How Qatari media tiptoed around the Barclays scandal

The offices of Barclays in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London. (Reuters)
Updated 16 February 2019
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How Qatari media tiptoed around the Barclays scandal

  • The story of the first major UK criminal trial to emerge from the global financial crisis has yet to make many headlines in Qatar
  • During the fraud trial, the prosecution told the court that the then Qatari Prime Mister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded a personal fee for investing in Barclays

LONDON: The London trial of former Barclays executives accused of fraud over a deal with Qatar during the global banking crisis of 2008 has attracted global media coverage.
The opening of the case at London’s Southwark Crown Court saw a courtroom so packed that reporters had to request tickets to gain entry.
But the story of the first major UK criminal trial to emerge from the global financial crisis has yet to make many headlines in Qatar — where much of the drama originates.
At the time, Barclays raised billions of pounds from Qatar in a move that allowed the bank to avoid taking a government bailout.
During the fraud trial — which began in January — the prosecution told the court that the then Qatari Prime Mister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded a personal fee for investing in Barclays.
International coverage of the trial has been extensive.
On Jan. 25 under a story headlined:“Barclays executives discussed ‘dodgy’ fee for Qatari PM, jury told,” the Financial Times reported on a fee demanded by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani for investing in the then ailing bank
“You can’t have the prime minister of Qatar as an adviser to Barclays Bank  . . .  It’s like having the President of the United States (as) advisers to JPMorgan; you just can’t have it,” said Roger Jenkins, known as “big dog” by his colleagues, and the “gatekeeper” of Barclays’ relationship with Sheikh Hamad. I don’t know what to do with this  . . .  he wants his money.”
On Jan. 30, The Guardian reported that Barclays’ lawyers did not object to £322 million in fees paid to Qatar and that the bank’s legal team had “persuaded themselves” that the 2008 agreement was lawful.

But while the international media have devoured the sensational revelations around Qatar’s involvement in the 2008 Barclays bailout, the appetite of the Doha-based media for the story has been somewhat muted.
The only mention of Barclays in state-owned Al Jazeera Arabic was in November last year. Similarly, the only mention of the case in Al Sharq was published in May, titled: “Barclays cleared of obtaining a Qatari loan.” There was no other mention of the accusations against the executives .
The muted coverage has raised questions by some media analysts over whether Doha-based Al Jazeera and its Arabic-language service deliberately downplay stories that reflect negatively on Qatar. “There is no longer a need to make much effort to prove that Al Jazeera has become far from professional,” said Abdellatif El-Menawy, a writer and columnist.
“So it was normal to select from news and events what is consistent with the policy and interests of its owners.
And also, to ignore what it considers to be disclosure of abuses by Qatari officials, even if they are proven or circulating in the media.”


Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

Updated 20 April 2019
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Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

  • Arab News expanded its footprint entering Pakistan in mid 2017
  • Its Pakistan Edition was founded on February 2018 and has been a major success

ISLAMABAD: Arab News’ online Pakistan edition, which launched on Feb. 8, 2018, has established itself as a credible extension of the Riyadh-based newspaper, which today marks its 44th anniversary.
Arab News entered Pakistan as part of the newspaper’s ongoing global and digital expansion, and to tap news from other parts of Asia, hiring skilled journalists and freelance contributors.
An exclusive interview in October 2018 with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was newly elected as prime minister at the time, catapulted Arab News in Pakistan.
Realizing the news potential in the country, Arab News capitalized on its success and set up a bureau, but not before landing more special reports that grabbed the local media’s attention and attracted a larger readership.
The website www.arabnews.pk became the parent organization’s first in a series of country-specific online editions that the newspaper is planning to launch, and is part of its “more digital, more global” strategy.
Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, who on Thursday was appointed minister for science and technology, officially inaugurated the newspaper’s Pakistan bureau earlier this year.
Led by award-winning veteran journalist Baker Atyani, and under the guidance of Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, the team at the Pakistan edition has worked diligently to penetrate the country’s vibrant news market.
As such, followership of the newspaper’s Pakistan social media account has quickly ballooned.
Its online coverage of the first visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan in February was widely praised.
Arab News published special reports and features on the deep-rooted and diversifying ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Also a major hit was Abbas’s exclusive, lengthy sit-down with President Dr. Arif Alvi during the crown prince’s visit.
Another exclusive that garnered a serious online buzz was on Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offering to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan.
The Pakistan edition has kept a special focus on business and finance, and has spoken with movers and shakers, including those in the corridors of power.
In August 2018, it exposed the ruling party’s hit single “Rok Sako To Rok Lo Tabdeeli Aayi Re,” produced for the last general election, as being suspiciously similar to a remixed version of the Indian religious song “Bankya Maa Re Nach. The report was instantly picked up by Pakistani media.
Days before the election, Atyani conducted a one-on-one exclusive with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Arab News’ Pakistan edition is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). With the edition’s success, the SRMG is looking to replicate the model across Asia.