Moscow praises Musk's peace plan after Tesla and Zelensky clash in Twitter showdown

President Volodymyr Zelensky responded with his own pool asking users “Which @elonmusk do you like more? One who supports Ukraine or one who supports Russia?
President Volodymyr Zelensky responded with his own pool asking users “Which @elonmusk do you like more? One who supports Ukraine or one who supports Russia?" (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 October 2022

Moscow praises Musk's peace plan after Tesla and Zelensky clash in Twitter showdown

Moscow praises Musk's peace plan after Tesla and Zelensky clash in Twitter showdown
  • In a Twitter poll the Tesla boss proposed Ukraine permanently cede Crimea to Russia
  • Kremlin spokesperson said Russia welcomes Elon Musk proposal

UNITED NATIONS: Billionaire Elon Musk on Monday asked Twitter users to weigh in on a plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine that drew immediate condemnation from Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who responded with his own poll.
“Which @elonmusk do you like more?,” Zelensky tweeted, offering two responses: one who supports Ukraine, one who supports Russia.
Musk, the world’s richest person, proposed UN-supervised elections in four occupied regions that Moscow last week moved to annex after what it called referendums. The votes were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.
“Russia leaves if that is will of the people,” Musk wrote.
The Tesla Inc. chief executive suggested that Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014, be formally recognized as Russia, that water supply to Crimea be assured and that Ukraine remain neutral. He asked Twitter users to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the plan.
“Dear @elonmusk, when someone tries to steal the wheels of your Tesla, it doesn’t make them legal owner of the car or of the wheels. Even though they claim both voted in favor of it. Just saying,” Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda tweeted in response.
Musk, who is also chief executive of SpaceX, followed up his first tweet with another poll: “Let’s try this then: the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine.”
He said he didn’t care if his proposal was unpopular, arguing that he did care “that millions of people may die needlessly for an essentially identical outcome.”
“Russia has >3 times population of Ukraine, so victory for Ukraine is unlikely in total war. If you care about the people of Ukraine, seek peace,” he posted on Twitter.
In February, when Ukraine’s Internet was disrupted following Russia’s invasion, Musk responded to a tweet by a Ukrainian government official seeking help. Musk said SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service was available in Ukraine and that SpaceX was sending more terminals to the country.
“SpaceX’s out of pocket cost to enable & support Starlink in Ukraine is ~$80M so far. Our support for Russia is $0. Obviously, we are pro Ukraine,” Musk posted on Twitter later on Monday.
Ukraine’s outspoken outgoing ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, had a blunt reaction to Musk’s peace plan. Melnyk himself faced criticism in July for defending the controversial World War Two Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.
“Fuck off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk,” tweeted Melnyk.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin praised Tesla boss proposal for suggesting a possible peace deal to end the war in Ukraine.
“It is very positive that somebody like Elon Musk is looking for a peaceful way out of this situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.
“Compared to many professional diplomats, Musk is still searching for ways to achieve peace. And achieving peace without fulfilling Russia's conditions is absolutely impossible,” he added.
As of 1030 GMT on Tuesday, Musk's original poll had garnered more than 2.5 million votes, with some 60% opposed to the plan.
Peskov said on Tuesday that “bots” - phoney twitter accounts - were “actively participating in the voting”. He provided no evidence.
Moscow had always been open to a negotiated end to the conflict, Peskov added. He criticised a new Ukrainian decree, signed by Zelenskiy on Tuesday, which says Kyiv will not negotiate directly with Putin for an end to the conflict.

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Podcasts: The future of media in the Arab world?

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Photo/Shutterstock
Updated 07 December 2022

Podcasts: The future of media in the Arab world?

Photo/Shutterstock
  • As the sector evolves and grows, the introduction of video to podcasting might just be just the push the audio industry needs to propel it to ever-greater heights
  • It is not a question of ‘leaving audio behind,’ said one expert; video is ‘unlocking further potential for the content to reach new realms, creatively, and for more people to access the content’

Arabs are among the biggest consumers of media around the world, with many spending hours each day watching and listening to their various devices, from TVs to smartphones.

In the region, Saudis spend the most time watching TV, averaging 5.2 hours a day, followed by Emiratis on 4.2 hours, according to a report by the consultancy Strategy&.

Moreover, it found that Saudis on average spend 14.2 hours a day engaging with various types of media channels. However, long periods spent staring at devices can result in screen fatigue, which is perhaps a reason for growth of alternative media formats, such as podcasts.

“(A podcast) is an easily consumable content (format) and, most importantly, it offers a screen-less alternative to social media and doom scrolling,” Ramsey Tesdell, the CEO of Jordan-based podcast network Sowt Media, told Arab News.

There are estimated to be more than 10 million podcast listeners in the Middle East and North Africa region, who listen to an average of between five and seven hours of podcasts a week, according to Bella Ibrahim, marketing director of regional podcasting company the Kerning Cultures Network. The biggest markets are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, she added, but other countries in the region are following suit. 

The rise of new creators and development of improved technologies have helped to create a burgeoning podcast ecosystem, with special events such as “Ignite the Sound” in Saudi Arabia, and “Sada” and “Podfest” in the UAE, bringing creators together.

Statistics reveal the growth in popularity of the medium in the region and internationally. According to Strategy&, 18.4 percent of Saudis listen to podcasts more than once a week. Globally, Spotify said that podcast engagement on its platform has grown from less than seven percent in 2018 to 30 percent this year.

Although podcasting is still a relatively new medium, the ideas and traditions it emerged from are not.

“Audio has always been part of our lives,” Rhea Chedid, a senior podcast manager at Spotify MENA, told Arab News. “The Arab world has a long history of oral storytelling, and podcasts are a continuation of that.”

Still, podcast listenership remains relatively low compared with the popularity of social media and video streaming. And so despite the clear benefits offered by audio content, including hands-free, screenless entertainment, video is, perhaps inevitably, increasingly becoming a pervasive part of the podcast scene.

“Video is an important aspect of entertainment and podcasts will adapt to that as well,” Tesdell said.

Spotify, for example, first flirted with the idea of adding video to podcasts in 2020 during limited tests, after which it rolled out video-podcast options to selected creators through Anchor, a podcast creation and distribution platform it acquired in 2019. Last month, it expanded it video-podcasting capabilities to most global markets in which Anchor is available, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Does that mean the days of the audio-only podcast might be numbered already? Experts say that this is not the way to look at it.

“It’s not a question about audio or video, or leaving audio behind,” said Chedid. Instead, video is “unlocking further potential for the content to reach new realms, creatively, and for more people to access the content they want, in the way they want.”

Moreover, people consume a variety of content types throughout the day, which means that they are not necessarily choosing video over audio.

“The more people there are consuming audio, no matter the format, is a good thing,” Tesdell said.

Videos have been around as a source of online entertainment much longer than audio podcasts — from the early days of YouTube to the new breed of short and snappy footage on sites such as TikTok and Instagram. As a result, distribution and monetization tools are well-developed across video platforms and creators are more familiar with the format, Tesdell added.

In fact, though it might appear counterintuitive, some experts suggest that video might very well be the factor that propels the podcast industry to greater heights.

Spotify, for example, said it has already seen strong adoption of video by podcast creators in markets where it is available, said Chedid.

Video can also serve as a marketing and promotional tool for podcasters, Ibrahim said, but she cautioned: “With all the buzz around video, it’s worth noting that not all podcasts should be forced into being video podcasts. It’s a great format for talk shows but less so for narrative or fiction shows.”

So, do podcasts represent the future of media in the Arab world? Ibrahim certainly believes so.

“Absolutely; the medium of audio storytelling creates a very intimate listening experience,” she said.

Tesdell and Chedid are also optimistic about the future of podcasting but view it more as an increasingly significant part of the wider media ecosystem rather than its future.

“Podcasts will play an important and significant role in the development of Arab media,” Tesdell said.

Chedid added: “Podcasts will be part of the future of media in the Arab world, just like they have become globally.”

 

 


‘Refs for Change’ makes first female referees at men’s World Cup messengers for empowerment

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 07 December 2022

‘Refs for Change’ makes first female referees at men’s World Cup messengers for empowerment

Photo/Supplied
  • As part of the campaign, every time a female World Cup ref blows the whistle, Moroccan nonprofit organization MALI tweets about achievements of women pioneers in male-dominated fields
  • The first women to officiate at a men’s World Cup have a ‘unique opportunity to draw attention to the patriarchal system, to male domination and male violence against women’ the organization said

DUBAI: In a groundbreaking move at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, three female referees were, for the first time in the 92-year history of the men’s competition, selected to officiate matches: Stephanie Frappart, Yamashita Yoshimi and Salima Mukansang.

Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertes Individuelles, a Morocco-based nonprofit organization, decided to use this historic occasion to raise awareness and spark conversations about women’s issues through its “Refs for Change” campaign.

MALI launched its initiative on Nov. 25, coinciding with the start of UN Women’s campaign “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” which calls for an end to violence against women and girls.

As part of “Refs for Change,” every time a female referee blows the whistle during a World Cup match, MALI tweets in real time to highlight the achievements of women who are or were pioneers in other male-dominated fields.

“Every day, women across the world make great strides and pioneer in different fields that for a long time were reserved only for men,” said MALI spokesperson and activist Ibtissame Lachgar.

“At the same time, women across the world are subjected to different types of violence. The press often turns a blind eye, causing both groups to remain largely unknown.

“Being pioneers themselves, the first-ever female referees in a men’s World Cup have the unique opportunity to draw attention to the patriarchal system, to male domination and male violence against women through the power of their whistle.”

MALI’s tweets aim to do more than simply raise awareness. They also invite Twitter users to engage in conversation and debate about topics such as women’s rights and gender-based violence, and serve as call for donations to help empower women across the Middle East and North Africa region.

By tweeting in real time during World Cup matches, MALI said it aims to shift the spotlight from men to women who would otherwise never get global attention.

“Transforming female referees and their whistles into messengers of change is a powerful way to hijack the conversation during the World Cup and shine a spotlight on striking statistics that would otherwise remain in the shadows,” said Walid Kanaan, the chief creative officer at TBWA\RAAD, the creative agency that worked on the campaign. It marks the third consecutive year in which the agency has partnered with MALI.

 


Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign

Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign
Updated 06 December 2022

Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign

Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign
  • Industrial firm partners with Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj, players including Ali Al-Habsi

DUBAI: Jindal Shadeed, an Oman-based iron and steel company, has partnered with independent agency Wieden+Kennedy to create a new campaign that highlights the nation’s love of football during the FIFA World Cup 2022.

The agency’s India office created “The Steel of Oman” campaign, which celebrates the country’s culture and development.

The agency collaborated with celebrated Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj to create 15 portraits, which were used as print and outdoor averts. The portraits feature talented Omani achievers, the “steel” of the nation, who have been celebrated for their contribution to the nation.

The company also partnered with national team football players including Ali Al-Habsi. The agency collaborated with award-winning director Ayappa K.M. to create a three-minute film that showcases Omani culture with football as the backdrop. The track was composed by Danish musician Sofyann Ben Youssef and focuses on local folk songs.

“The brief was inspiring and the client’s faith in our ability to do something truly authentic pushed us for something truly special,” said Ruchika Khanna, director of digital and business head, W+K India.

“The creative team came up with a simple yet powerful narrative that also enabled us to find interesting production partners who could help bring our ideas to life and we found them in Ayappa and Hassan Hajjaj who are known for their stellar craft,” she added.


MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series
Updated 06 December 2022

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series
  • ‘Play it Forward’ launched by YouTube
  • 5 episodes, stories from Saudi, Egypt, Iraq, UAE

DUBAI: YouTube has launched its latest video and podcast series “Play it Forward with YouTube” or “Hekayat YouTube” in Arabic, focusing on stories from the Middle East North Africa region.

The five-episode series, which is available on the YouTube Arabia channel, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify & Deezer, aims to shed light on the journey and aspirations of content creators from the MENA region.

The majority of watch time of YouTube content that is produced in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt comes from outside these countries.

Content produced in the UAE has the highest number of viewers from outside the country at 95 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia at 60 percent and Egypt at 55 percent.

“I’m always inspired by the creativity and dedication of YouTube creators from MENA,” said Tarek Amin, director of partnerships at YouTube MENA.

“Their journey to content creation and wanting to share more of what inspires them or what needs to be spoken about are stories we hope more people can hear and be inspired from through ‘Play it Forward with YouTube,’” he added.

In each episode, Amin interviews different creators including Passant Nur El-Din and Mostafa Attia from Egypt, Zainab Al-Eqabi from Iraq, Rehab Saad from Saudi Arabia and Anas Bukhash from the UAE.

The first episode was released on Dec. 5 with others coming out every week.


Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel
Updated 06 December 2022

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel
  • The decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council was based on number of recent violations by TV Rain
  • The license was revoked on the grounds of a threat to national security and public order

TALLINN, Estonia: Latvia has revoked the license of an independent Russian TV channel exiled in the Baltic country for, among other things, voicing support for the Russian military and including Crimea in its map of Russia, media authorities said on Tuesday.
The decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council was based on number of recent violations by TV Rain and the license was revoked on the grounds of a threat to national security and public order.
The region’s main news agency, Baltic News Service, said the decision will take effect on Thursday when not only TV Rain’s broadcasts but also its programs on YouTube will be blocked in Latvia.aTV Rain was earlier fined by the Latvian media watchdog for failing to ensure proper translation of its broadcasts into Latvian, the Baltic country’s only official language.
On Friday, Latvia’s state security service started a probe into statements made by TV Rain on suspicion that it was supporting Russia and its military currently waging a war in Ukraine.
Latvia’s decision was triggered by a TV Rain program in which the anchor invited Russian soldiers and their families watching it to share their stories with the channel and promised to offer help. The host offered an apology, saying he wasn’t promising material assistance to Russian troops on the front line in Ukraine, but the channel quickly fired him and apologized.
The incident came on top of earlier tensions with the Latvian authorities, who issued a reprimand over the channel depicting the Moscow-annexed Crimea as part of Russia on maps and referring to the Russian military as “our army.”
TV Rain owner Natalya Sindeyeva said in an interview that she hasn’t decided on the next steps yet. “I wasn’t prepared for that, I was sure they wouldn’t do that,” Sindeyeva told Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet also based in Latvia.
Since its creation in 2010, TV Rain has been the most visible independent TV station in Russia, criticizing the Kremlin’s policies, offering airtime to government critics and extensively covering opposition protests.
It has faced continuous official intimidation and pressure from the Russian authorities in the past. In August 2021, it was branded a “foreign agent,” a label that implied closer government scrutiny and carried a strong pejorative connotation that could discourage potential viewers.
TV Rain suspended operations in Russia earlier this year after authorities blocked its broadcasts allegedly due to the channel’s critical coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The channel restarted broadcasting in the summer from Latvia’s capital, Riga, where several other independent Russian media outlets are based.
The Latvian media watchdog’s ruling can be appealed. Its chairman, Ivars Abolins, said that all media outlets working in Latvia should follow and respect Latvia’s legislation but TV Rain — known in Russia as “Dozhd” — has refused to do it.
“I believe that this decision demonstrates that Latvia is open also for the Russian media because all Russian media who respect the law are welcome and may work in Latvia,” said Abolins as quoted by the Baltic News Service. “Those who are not ready to follow the rules, cross the red lines, may not work here. The rules are fair.”