Saudi Media Forum platforms journalism’s essential role in times of crisis

Saudi Media Forum platforms journalism’s essential role in times of crisis
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Seasoned industry experts took the stage to discuss the role of the media during global crises during the third Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh. (AN Photo: Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
Saudi Media Forum platforms journalism’s essential role in times of crisis
2 / 2
Seasoned industry experts took the stage to discuss the role of the media during global crises during the third Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh. (AN Photo: Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Updated 21 February 2024
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Saudi Media Forum platforms journalism’s essential role in times of crisis

Saudi Media Forum platforms journalism’s essential role in times of crisis
  • Proliferation of fake news means journalists needed more than ever, says Arab News’ Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas
  • Former US intelligence officer points to ‘an agenda’ by some publications in the West to vilify Middle East nations

RIYADH: “The first casualty of war is the truth,” the old quote states, and even with the global digitization of conventional media, it still stands true to this day.

At the start of the third annual Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh on Tuesday, seasoned industry experts took the stage to discuss the role of the media during global crises.

Arab News’ Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas referenced the famous words to emphasize the contradiction currently happening with the rise of fake or misleading news in the age of AI and rapid technological advancements. He joined British journalist Con Coughlin and former US intelligence analyst Norman T. Roule in a panel discussion titled “Media in Times of Crisis … Role and Mutual Influence.”

“We essentially made it a lot easier and quicker to spread, so if anything, media journalism couldn’t be any more important or in demand than it is today. We’ve seen it in Gaza, we’ve seen it during the pandemic, we’ve seen it in the Ukraine, and we’ll continue to see it,” Abbas said during the discussion.




Arab News’ Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas emphasized the contradiction currently happening with the rise of fake news in the age of AI. (AN Photo: Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)

Initiatives including Saudipedia, a digital encyclopedia platform launched at the SMF’s accompanying FOMEX exhibition, aims to be the first source of Saudi Arabia’s narrative to the world, to counter misinformation.

While AI is still at a tricky unregulated phase, specialists in various industries have recognized its value in treading toward the future. In Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence has made significant strides on this front including the inauguration of a center dedicated to the technology and the launch of an Arabic AI app.

The tool is especially essential to the media industry.

Abbas added: “People like to pin things on journalism and journalists, but without modern day tools, it’s really like going to war in the 21st century on a horse with a sword while your opponent is using drones.”

Roule chimed in by emphasizing the importance of authentic sources. As a former US official, he provided insight into how some publications in the West were targeting Middle Eastern countries. The most recent case that sparked controversy was an opinion piece written by former tennis stars Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, published in the Washington Post, that urged the Women’s Tennis Association to stay out of Saudi Arabia due to the country’s alleged oppression of women.

“It’s absolutely an agenda,” he said. “You have publications that produce only opinion and they shape facts and put it into that and mask it as analysis. The crime is that these sometimes are very bold and respected institutions, and (because of that), people listen to them routinely and parrot what they say.”

This also proves true for the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli forces. Part of the propaganda was influenced by the rise of AI-generated photographs and videos that have quickly spread among internet users.

While many have lost trust and faith in the media, it remains crucial for organizations to prioritize getting the facts right over ensuring news gets out quickly.

As a columnist for The Telegraph and Al Majalla newspaper, Coughlin believes it is important to only start forming opinions once the facts are fully revealed, giving the Russia-Ukraine war as a contemporary example.




Seasoned industry experts took the stage to discuss the role of the media during global crises during the third Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh. (AN Photo: Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)

Coughlin explained: “With social media and the ability to manipulate news, let’s not forget that in modern warfare, cyber warfare is just as important today as having a tank or fighter jets. Winning the propaganda war in the early skirmishes is just as important as what’s happening on ground.

“What’s really important when you’re talking about media is to have a plurality of media. When you’re limited to just one or two outlets, the general public won’t get the full picture … but what’s really important is that those opinions are based on facts.”

In crisis, governments are required to simultaneously “hurry up and slow down,” Roule said. While policy makers are challenged to both restrain from speaking out prematurely while also saying enough for the story to develop, journalists have a similar responsibility to shape stories in an ethical manner.

Abbas said: “There’s always a margin where you can get it wrong, either you’ve been misinformed or conned. First, you need to approach it from a humble point of view … the difference between a professional and a nonprofessional is a professional will correct immediately when they’re wrong. Somebody who’s not might try to sweep it under the carpet or speak louder and try to spin it. We owe it to our readers to be as transparent as we can be.”


Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition
Updated 20 April 2024
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Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition
  • Awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations ‘testament to talent and dedication of design and editorial teams’

LONDON: Arab News, the leading English-language daily newspaper in the Middle East, has won four Merit Winner awards at this year’s Society of Publication Designers competition.

Arab News’ “The Kingdom vs. Captagon” Spotlight piece garnered recognition in the two categories — Custom Feature and Single Page.

The two remaining accolades went to the “Onions’ tears and inflation fears” in the Feature Opener category and the “Guide to Hajj” in Infographic, commended for its exceptional data visualization.

“We are extremely proud to have won four awards at this year’s prestigious SPD competition,” Omar Nashashibi, head of design at Arab News, said.

“To win awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations is testament to the talent and dedication of the Arab News design and editorial teams in creating engaging content for our readers.”

Since 1965, the annual SPD awards have promoted and celebrated excellence in editorial design, photography and illustration across both print and digital mediums. This year, the competition’s jury received thousands of entries from around the globe.  


Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say
Updated 20 April 2024
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Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say
  • Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man
  • The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park

NEW YORK: A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial has died, police said.
The New York City Police Department told The Associated Press early Saturday that the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital.
The man was in Collect Pond Park around 1:30 p.m. Friday when he took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said.
A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition at the time.
The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park.

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump’s trial, which began with jury selection Monday.
Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly.
Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.
“We may have to shut this area down,” New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference outside the courthouse Friday, adding that officials would discuss the security plan soon.


Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine
Updated 20 April 2024
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Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine
  • Izvestia said Semyon Eremin, 42, died of wounds from a drone attack in Zaporizhzhia region
  • Eremin had reported for the Russian daily from hottest battles in Ukraine during the 25-month-old war

Semyon Eremin, a war correspondent for the Russian daily Izvestia, was killed on Friday in a drone attack in southeastern Ukraine, the daily said.

Izvestia said Eremin, 42, died of wounds suffered when a drone made a second pass over the area where he was reporting in Zaporizhzhia region.
Izvestia said Eremin had sent reports from many of the hottest battles in Ukraine’s eastern regions during the 25-month-old war, including Mariupol, besieged by Russian troops for nearly three months in 2022.
He had also reported from Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns at the center of many months of heavy fighting.


WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system
Updated 20 April 2024
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WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system
  • Targets’ selection based on membership to some WhatsApp groups, new report reveals
  • Accusation raises questions about app’s privacy and encryption claims

LONDON: WhatsApp is allegedly being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s contentious artificial intelligence system, Lavender, which has been linked to the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, recent reports have revealed.

Earlier this month, Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 Magazine and Hebrew-language outlet Local Call published a report by journalist Yuval Abraham, exposing the Israeli army’s use of an AI system capable of identifying targets associated with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This revelation, corroborated by six Israeli intelligence officers involved in the project, has sparked international outrage, as it suggested Lavender has been used by the military to target and eliminate suspected militants, often resulting in civilian casualties.

In a recent blog post, software engineer and activist Paul Biggar highlighted Lavender’s reliance on WhatsApp.

He pointed out how membership in a WhatsApp group containing a suspected militant can influence Lavender’s identification process, highlighting the pivotal role messaging platforms play in supporting AI targeting systems like Lavender.

“A little-discussed detail in the Lavender AI article is that Israel is killing people based on being in the same WhatsApp group as a suspected militant,” Bigger wrote. “There’s a lot wrong with this.”

He explained that users often find themselves in groups with strangers or acquaintances.

Biggar also suggested that WhatsApp’s parent company, Meta, may be complicit, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in these operations.

He accused Meta of potentially violating international humanitarian law and its own commitments to human rights, raising questions about the privacy and encryption claims of WhatsApp’s messaging service.

The revelation is just the latest of Meta’s perceived attempts to silence pro-Palestinian voices.

Since before the beginning of the conflict, the Menlo Park giant has faced accusations of double standards favoring Israel.

In February, the Guardian revealed that Meta was considering the expansion of its hate speech policy to the term “Zionist.”

More recently, Meta quietly introduced a new feature on Instagram that automatically limits users’ exposure to what it deems “political” content, a decision criticized by experts as a means of systematically censoring pro-Palestinian content.

Responding to requests for comment, a WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company could not verify the accuracy of the report but assured that “WhatsApp has no backdoors and does not provide bulk information to any government.”


Eastern European mercenaries suspected of attacking Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati

Eastern European mercenaries suspected of attacking Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati
Updated 19 April 2024
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Eastern European mercenaries suspected of attacking Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati

Eastern European mercenaries suspected of attacking Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati
  • UK security services believe criminal proxies with links to Tehran carried out London knife attack

LONDON: Police said on Friday that a group of Eastern European mercenaries is suspected to have carried out the knife attack on Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati in late March.

Zeraati was stabbed repeatedly by three men in an attack outside his south London home.

The Iran International presenter lost a significant amount of blood and was hospitalized for several days. He has since returned to work, but is now living in a secure location.

Iran International and its staff have faced repeated threats, believed to be linked to the Iranian regime, which designated the broadcaster as a terrorist organization for its coverage of the 2022 protests.

Iran’s charge d’affaires, Seyed Mehdi Hosseini Matin, denied any government involvement in the attack on Zeraati.

Investigators revealed that the suspects fled the UK immediately after the incident, with reports suggesting they traveled to Heathrow Airport before boarding commercial flights to different destinations.

Police are pursuing leads in Albania as part of their investigation.

Counterterrorism units and Britain’s security services leading the inquiry believe that the attack is another instance of the Iranian regime employing criminal proxies to target its critics on foreign soil.

This method allows Tehran to maintain plausible deniability and avoids raising suspicions when suspects enter the country.

Zeraati was attacked on March 29 as he left his home home to travel to work. His weekly show serves as a source of impartial and uncensored news for many Iranians at home and abroad.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program this week, Zeraati said that while he is physically “much better,” mental recovery from the assault “will take time.”