, assistant to the general president for services and achievement of the environmental protection agency, said that prayer areas, entrances and exits, and the mataf — the circumambulation space around the Kaaba — are equipped to handle the rainfall. 


Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
Updated 10 August 2022

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
  • Event will be attended by experts in maritime security from around the world
  • The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security

RIYADH: The 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum will be held in Jeddah from November 15-17.
Organized by the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and held under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the event aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on how best to ensure maritime safety in a rapidly changing global environment.
Titled “Protecting Marine Units and Vital Coastal Sites Against the Threat of Unmanned Systems,” the forum will highlight the threat of such systems and present ways in which they can be dealt with.
Thanking the crown prince for his sponsorship of the event, RSNF Commander Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghufaili said it would also discuss the role individual nations and international organizations have to play in maintaining maritime security.
The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security, he added.
“It also aims to enhance the role of the RSNF in cooperation with marine environment authorities at the national level, and what naval forces of brotherly and friendly countries are doing to support regional and international efforts, ensure the safety of maritime traffic and contribute to sustaining the global economy,” Al-Ghufaili said.
Military specialists and experts from the fields of technology, industry and academia will take part in a series of workshops during the forum, which will also be attended by representatives from government ministries and organizations and international corporations.
The event will also provide a platform for companies from around the world to display their latest equipment, technologies and systems related to maritime security.