Ben Roberts-Smith resigns from Seven after losing war crimes defamation case

Roberts-Smith, who left the Australian Defence Force in 2013, has not been charged with any of the alleged war crimes in a criminal court, where the burden of proof is higher. (Twitter/File)
Roberts-Smith, who left the Australian Defence Force in 2013, has not been charged with any of the alleged war crimes in a criminal court, where the burden of proof is higher. (Twitter/File)
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Updated 02 June 2023
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Ben Roberts-Smith resigns from Seven after losing war crimes defamation case

Ben Roberts-Smith resigns from Seven after losing war crimes defamation case
  • Judge found that allegations against Australian top soldier who committed war crimes in Afghanistan were ‘substantially true’
  • Roberts-Smith was appointed general manager of network in 2015

LONDON: Australian soldier Ben Roberts-Smith resigned as vice president of Seven West Media a day after losing a defamation court battle related to war crimes during his service in Afghanistan, The Guardian reported.

The ruling came about in a civil case where multiple newspapers defended a defamation lawsuit brought by Roberts-Smith, asserting that their reporting on the former soldier was accurate.

On Friday, Seven’s Managing Director and CEO James Warburton informed staff that Roberts-Smith had submitted his resignation.

In an email seen by Guardian Australia, Warburton stated: “As you’re all aware, the judgment in the defamation case was handed down yesterday.

“Ben has been on leave whilst the case was running, and today has offered his resignation, which we have accepted. We thank Ben for his commitment to Seven and wish him all the best.”

Roberts-Smith took a leave of absence from his Queensland position in 2021 to concentrate on the high-profile trial, backed financially and publicly by Kerry Stokes, the billionaire chairman of Seven who appointed Roberts-Smith general manager of Seven Queensland in 2015.

“The judgment does not accord with the man I know,” Stokes said after the verdict.

“I know this will be particularly hard for Ben, who has always maintained his innocence.”

In a groundbreaking civil trial that marked the first time a court examined allegations of war crimes by Australian forces, the judge found four out of six murder accusations were “substantially true,” despite Roberts-Smith’s denial.

The allegations consist of handcuffing and torturing civilians, ordering initiation murders for new soldiers, and shooting a Taliban fighter over 10 times in the back, taking his prosthetic leg as a trophy, and repurposing it as a drinking vessel.

The court also determined that allegations against the most decorated living Australian soldier, including the unlawful assault of captives and bullying of fellow soldiers, were true.

Roberts-Smith, who left the Australian Defence Force in 2013, has not been charged with any of the alleged war crimes in a criminal court, where the burden of proof is higher.

After the decision, a Taliban spokesman pointed to the case as evidence of the “uncountable crimes” committed by foreign forces in Afghanistan. However, they expressed skepticism about the global justice system’s ability to address these issues.

Australian troops were deployed to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2021, spanning two decades of conflict. Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles declined to comment on the case, saying it was a civil matter.


Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future

Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future
Updated 27 September 2023
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Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future

Dubai’s Arab Media Forum wraps up with insights into AI-led future
  • Forum had two key themes: impact of artificial intelligence and influence of film and drama

DUBAI: The 21st edition of the Arab Media Forum wrapped up in Dubai on Wednesday, with leading media figures, ministers, heads of local Arab and international media organizations, as well as intellectuals and writers coming together to discuss the future of the industry.  

The two-day forum had two key themes: the impact of artificial intelligence on the media, and the influence of film and drama as sources of soft power.  

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammad Al-Maktoum highlighted the importance of culture in society, saying it is intertwined with creative economy, the basis for countries’ development.  

Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, spoke of the importance of finding common ground in the region in order to coexist peacefully.  

”This pillar is stability. This stability is not just for the UAE but for the entire region as this cannot be achieved in isolation. There is a need to calm the region and not focus on disagreements. Confrontation leads to a high price for all parties. So, the first pillar is stability, and this is an established fact. The second pillar is geo-economic more than a geo-strategic. Economic growth is important,” he said.

Most of the attendees and panelists shared the view that AI can be beneficial in terms of solving problems in a cost-effective and timely manner. However, some journalists warned of its dangers in terms of spreading fake, unverified news, as well as its possible impact on job losses in the media sector.  

Bahraini Minister of Information, Ramzan Abdulla Al-Nuaimi, and H.E. Karam Gabr, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation, discussed the differences between Arab media operations and their counterparts in West.

“Each country has a different set of laws, morals and culture; we Arabs have been stereotyped on how we handle our journalists and our media, but what the West fails to understand is that we live according to our values and not theirs,” Al-Nuaimi said.  

Both agreed there should be economic opportunities for the youth to express their creativity, and channel their opinions and frustrations in positive ways.  


Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector

Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector
Updated 27 September 2023
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Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector

Egyptian journalist warns of threat posed by AI to media sector
  • 'We now live in a fake news era; times have changed, so did copyright laws,' said Adib at the Arab media Forum

DUBAI: Egyptian businessman and journalist Imad Eddine Adib has issued an ominous warning about the potential threat posed by artificial intelligence to the media industry.

Speaking at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, the self-confessed “crazy pessimist” predicted that the future for the sector looked neither promising nor safe.

The veteran writer told delegates at a session, titled “The Truth in the AI Era,” that his opinions were based on facts and data.

He said: “We can use technology to serve humanity, but we need to note that humanity also has a good and bad side.”

Reiterating the views of many speakers at the annual media industry gathering, Adib pointed out how AI could have major technological benefits for businesses, saving time and money. But he noted how tech had infiltrated the lives of most people.

“All those walking with smart phones in their pockets must be aware that they are being supervised, their privacies invaded, and there is no program or software you can get to defend or fight against this supervision.

“We now live in a fake news era; times have changed, so did copyright laws. You can now hear (Egyptian singer) Umm Kulthum singing a carnival song,” he added.

Adib highlighted an example of a deepfake video sent to him by friends that falsely claimed former US President Donald Trump had been given a new heart belonging to a Muslim man and had converted to Islam.

Addressing the session, Dr. Maitha Buhumaid, director of the Dubai Press Club, said: “There will be coordination and relationship between robots; given each serves a purpose they will be exchanging data to complete their missions. We need a ceiling on this.

“Imagine the disastrous outcome if let’s say mobsters or ISIS (Daesh) got their hands on robots. Imagine the infiltration of trade, numbers on the stock market, and economic well-being of countries. That’ll have disastrous implications. These are all possible scenarios for the future.”


Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum

Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum
Updated 27 September 2023
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Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum

Dubai Media launches new corporate identity at 21st Arab Media Forum
  • DMI aims to become the No. 1 media destination in the Middle East, says CEO Al-Mulla

LONDON: Dubai Media Inc. announced on Tuesday from Dubai the launch of its new corporate identity and strategy.

The announcement came on the sidelines of the 21st Arab Media Forum, during a dinner party held by DMI at Mina A’Salam Hotel to celebrate the strategy’s approval by Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, second deputy ruler of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Media Council.

DMI CEO Mohammed Al-Mulla said his company aimed to become the No. 1 media destination in the Middle East in the next few years, stressing the importance of the media economy.

DMI’s new vision aims to revolutionize the press sector, enhance Dubai’s role as a global economic hub and major gateway to world trade, promote Emirati culture, focus on local affairs, and cover developments in all sectors.

The new strategy includes the launch of several initiatives that will improve DMI’s position as a prominent Arab media brand and contribute to the development of Arab media.

These initiatives include the launch of the Dubai Media Academy; the Dubai Media Studios, a modern production company operating on a commercial basis; the Media Services Initiative, which will service other production companies; and the Arts Events Company.

DMI, the government of Dubai’s official media organization, signed on Monday an agreement with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to collaborate ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, in accelerating sustainable development and contributing to achieving net zero.


Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push

Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push
Updated 27 September 2023
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Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push

Saudi data chiefs launch new training initiative in latest AI push
  • Program will offer 32 training camps to 800 specialized tech graduates

LONDON: Saudi data chiefs have launched a series of technology training camps aimed at educating 800 graduates on the latest developments in the field of artificial intelligence.

Under the initiative, the Saudi Data and AI Authority will run 32 camps focused on large language model technology, a type of AI that can mimic human intelligence, Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

The training program — to be offered to recent graduates in technical specializations — has been designed to bolster the Kingdom’s efforts to nurture a new generation of LLM experts.

LLMs are AI systems with vast amounts of data that can generate human-like text, translate languages, write different kinds of creative content, and answer questions in an informative way.

The first camp will get underway on Oct. 8 and will be held virtually over four weeks, covering topics such as generative AI, neural networks, deep learning, and text data analysis.

At the end of each camp, trainees will be awarded certificates of completion and will be eligible to take professional certification exams related to LLMs.

Separately, the authority has also launched an Open Datathon competition for which registration closes on Sept. 30. Aimed at students, alumni, and entrepreneurs, it has been designed to develop skills in data science and stimulate innovation.

The datathon will be held over two days, and participants will be supervised by experts in the field of data science. On day three, competitors will present their solutions to a panel of judges.


Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum
Updated 27 September 2023
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Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

DUBAI: The recent Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran was the right move, but there is still a long way to go, experts told the Arab Media Forum on Tuesday. 

“Iran continues to support armed groups that Saudi opposes,” Afshin Molavi senior fellow at Foreign Policy Institute in John Hopkins University, pointed out. 

Molavi’s comments came during session titled “The Middle East – A Region of Opportunities or Conflicts” alongside Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News.

Wondering if whether or not the deal will succeed, Abbas pointed out that the Kingdom, due to its continuous leadership, has over 40 years of experience in dealing with Iran.

“The best case scenario will be both countries putting in the leverage and work to cooperate and try to solve conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, of course with involvement of the local players. 

The worst case scenario will be a missed opportunity to make that happen and relations remain the same.”  Abbas said.

Abbas also explained why China was a better suited broker for the rapprochement deal detailing how it has leverage over Iran by investing billions of dollars in projects and there is no risk of the negotiations restarting under a different ideology every 4 years due to elections as could be the case in America. 

In his view, Molavi said China brokering the deal “comes with a grain of salt” as Washington believes China is its enemy but he believes the rapprochement is the right move for the region.  

The Arab view on China differs from the west, however. 

A recent YouGov study done by Arab News on Palestine shows how Palestinians see China as a more honest broker to handle their issue rather than the US.

Abbas said colonial powers such as France, the UK and the wars US were involved in are viewed negatively in comparison to China where its political and economical involvement in the region has been mostly positive “the Chinese do not come with that baggage.” 

On the issue of America, Molavi notes there is a shift in power and while Washington remains a powerful country, the world is witnessing a rise in other powers such as China and India.  

“Today, countries are proving that we now live in the world of multi strategic alignment, and I think Washington is beginning to understand that; it is no longer you’re either with us or against us.” 

Molavi continues: “this can also be seen in the Abraham Accords where on one hand the UAE has this historical relationship and alliance with Israel but then joins BRICS.  

Abbas described how exciting the dynamics are and spoke of the Saudi position on the matter where he mentions how the Saudi hand has been extended for 20 years provided that there will be a solution for Palestinians.  

“Biden needs a foreign policy legacy and this will be a winning ticket for him for the upcoming election.”  

 

 

Both speakers also discussed and highlighted the positive changes that Saudi and UAE have been making.   

Abbas noted Saudi Arabia’s remarkable achievements and how these stories should be celebrated and shared such as the launching of the female Saudi astronaut among other things. 

“Actions speak louder than words, Facts are stubborn things. No amount of negative stories can take those achievements away, Saudi is the fastest growing G20 economy in the world.”