Their News [Archives:2008/1157/Local News]

May 22 2008

– Knight Award-winning Egyptian blogger says he will never stop

For 33-year-old Egyptian Wael Abbas, the Web log is not merely a personal journal; he has a specific mission. He sees his blog as an avenue for freedom of speech in a country that has relatively little of it.

Legal harassment of independent journalism is common. According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, there were 85 criminal cases against the press from 2004 to 2006. It was in this atmosphere that Abbas launched his “Egyptian Awareness” blog, available at He says he took it upon himself to expose human rights violations in Egyptian society and shed light on issues of corruption and torture, among others.

In an interview, Abbas told IJNet that what compelled him to start his blog was “the need for real, transparent, independent media that cover stuff often neglected by mainstream media.”

Armed with a video camera, Abbas sees video blogging as a way to silence skeptics of his reporting. “I focused on images and video footage so that no on can discredit my work,” he said. He uses colloquial Egyptian Arabic on his site to appeal to a younger generation that might find traditional reporting “boring.”

One of his blogging highlights was when he posted a video of Egyptian police cracking down on demonstrators. He also showed a video of soldiers tearing down an Egyptian flag. Government officials frowned on this reporting and issued an arrest warrant. Abbas told IJNet of a government “smear campaign” against him in which one official appeared on a local TV station and said that Abbas has a “criminal past.”

“I had to publish my own criminal record on my blog.” Abbas also said that there accusations that he was a homosexual and a convert to Christianity. “They were trying to discredit me and make me lose my audience,” he said.

Veteran Egyptian journalist Hisham Kassem said that the government has been “trigger happy” in its response to the blogging phenomenon. He told IJNet that the government's approach was, “Let's arrest them now and we'll understand blogging later.”

For his part, Abbas said he hopes he's made a difference in Egyptian society. “I hope yes, especially in the fields of awareness and freedom.” He said he believes that Egyptians are now more aware of their rights. “Whenever injustice happens they come forward and talk, unlike in the past when people were too afraid to speak up.”

In spite of constant harassment, others have recognized his efforts. Last month the International Center for Journalists (which publishes IJNet) announced that Abbas would receive the Knight International Journalism Award. The prize honors individuals who raise the standards of media excellence in their countries.

“I was very excited and happy about the award,” Abbas said. “But I had mixed feelings about it because it did not come from my country. I wish my country recognizes what I do.”

For Abbas, the award helps legitimize his work and quiet those who accuse of him of not being a journalist. “An award like this will silence those people who are attacking us [bloggers] because of hidden agendas,” he said.

Mainstream journalists are among the biggest skeptics of blogging. These include Kassem, who noted their low readership overall. “It is not something that could shake the regime,” he said. However, he said that blogging has “opened the space for discussion in the Egyptian society.”

Abbas said he is determined to continue with his mission.

“Nothing will stop me,” he said. “Egyptian people deserve to know the truth.”

– Jordan's press freedom evaluated

A new report released by the Jordan-based Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) exhibits findings on the current status of press freedom in Jordan.

The results, compiled with the participation of 501 journalists, give a “negative indication about the status of press freedom in Jordan and reflects the magnitude of dangers, problems, and violations” that Jordan's journalists encounter, CPJ concludes.

Among the reports findings: 94% of the surveyed journalists exercise self-censorship; 80% of the surveyed journalists said that they avoid criticizing the security services; 75% avoid criticizing leaders of Arab and foreign countries; 57% believe that criticizing the government is a red line; 56% do not tackle sexual issues in their writings.

– The Reuters offers workshop on writing international news

The Reuters Foundation is offering a course on international news writing for journalists from the developing world in London from August 11 to 22. Last day to apply: June 27.

The course will focus on the writing of international news, as practiced by Reuters and other global news organizations. Through practice exercises, emphasis will be placed on improving basic reporting skills including accuracy, impartiality, speed, clarity and structure.

Scholarships are available for journalists from the developing world with limited recourses. Partial scholarships are also offered to journalists who can afford to pay for their costs through their organizations. Regular tuition fees are UKGBP2000 (US$3,905) for travel and accommodations for 10 days.

Those interested should have fluency in English and have worked for print or other media organizations for at least two years. Interested persons must submit a 250-word essay outlining their career, two recent examples of their work in English, and a statement of 250-500 words describing why this workshop would benefit them.

For more information, go to or e-mail [email protected].

– Film festival in Tehran to showcase 'cinema of truth'

A film festival which tries to express the relationship between reality and truth through documentary films will take place in Tehran, Iran, from October 15 to 19. The deadline to submit works is July 15.

Iran's Documentary & Experimental Film Center (DEFC) is organizing the festival, entitled “Cinema Verite,” a French term which means the “cinema of truth.” The festival tries to express the relationship between reality and truth though

documentary films.

The event will include international and national competitions, a retrospective, tribute and special screenings.

In 2007, more than 1500 films from Iran and other countries were submitted to the festival.

It includes the following sections: International Competition, National Competition, Market, Production Fund, Retrospective

Tribute, Special Screenings, and Iran documentary Fund-IDF .

– American to introduce charge for some passengers checking in second bag

American Airlines has followed most of the rest of the US industry in introducing a US$25 charge for some domestic Economy Class passengers checking in a second bag. The first bag remains free. The new ruling also applies to its oneworld regional affiliate American Eagle – but as it covers only passengers flying entirely US domestic journeys, the new policy does not apply to those traveling on oneworld itineraries.

The charge will NOT apply to Gold, Platinum and Executive Platinum tier members of its AAdvantage frequent flyer programme – or Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby tier members in any oneworld partner's loyalty scheme, passengers traveling on full-fare Economy, Business or First Class tickets, or those with international itineraries (except to and from Canada and US territories, such as Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands).

– Power Matters: A Survey of GCC boards

The National Investor (TNI), one of the oldest merchant banks in the UAE, and Hawkamah, The Institute for Corporate Governance have today published their joint research Power Matters: A Survey of GCC boards. The report is the first empirical research of its kind in the region and it analyses boards of some 582 companies in the GCC, covering 4,254 seats.

Power Matters highlights five main conclusions from their investigation: Board size is a function of multiple parameters, only one of which is company size; Female board presence is low, but not as low as expected; Female board presence depends on a mix of influences, of which social and religious are most important; Individual power seems fairly diluted in the region but family power is very high and finally; There are significant discrepancies across the GCC.

Key findings show that there are significant variations in board sizes across the region. Saudi companies have the biggest boards with a median of 9 members, Kuwait companies have the smallest boards with a median of 6 members. Also the legal framework provides one explanation for the differences in size. Findings also indicate that gender matters as female representation is generally low in the GCC, as expected, and representation of women on boards and in government varies strikingly. The percentage of women on boards in Kuwait is 2.7 and 2.3 in Oman, compared to 0.4, 2.0 in Italy and 3 in Spain. The lowest female representation was in Saudi.

There is pleasingly little cross-representation, 80-90% of Directors in the GCC sit on one board only. And Bahrain has the best board single board Director statistics, Oman and Qatar have most multi-board Directors. Population composition and education levels in each market are the biggest influences.

Family Power

Families with the most Directors on company boards are the most economically influent. And individual power in the region is diluted, with power held amongst a small pool of royal and business families. On average 25-75% of companies researched have at least two board members from the same family, including 76% of Qatari companies and only 39% of Dubai listed companies. The top 15 families in Qatar control more than 50% of public company boards. Some families own up to 100% of a board, this is particularly prevalent in Kuwait. Unexpectedly prominent, ruling families are largely absent from listed companies, except in Qatar where the ruling family presides over 76% of all public company boards. The report ranks the Top Ten Most Powerful companies in each GCC market.

– Royal Jordanian – Yemen awards travel and tourism agencies

In the presence of the Jordanian Ambassador and members of the embassy, the Royal Jordanian Airlines Country representative Mr. Saleh Tawalbeh awarded a number of travel agencies for their role in advocating for RJ as a flight of choice increasing the company's sales by 30 percent in 2007.

In the celebration he narrated the achievements of the company over the years and its distinguished position worldwide mentioning that it is the only Middle Eastern airline company that had been chosen to join the One World Airline Alliance in April 2007.

Oneworld brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business – American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malev Hungarian Airlines, Qantas and Royal Jordanian, plus some 20 affiliates, including American Eagle, South Africa's Comair, Dragonair, LAN Argentina, LAN Ecuador and LAN Peru. Mexicana will join in 2009, with its subsidiary Click Mexicana as an affiliate.

`Its airlines serve some 700 destinations in 150 countries and offer almost 550 airport lounges worldwide. They carried around 320 million passengers last year. It is the only alliance with any member airlines based in South America, the Middle East or Australia.

The alliance enables its members to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. These include a broader route network, opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles and points across the combined oneworld network and more airport lounges. oneworld is the only alliance to enable passengers to fly throughout its network, on any combination of carriers, using just electronic tickets.

Oneworld was voted the World's Leading Airline Alliance for the fifth year running in the 2007 World Travel Awards, based on votes cast by some 170,000 travel professionals, including more than 110,000 travel agents in 200 countries.