Riyadh’s Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud University launches bachelor’s degree in cinema and theater

The College of Media and Communication at IMSIU is one of the largest colleges in the Kingdom. (Supplied)
The College of Media and Communication at IMSIU is one of the largest colleges in the Kingdom. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 October 2023
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Riyadh’s Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud University launches bachelor’s degree in cinema and theater

Riyadh’s Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud University launches bachelor’s degree in cinema and theater
  • Program to have ‘direct positive impact’ on creative industries in the Kingdom, says college dean
  • Restructure sees creation of cybersecurity, translation and psychiatry departments

LONDON: Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh has launched a bachelor’s degree in cinema and theater as part of the creation of a new department.

The Department of Cinema and Theater is part of the university’s College of Media and Communication.

The bachelor’s degree will train students in the arts of filmmaking and theater, while also ensuring that the content they produce is consistent with Saudi customs and culture.

Though details of the program have yet to be announced, the college is expected to offer courses in directing, filming and scriptwriting taught by both Arab and international experts.

The new department is part of a comprehensive academic restructuring of the university, which also includes the creation of new departments in cybersecurity, early childhood education, industrial engineering, psychiatry, radiology and translation.

The university has also merged the Higher Institute for Da’wah and Ihtisab with the College of Fundamentals of Religion under the new name of the College of Fundamentals of Religion and Da’wah.

Last year, Prince Saad bin Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saud, dean of the College of Media and Communication, revealed the draft program in an interview with Arab News.

He said that the new degree would have a “direct positive impact” on the cinema and theater industry in the Kingdom through the training of a pool of skilled professionals.

The College of Media and Communication at IMSIU is one of the largest colleges in the Kingdom, and is the latest to cater to new specializations in the field.

A few years ago, the college launched a marketing advertising department, a graphics and multimedia department, in addition to departments covering journalism, radio and TV, and public relations.


Prince Mohammed bin Salman College, Saudi Press Agency sign training agreement

Prince Mohammed bin Salman College, Saudi Press Agency sign training agreement
Updated 6 sec ago
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Prince Mohammed bin Salman College, Saudi Press Agency sign training agreement

Prince Mohammed bin Salman College, Saudi Press Agency sign training agreement
  • MBSC will train journalists in ‘interpersonal effectiveness skills,’ such as negotiation and presentation

RIYADH: The Prince Mohammed bin Salman College for Management and Entrepreneurship announced on Thursday a new partnership with the Saudi Press Agency to provide specialized training and development programs for the Kingdom’s news industry.

The partnership was co-signed by Zieger DeGreef, dean of MBSC, and Fahad bin Hassan Al-Aqran, president of SPA, during the “Human Capabilities Initiative” conference held in Riyadh on Feb. 28-29.

“We are proud to partner with the Saudi Press Agency,” DeGreef said. “We are proud to partner with a number of very prominent ministries and organizations in the Kingdom to develop business acumen in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that the partnership will train journalists in a variety of “interpersonal effectiveness skills,” such as teamwork, negotiation, presentation, influencing, decision-making, and communication — all of which “are very relevant for journalists (and) for professionals in the media.”

DeGreef added that although “there is already good education in the Kingdom,” it has “a long way to go in excellence in business education.”

He added: “The college tries to fill that void.”  

In addition to joining media-focused training programs under the agreement, Saudi journalists will also be able to obtain graduate degrees in business administration and finance.

“We will welcome journalists in those degree programs in business, but we are also developing an exciting portfolio of executive education programs again for the media,” DeGreef said. “So, most of our partnerships are already in those two areas, but the third area is research.”

He highlighted that MBSC’s faculty “will work with journalists from SPA on particular research projects, mostly linked to data, data analysis, data presentations, (and) data communication.”

SPA announced on Thursday the launch of its first news training academy in partnership with several organizations, including the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, the Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship, the Institute of Public Administration, the Human Resources Development Fund, Sky News Arabia Academy, and the Austrian International Center for Qualification and Quality.


Former MSNBC show host launches new media company

Former MSNBC show host launches new media company
Updated 29 February 2024
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Former MSNBC show host launches new media company

Former MSNBC show host launches new media company
  • Subscription-based news organization aims to produce “unfiltered journalism”

LONDON: Former MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan is to launch a new digital media company called Zeteo.

In a CNN interview with Jake Tapper, aired on Wednesday, the British-American writer and broadcaster said: “The reason I’m starting this company is that I want to be able to speak in a blunter fashion than some in the media speak right now, especially about issues like racism, fascism, genocide.”

The move came after his MSNBC “The Mehdi Hasan Show” was abruptly canceled by the network in October.

It coincided with his criticism of Israel’s actions during its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Zeteo, Hasan noted, was an ancient Greek word that meant “to seek out, to inquire, to get to the truth.”

The subscription-based news organization aims to produce “unfiltered journalism” with hard-hitting interviews, podcasts, newsletters, op-eds, and essays.

In a promotional video for the site, Hasan pointed out that he had been busy assembling an “Avengers-style team of contributors,” which included award-winning journalists, New York Times best-selling authors, and Hollywood celebrities.

Before joining MSNBC in 2021, Hasan worked for Al Jazeera English and hosted a podcast at The Intercept.
 


Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation

Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation
Updated 29 February 2024
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Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation

Step boss says AI regulation is critical but cautions against over-regulation
  • Ray Dargham, the CEO of the tech-focused new media company, tells Arab News Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading the way in AI advances and regulation
  • Annual Step Conference in Dubai last week added an AI track reflecting the growth of the technology globally and regionally

DUBAI: Tech-focused new media company Step held its 12th annual conference and exhibition in Dubai last week, which attracted about 350 startups, 150 venture capital firms and more than 8,000 delegates.

Ray Dargham, the co-founder and CEO of Step, said during the opening ceremony that the business, which has already expanded to include a conference in Saudi Arabia, now plans to go global through a partner-hosting model.

The event in Dubai featured six tracks: Start, covering startups, growth and venture capital; Fintech, covering ecommerce; Digital, devoted to media, adtech and creators; Wellness, covering health, lifestyle and femtech; Earth, for greentech and sustainability; and Artificial Intelligence, covering machine learning, data and automation.

The newly added AI track covered topics such as large-language models, advanced neural nets, and co-pilot systems, which were discussed by industry experts such as Brittany McDonough of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office; Maitha Alsuwaidi, chief operating officer of Microsoft UAE; Google Cloud’s Ahmad El-Sayed; and Google Deepmind’s head of product, Mehdi-Ghissassi.

Although AI has been around for a while, “it hadn’t actually reached a critical mass until about a year ago,” Dargham told Arab News. “For a long time, AGI or artificial general intelligence, was mostly limited to labs.”

More recently, ChatGPT has played a critical role in helping AI reach a mass audience, allowing everyone to “experience the power behind the technology,” he added.

The AI sessions at the Step Conference, which covered several topics, including regulatory frameworks and deep learning, were “designed to provide startups with invaluable insights into the ethical, regulatory and technological advancement of AI, equipping them to navigate and capitalize on the dynamic and fast-moving landscape of AI-driven innovation.”

The company is adapting to become an “AI conference” because, Dargham said, “most of what we consider ‘tech’ today will become AI-powered or have an AI component to it over the next few years.”

All of the other tracks during Step events will be affected by the development and utilization of AI to such a significant degree that Dargham believes the technology “will become bigger than software and the internet itself. Hence, theoretically speaking, our conference will become an AI conference instead of being a tech conference.”

Much of the innovation and development in AI has been global but Dargham said that in particular, Step was “noticing a significant shift in the Middle East region toward a growing interest and adoption of generative AI technologies.”

As evidence of this he cited the UAE’s strategy on AI, which aims to ensure the country is at the forefront of innovation in the technology by 2031, and Saudi Arabia’s national agenda for data and AI, which aims to position the Kingdom as a global leader in data-driven economies, allowing it to leverage the power of AI for economic and social development.

The region is already receiving greater international attention and investment related to AI. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, for example, is reportedly in talks with investors, including in the UAE, to raise funding — said to be as much as between $5 trillion and $7 trillion — for a tech initiative to boost international chip-building capacity and expand its ability to power AI, among other things.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE “are leading a groundbreaking wave of AI investment, spearheaded by entities like (AI development company) G42,” said Dargham.

“The adoption rates are skyrocketing across sectors, from healthcare to finance, highlighting a strategic shift towards AI-driven innovation” but it isn’t “just about numbers,” he added.

“It’s about crafting a narrative of ambition and progress that’s reshaping the region’s technological landscape.”

The national strategies of the countries and their investments are encouraging interest from private entities that “are increasingly investing in AI research and development, with a particular focus on generative AI,” which includes “endeavors to pioneer advanced algorithms, models, and applications customized to address regional needs and challenges,” said Dargham.

AI innovation is particularly evident in the startup landscape, with businesses “exploring diverse applications of generative AI in areas such as natural language processing, computer vision and creative AI.”

The advancement of AI is not without its challenges as global concerns grow about data privacy and security.

“Ensuring the protection of sensitive information and compliance with data-protection regulations are imperative for instilling trust and confidence in GenAI technologies among stakeholders,” said Dargham.

He added that “a significant hurdle” is the shortage of skilled AI professionals.

“Without an adequate talent pool equipped with the necessary expertise, organizations struggle to effectively implement GenAI solutions” resulting in a “pressing need to invest in AI education and training programs,” he said.

The rapid development of AI also brings with it ethical considerations.

“From deepfakes to misinformation, the ethical implications of GenAI demand robust guidelines and frameworks for responsible use,” Dargham said.

Step is committed to playing its part in this space, he added, through sessions designed to address the ethics, safety and societal impacts of AI. It is also exploring collaborations between governments and international organizations “to develop policies that foster innovation while addressing concerns related to data privacy, bias, transparency and responsibility.”

While regulation is critical, Dargham cautioned against over-regulation.

“Collaboration with policymakers, industry leaders, and ethical experts is essential in establishing clear guidelines that promote the ethical deployment of GenAI technologies, fostering trust and accountability within the ecosystem,” he said.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have “made significant progress in crafting frameworks for AI governance and ethics,” accompanied by national strategies and programs “aimed at advancing AI technologies while addressing pertinent regulatory concerns,” Dargham added.

“I think regulation for AI is crucial, but I’m also concerned about over-regulation globally; the EU tends to overregulate.”


NATO appoints Farah Dakhlallah as new spokesperson

NATO appoints Farah Dakhlallah as new spokesperson
Updated 29 February 2024
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NATO appoints Farah Dakhlallah as new spokesperson

NATO appoints Farah Dakhlallah as new spokesperson
  • Dakhlallah, a Lebanese-British citizen, has wide-ranging experience in both the public and private sectors

LONDON: NATO has appointed Farah Dakhlallah as its new spokesperson.

In a statement announcing the news, the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said: “In a more dangerous world, clear and timely communication, and engagement with the media, are more important than ever.” 

Dakhlallah, a Lebanese-British citizen, has wide-ranging experience in both the public and private sectors, including with the UN, the UK government and AstraZeneca, as well as several media organizations.

Posting on her LinkedIn account, she wrote: “It is an honor and a privilege to be appointed NATO spokesperson, leading press and media for the alliance during this critical time.”

She added the alliance currently protected more than one billion people, “safeguarding their freedom and democracy, and contributing to a more peaceful world.” 

Dakhlallah previously served as media relations director for the Middle East and Africa at AstraZeneca, communications manager at the World Health Organization, and Arabic spokeswoman for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

She has a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge and another in media and communications from the London School of Economics. She also studied audiovisual arts at Beirut’s Universite Saint Joseph.


East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 

East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 
Updated 29 February 2024
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East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 

East London’s streets become canvas for pro-Palestine art 
  • Nine graffiti murals spotlight Palestinian journalists and doctors in Gaza with their Instagram handle
  • 'History will judge us all,' Creative Debuts founder says

LONDON: When exploring East London, a vibrant display of creativity and dissent is evident.

Amid the backdrop of coffee shops spinning vinyl records and speakeasies tucked away in butcher shops, the streets have become a canvas for an array of art voicing solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The latest addition has been the “Heroes of Palestine” project, a collection of nine graffiti murals celebrating the resilience of frontline workers in Gaza.

A mural of Palestinian journalist Bisan Owda in London by Lours. (Creative Debuts)

First launched by the art platform Creative Debuts in January, each mural spotlighted a civilian journalist along with their Instagram handle. They include Motaz Azaiza, Wael Dahdouh, Plestia Al-Aqad, Bisan Owda, Hind Khoudary, and Doaa Al-Baz.

Citizen journalists, who are risking their lives to document Israel’s bombardment and military invasion of Gaza, have played a crucial role in humanizing Palestinians.

Through platforms like Instagram, they have forged deep emotional bonds with a global audience, drawing attention to the death and destruction brought on by the war. 

“The murals bring it back to the human beings on the ground and the fact that there’s a huge, tremendous loss of life,” Creative Debuts founder Calum Hall told Arab News. 

“There’s a horrendous amount of casualties, with 90 percent of the population displaced. There’s obviously the situation happening in Rafah at the moment, which is devastating,” he added.

The community-driven project has captured the attention of both the local community and a global audience, with Hall noting that “as far as social media goes, the murals are by far the most engaged pieces we’ve ever done.”

A mural of Palestinian doctor Ahmed Moghrabi spray painted in Peckham, London. (Creative Debuts)

Following the campaign’s initial success, Creative Debuts expanded their project in February to include a tribute to Gaza’s doctors.

Hall says the murals, which have all been seen by their subjects in Gaza via social media, also serve to boost morale.

“Particularly, with the medical professionals, they’re dealing with such harrowing circumstances all the time. So, if we can even provide a 1 percent bit of hope, encouragement, and love, that has a knock-on effect for the people around them.

“We want the people out there to know they’re being seen, know they’re being heard, and know they’re being loved.”

Meanwhile, Hall advocated for the use of street art as a form of activism, a conduit for dialogue, and a tool to connect communities.

“Street art is for the people. It’s the most accessible art form, so it very much should be depicting what’s going on in society.

“Everyone loves it, taking photos, engaging with it. But it is a form of rebellion, it is a form of activism in itself and it’s the perfect way for us to get this campaign out.”

A mural of Palestinian journalist Plestia Alaqad in London painted by  Ed Hicks. (Creative Debuts)

Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, now in its sixth month, has killed nearly 30,000 people, the majority of whom are women and children.

As of Feb. 15, a YouGov poll indicates that 66 percent of Britons want Israel’s war to stop. However, the UK government has not called for an immediate ceasefire, nor has it halted the transfer of arms to Israel amid concerns that they might be used to commit “war crimes” against Palestinians.

London has witnessed some of Europe’s largest pro-Palestine protests since October, with regular marches on Saturdays, drawing hundreds of thousands.

“What seems to be really apparent is there’s a disconnect between how serious the issue is, how the politicians are handling it, and what the public thinks,” Hall said.

“I think that’s creating a bigger fissure between the public and the people in charge in this country,” he added.

The founder concluded: “The murals are an important legacy for all of us, to rally behind the people in Gaza but to also let our politicians know that we’re not happy about it.

“We’re not happy seeing this destruction and devastation in real time on our social media; it’s unavoidable. History will judge us all.”

Creative Debuts has launched a GoFundMe to continue the creation and documentation of the “Heroes of Palestine” murals, with funds directly allocated to the artists, materials, and the photographer.