From Facebook to ‘fake news’, media trends uncovered at Al Arabiya-ENEX assembly

Shadaan Hammam
Shadaan Hammam
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Al Arabiya took the lead on hosting one of the most prestigious news event in Dubai last week.

The 2017 Enex General Assembly was attended by influential broadcasters and news veterans from more than 50 countries. ENEX is an association of the world’s leading TV broadcasters, Al Arabiya being the newest member, where news content and resources are shared.

“The General Assembly was a unison of global news outlets. It is good to see all the Enex members in one intellectual space, sharing tech-based solutions for postmodern journalism, and discussing crucial tops such as information pollution and news framing,” said Taher Baraka, a senior news presenter at Al Arabiya.

wide shot enex GA
wide shot enex GA

As the leading Pan-Arab broadcaster, Al Arabiya’s mission is to enrich its audience with credible news. It stands as a beacon of light unshaken by any unfolded criticism. The network’s motto “Know More” is an open, unbiased, and quintessential path for the future of news reporting in the Middle East and beyond.

In its pursuit of the truth, Al Arabiya has lost a significant number of its journalists to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Iraq, Libya and the Philippines over the years. “We do not give up, and will not be scared off,” said Turki Aldakhil, Al Arabiya’s general manager.

The top-tier network of Al Arabiya, has correspondents stretched across key geographic locations that consistently aim to deliver top rated news content boosting the organization’s 14 years of unparalleled expertise.


Al Arabiya continues to play the role of a strategic member within the Enex partnership in serving as the main window to the region, bridging the gap between East and West, and guaranteeing international broadcasters credible content.
“We are amazed by the development at Al Arabiya,” said Adrian wells, Enex Managing Director.

Al Arabiya is focused on technological innovation, the channel was awarded by Nab Show the best virtual studio by broadcasting association for the 2016 US elections coverage.


Al-Kaabi addressed critical topics such as extremism and fake news, emphasizing that online readers must develop a critical eye for detecting fake news, “As a member of both, the media and the UAE government, I know how heavily I tend to rely on news agencies like those in this room”.

Kaabi further called for regional public figures to deploy what she called “digital diplomacy” and encouraged to utilize the internet to trigger instant engagement with citizens. “This connection online makes people feel closer to their leader…through digital platforms, political events are no longer isolated,” she said.

The UAE will collaborate with schools to enable students to identify fabricated news at an early age, according to Al Kaabi’s announcement.

Head of head of media partnerships for Facebook (EMEA): Nick Wrenn
Head of head of media partnerships for Facebook and Instagram (MENA): Fares Akkad

Facebook’s representatives stirred a heated debate after guiding the audience through their plan of adopting in-stream ads and monetizing news content. Publishers quickly questioned whether Facebook was leeching off their content to make lucrative revenue.

“We have around 25 million followers on Facebook, we offer credible news at all times, we have high levels of engagement, what is it that we are doing wrong that we still are unable to gain revenue from our content on Facebook?” asked Al Arabiya’s Director of News Nakhle El Hage.

Among the other concerns, especially for broadcasters with a paywall set-up, is the ability of social media platforms to be able to revert audiences back to their main website. Facebook believes that this can be achieved through brand recognition.

“We do not want people to say I read this story on Facebook, we want them to say we saw that Al Arabiya video on Facebook, or that BBC story” Facebook’s Nick Wrenn explained. Facebook now allows publishers to upload their logos beside their stories in search or trending, for example.

Under Facebook’s Journalism Project, the social media giant discussed their latest initiatives and tools to help improve news literacy online. “Crowd tangle is a very powerful dash board which enables you to track the performance of your stories on social media against opposition,” Wrenn said.


In efforts to counter fake news, Facebook also mentioned their collaboration with fact-checking companies enabling them to label some articles as “disputed”.

“We down rank disputed articles so they become very hard to find,” he added. Their “related articles product” could also then bring to surface another piece debunking the one initially disputed.

Abdel Latif El Mennawy: managing director of Al Masry Al Youm
Ammar Ben Aziz: Associate Editor in Chief at Al
Lizette Sjostrom Jensen: head of Production at TV2 Denmark
Khaled Abu Daher: Editor in Chief at Al Watan Al Arabi

Moderated by Al Arabiya’s senior presenter, Taher Baraka, the panel took to the stage discussing the rise and fall of ISIS in the Middle East.

With the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa and Mosul, hopes for a post-ISIS Middle East is on the rise. However, Abdel Latif Mennawy explained that despite US-led coalition gains against ISIS on the ground the ideology still exists everywhere.

Hopes of a post-ISIS Middle East is still far-fetched said Khaled Abu Daher. He believes that ISIS will continue to exist as long people are deprived their rights. Meanwhile, Ammar Ben Aziz said he believes that prisons should be monitored, as they are a main recruiting field.

The panel also discussed the moral struggle of covering ISIS news. “It is very difficult to find the balance between covering the news of ISIS, and trying not to promote them” said Al Arabiya’s Program Editor Mohammed Abdelrouf, who sat among the audience in the session.

The panel concluded that their public service obligation to present well-rounded news outweighs censorship.
With the viral nature of the internet today, viewing ISIS material online is inevitable’’ we can choose to take the high ground and say we won’t show the video, but it will be out there’’, said Lizette Jensen. “We can choose to take the high ground and say we won’t show the video, but it will be out there,”, she added.

Rafeal Wober, APTN reporter and senior producer

Rafeal Wober gave insight on the daily lives and mindsets of people in North Korea, diverting away from politics and nuclear missiles. People visiting North Korea often described it as a clean metropolitan city but that “behind the façade there is a lot of hustle and bustle, people are always buying and selling things”.

While the world strives for interconnectivity, North Korea strictly separates its communication networks. The audience learnt that a foreigner can use their smartphone to make international calls and contact their embassies, but they are unable to call a North Korean or the local TV station.

Wober spent several hours filming people in the streets of Pyongyang to demonstrate how fashion trends have changed in the past few years. Whether or not they are knock-offs from neighboring country China, North Korean woman dressed in designer labels has become a common sight today as they “are more fashion forward from men,” Wober added. One thing that remains a taboo in the Hermit Kingdom, however, are jeans because they are stigmatized as symbol of American Imperialism.

Evangelos Papathanassiou, Digital Strategists at Horizon Point


This presentation emphasized the importance of integrating technology and journalism. Evangelos Papathanassiou dismisses the old media mentality that states that if one produces good content, the rest will follow. “Nowadays, there is a new media paradigm: content goes to users, instead of the other way around. We need content distribution beyond human intelligence,” he added.

Publishers learned to adopt content management systems (CMS) to serve the algorithms of social networks and search engines as “80% of traffic to any news destination comes from either google or Facebook,” Papathanassiou explained.

On the contrary, the presentation also offered solutions for publishers to keep viewers on their initial page. “Re-engage” is one tool publishers can use to measure their visitor’s scrolling frequency, if they start scrolling quickly, the software assumes that they are not reading and will start recommending articles based on their interest.

Another way it detects reading behavior is through the tilt and positioning of the phone. ‘‘The main purpose is to maximize each visit on the site.” Papathanassiou said.


Shiroog Lashakry: visual communications alumni at Zayed University alumni
Amal Naser Al Mulla: multimedia design student at Zayed University
Nadia Abdulrahman: associate professor at Zayed University
Mariam Al Awadi: graduating student specializing in muti-media design

“We are not just gold, we are not just money, we are not just desert”, said Mariam Al Awadi, multimedia design student at Zayed university. Al Arabiya’s Rawia Alami spoke to young Emirati women about their experience in media in the UAE. The young women said they were working hard to achieve their dream of portraying an accurate representation of the Middle East in the industry.

In a country where 66% of the working sector is made out of females, 30% of which are in leadership roles, the young women said they were certain that they would reach success. This comes as the UAE aims to be among the top 25 nations excelling in the field of woman empowerment.

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