Sync Summit: Emirati interviewer Anas Bukhash on finding his digital balance

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Anas Bukhash is a well-known Emirati serial entrepreneur and a professional interviewer with one of the most well-liked voices in the region. (Supplied)
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Anas Bukhash is a well-known Emirati serial entrepreneur and a professional interviewer with one of the most well-liked voices in the region. (Supplied)
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Updated 31 March 2022

Sync Summit: Emirati interviewer Anas Bukhash on finding his digital balance

  • A well-known Emirati serial entrepreneur, he is a professional interviewer with one of the most well-liked voices in the region
  • In 2021, Bukhash was selected as one of Arab News’ Top MENA-based podcasters of 2021 for his show, “ABtalks”

DHAHRAN: Anas Bukhash stood on stage at Ithra’s first Sync Summit wearing a light-colored traditional Emirati dishdasha and a big smile. In a sea of suits, he was authentically himself.

A well-known Emirati serial entrepreneur, who seamlessly flows in either Arabic or English, he is a professional interviewer with one of the most well-liked voices in the region.

In 2021, he was selected as one of Arab News’ Top MENA-based podcasters of 2021 for his show, “ABtalks,” where he conducts weekly one-on-one chats with local and international figures in sports, pop culture and the business world.

At Sync, he was in conversation with 16-year-old American Gitanjali Rao, who was TIME Magazine’s First-Ever “Kid of the Year” in 2020 and Isabella Plunkett, a community operations analyst from Ireland.

Their chat revolved around how digital technology has been positively and negatively impacting young minds. The panel offered some insights on how today’s youth are being affected by being so online — and what can and should be done to prioritize physical and mental health of this demographic during these uncertain times.

This is an era where everyone with a smart device has access to an abundance of information and connection is often available within our fingertips. Disconnecting becomes a choice.

Bukhash felt right at home — whether he speaks to two young people or 2,000 adults, he has a knack for extracting the vulnerable and raw sides from those he converses with. He gushes about how many of his guests willingly reveal their deepest, darkest moments. He proudly talks about how he has made grown men cry. But he always makes sure that everyone smiles at the end of their talk. He just wants people to listen and be heard.

“Fatherhood made me a bit softer — according to my mother. I was the firstborn, so I fell into that role very quickly of being ‘the good kid.’ It’s a certain role. In school, I wasn’t hated and I wasn’t the most popular — just neutral. I was good with everyone. I’m just neutral,” he told Arab News.

As a father to two “good boys,” Bukhash has made a name for himself in the industry and beyond, for trying to use personal narratives as a way to help make sense of the world we live in.
“I’m 40, so I am with the generation that grew up with no Internet. We grew up with no social media,” he said.

But transitioning from a person with an analog life to having 862,000 followers on Instagram and many others on different platforms required some work. Balancing being both online and offline has been his constant mission.

“I’m very disciplined. If you see my phones, I won’t have them face up. I have zero notifications on them. I love social media — it is my business. It’s how I take my content and share it with people. It’s how I connect to you,” he said.

“I do think we’re all hooked to our phones. Because so much is in it — your passport copies, your family groups and your emails. You can kind of do your job, at least 40 percent of it, on your phone today,” he said.

But life is more than just work. He started to learn about digital wellbeing after being invited to speak at Sync, and credits the summit with helping him solidify his plan to secure a healthier version of himself.

“Honestly, it’s the first time I was introduced to these terminologies by this (Sync Summit) event — I never put them together. You know ‘wellbeing’ and you know ‘digital,’ but ‘digital wellbeing’ was such an interesting combination to think about. What does that exactly mean? I think it’s your wellbeing and how that is regulated or looked after in the digital world,” he said.

To him, the ‘digital world’ is not a live creature with emotions, but a ‘beautiful tool’ that can either elevate or destroy. He likens social media to a hammer. With it, you could either build a table, or break your furniture.

He also practices what he preaches.

“Recently, I read an article about how kids would imitate behavior much more than advice. I like to be present and look at somebody — look at their face, look at their eyes. Listen to them. I really believe you’re a role model in your actions. And then we can always get back to the phone. It’s not going anywhere,” he said.


Reuters denies reporting imminent Israeli attack on Lebanon following social media claims

Updated 23 June 2024

Reuters denies reporting imminent Israeli attack on Lebanon following social media claims

LONDON: Reuters denied on Saturday that it had reported that Israel would attack Lebanon within 48 hours, after reports circulated on social media citing the news agency as saying this.
“Any claims that Reuters reported that Israel will attack Lebanon within the next 48 hours are false. Reuters did not report this,” a Reuters spokesperson said.

Women’s journalism group rescinds courage award given to Palestinian reporter in Gaza

Updated 21 June 2024

Women’s journalism group rescinds courage award given to Palestinian reporter in Gaza

  • Maha Hussaini accuses International Women’s Media Foundation of bowing to pressure she says is typical of the systematic attacks Palestinian journalists face
  • Foundation’s decision follows a report by a conservative publication that accused Hussaini of support for Hamas and antisemitic comments

LONDON: A group that represents women in journalism has rescinded a Courage in Journalism award it presented this month to Palestinian journalist Maha Hussaini.

The decision by the International Women’s Media Foundation follows a report this week by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication in the US, that alleged the freelance writer, who is based in Gaza, had posted messages on social media several years ago in which she praised terrorist actions by Hamas on at least two occasions and shared antisemitic cartoons.

The foundation said the comments in the posts “contradict the values of our organization,” adding: “Both the Courage Awards and the IWMF’s mission are based on integrity and opposition to intolerance. We do not, and will not, condone or support views or statements that do not adhere to those principles.”

Hussaini was named on June 10 as one of four recipients of the Courage Award, for her reporting during the war in Gaza. Her work included a story about the challenges women face giving birth at home during the conflict, and a harrowing account of a young girl who carried her paralyzed brother to safety during military bombing campaigns.

The IWMF describes itself as “a bold and inclusive organization that supports journalists where they are.” Its board and advisory council include prominent media figures such as former CNN journalist Suzanne Malveaux, the Washington Post’s Hannah Allam and CNN TV news anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Hussaini denounced the decision to rescind the award, accusing the Washington-based foundation of “succumbing to pressure” and “choosing to act contrary to courage.” She added that it “starkly demonstrated the systematic physical and moral attacks Palestinian journalists endure throughout their careers.”

Ina message posted on social media platform X, she added: “Each announcement of an award to a Palestinian journalist is systematically followed by extensive smearing campaigns and intense pressure on the awarding organizations from supporters of the Israeli occupation and the Zionist lobby.

“While some organizations uphold their principles and maintain their decision … others, regrettably, cave to the pressure and withdraw the prizes.”

Hussaini said she had “no regrets about any posts” and said her social media comments reflected her experiences of living under Israeli occupation and simply expressed support for resistance efforts.

The foundation’s decision was widely criticized by journalists and media groups. Some suggested Hussaini was the victim of a “vicious campaign,” others described the output of the Washington Free Beacon as “decadent and unethical” and said it had a history of targeting supporters of the Palestinian cause.

UK journalist Winnett will not join Washington Post as editor following backlash with staff

Updated 21 June 2024

UK journalist Winnett will not join Washington Post as editor following backlash with staff

  • Robert Winnett is accused of using unethical methods to obtain information
  • Winnet’s candidacy faced criticism from Post staff who scrutinized his past

WASHINGTON: British journalist Robert Winnett will not be joining the Washington Post as its editor, an internal memo seen by Reuters showed, following media reports that he used unethical methods to obtain information while working with the Sunday Times.
Post publisher Will Lewis had named Winnett, a former colleague who serves as deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, to the role earlier this month after the exit of Sally Buzbee, the first woman to lead the storied newsroom. The reversal means Winnett will remain at the Daily Telegraph, which he joined in 2007.
“It is with regret that I share with you that Robert Winnett has withdrawn from the position of Editor at The Washington Post,” Lewis said in the memo on Friday.
The New York Times reported last Saturday that Lewis and Winnett used fraudulently obtained records in articles at London’s Sunday Times newspaper. On Sunday, the Post published a report detailing Winnett’s ties to John Ford, who has admitted to using illegal methods to gain information for stories.
Lewis did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment, while Winnett declined to comment.
Daily Telegraph editor Chris Evans said in an internal memo, “I’m pleased to report that Rob Winnett has decided to stay with us. As you all know, he’s a talented chap and their loss is our gain.”
The Post’s memo showed that it has started a search for a new editor and that Matt Murray, former editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, will lead the newsroom and continue in his role as executive editor until after the US elections.
The newspaper, owned by founder Jeff Bezos, is one of many news outlets struggling to maintain a sustainable business model in the decades since the Internet upended the economics of journalism and digital advertising rates plummeted.
Executives at the Post last year offered voluntary buyouts across the company to reduce employee headcount by about 10 percent and shrink the size of the newsroom to about 940 journalists.
A report in the Post last month said the newspaper was planning to create new subscription tiers called Post Pro and Post Plus to draw more money from its readers after losing $77 million over the past year.

TikTok accuses federal agency of ‘political demagoguery’ in legal challenge against potential US ban

Updated 21 June 2024

TikTok accuses federal agency of ‘political demagoguery’ in legal challenge against potential US ban

  • ByteDance-owned company said in court letter that Committee on Foreign Investment ceased negotions after submitting draft security agreement

LONDON: TikTok disclosed a letter Thursday that accused the Biden administration of engaging in “political demagoguery” during high-stakes negotiations between the government and the company as it sought to relieve concerns about its presence in the US
The letter — sent to David Newman, a top official in the Justice Department’s national security division, before President Biden signed the potential TikTok ban into law — was submitted in federal court along with a legal brief supporting the company’s lawsuit against measure. TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which is expected to be one of the biggest legal battles in tech and Internet history.
The internal documents provide details about negotiations between TikTok and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a secretive inter-agency panel that investigates corporate deals over national security concerns, between January 2021 and August 2022.
TikTok has said those talks ultimately resulted in a 90-page draft security agreement that would have required the company to implement more robust safeguards around US user data. It would have also required TikTok to put in a “kill switch” that would have allowed CFIUS to suspend the platform if it was found to be non-compliant with the agreement.
However, attorneys for TikTok said the agency “ceased any substantive negotiations” with the company after it submitted the draft agreement in August 2022.
CFIUS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department said it is looking forward to defending the recently enacted legislation, which it says addresses “critical national security concerns in a manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and other constitutional limitations.”
“Alongside others in our intelligence community and in Congress, the Justice Department has consistently warned about the threat of autocratic nations that can weaponize technology — such as the apps and software that run on our phones – to use against us,” the statement said. “This threat is compounded when those autocratic nations require companies under their control to turn over sensitive data to the government in secret.”
The letter sent to Newman details additional meetings between TikTok and government officials since then, including a March 2023 call the company said was arranged by Paul Rosen, the US Treasury’s undersecretary for investment security.
According to TikTok, Rosen told the company that “senior government officials” deemed the draft agreement to be insufficient to address the government’s national security concerns. Rosen also said a solution would have to involve a divestment by ByteDance and the migration of the social platform’s source code, or its fundamental programming, out of China.
TikTok’s lawsuit has painted divestment as a technological impossibility since the law requires all of TikTok’s millions of lines of code to be wrested from ByteDance so that there would be no “operational relationship” between the Chinese company and the new US app.
After the Wall Street Journal reported in March 2023 that CFIUS had threatened ByteDance to divest TikTok or face a ban, TikTok’s attorneys held another call with senior staff from the Justice and Treasury departments where they said leaks to the media by government officials were “problematic and damaging.”
That call was followed by an in-person meeting in May 2023 between TikTok’s attorneys, technical experts and senior staff at the Treasury Department focused on data safety measures and TikTok’s source code, the company’s attorneys said. The last meeting with CFIUS occurred in September 2023.
In the letter to Newman, TikTok’s attorneys say CFIUS provides a constructive way to address the government’s concern. However, they added, the agency can only serve this purpose when the law — which imposes confidentiality — and regulations “are followed and both sides are engaged in good-faith discussions, as opposed to political subterfuge, where CFIUS negotiations are misappropriated for legislative purposes.”
The legal brief also shared details of, but does not include, a one-page document the Justice Department allegedly provided to members of Congress in March, a month before they passed the federal bill that would require the platform to be sold to an approved buyer or face a ban.
TikTok’s attorneys said the document asserted TikTok collects sensitive data without alleging the Chinese government has ever obtained such data. According to the company, the document also alleged that TikTok’s algorithm creates the potential for China to influence content on the platform without alleging the country has ever done so.

Saudi Journalists Association observes International Federation meetings in London

Updated 20 June 2024

Saudi Journalists Association observes International Federation meetings in London

  • The meetings discussed the impact of artificial intelligence on journalism and the safety of media professionals in conflict zones

LONDON: The Saudi Journalists Association took part on Wednesday as an observer in the International Federation of Journalists’ meetings in London.

The event, hosted by the UK National Union of Journalists, explored the impact of artificial intelligence on journalism and the safety of media professionals in conflict zones.

The IFJ, the world’s largest union of journalists’ trade unions, vowed to help develop journalists’ skills to adapt to the rapid evolution of journalistic tools, including the growing influence of AI.

Adhwan Al-Ahmari, chairman of the Saudi Journalists Association, emphasized the importance of collaborating with international press federations and knowledge exchange to further develop the Saudi association.

“This marks the first time the association has participated as an observer after joining the IFJ late last year,” Al-Ahmari said.

“Our goal is to play a more significant role within the federation in the coming period.”

The Saudi Journalists Association was founded in 2003 as a civil society body that acts as an umbrella for the country’s press professionals, enhancing their role and instilling a sense of responsibility towards their country and people.