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Afghan journalists lament ‘bleak’ future for media under Taliban – Al Jazeera English

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Shabir Ahmadi started his job at TOLO TV, Afghanistan’s largest private broadcaster, during one of the darkest days for the media in the war-torn nation: January 21, 2016.

The evening before, a Taliban suicide bomber had killed a graphic designer, video editor, set decorator, three dubbing artists and a driver who worked for TOLO’s entertainment wing.

When he arrived at the TOLO office the next morning, the guards at the door were confused and still grief-stricken. They had no idea what to do with Ahmadi. They looked at the then 24-year-old, who had just ended his job with TOLO’s main rival, 1TV, and asked him if he was “crazy” to start work at a network that had come under direct attack only hours ago.

Because the news never stops, not even when your organisation becomes the news, Ahmadi started his job less than a week later.

Everything changed on August 15

After that, reporting on the deaths of their colleagues by suicide bombers, unidentified gunmen and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) became a routine as the Taliban, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) and unknown armed groups continued to target journalists over the next five years.

Still, Ahmadi and thousands of other media workers across Afghanistan, most of them in their 20s and 30s, continued their work undeterred. Newsrooms and production houses full of young men and women worked together to make the country’s media the freest in the region, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) watchdog.

An Afghan journalist films the site where gunmen fired in Kabul, Afghanistan [File: Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]

But all that changed on August 15.

First came the news that former President Ashraf Ghani and top cabinet officials had fled the country. Then came reports that the Taliban, which had just entered the districts of Kabul province early that morning, was heading into the capital city.

Suddenly, the memories of the bombings and killings came flooding back. Ahmadi, who was then deputy head of news at TOLO, met the network’s top management and immediately came to two decisions.

“The first thing we did was send all the female staff home,” Ahmadi told Al Jazeera over the phone from Europe.

The other decision they made was controversial but necessary, he said. They immediately stopped broadcasting music and entertainment programmes. The Turkish serials, game shows, singing competitions, talk shows and sketch comedy shows that millions of people tuned into every evening came to a sudden end.

Though the Taliban had made no official declarations on programming at the time, Ahmadi said the decision was a preemptive one.

“If you understood the fear that night, you would see why we came to such a decision,” he told Al Jazeera.

Ahmadi said he now regrets that decision, but that at the time, it seemed like a necessary one. “We wanted to be the ones to cut them off, not the Taliban,” he said.

Ahmadi said he tried to work as a journalist in the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, but it quickly became clear that would be too difficult. There were reports of the Taliban torturing journalists, confiscating their equipment, beating them on the streets of main cities, jailing them for weeks at a time and instituting new restrictive media laws.

By September, Ahmadi was among hundreds of other Afghan journalists and media workers, including his TOLO colleagues, who had fled the country.

The exodus of journalists has led to serious questions about the future of the media in Afghanistan, where a free press was one of the few real gains to come out of 20 years of Western occupation.

Myanmar-like situation

Steven Butler, the Asia programme coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), says the current media situation in Afghanistan resembles that of Myanmar.

Like Afghanistan, Myanmar also experienced a recent political upheaval that saw the end of a controversial semi-democratic Western-supported government and led to an immediate flight of the country’s media workers.

Butler fears that, like Myanmar, the future of Afghanistan’s media is “bleak”, but he understands why so many journalists left both the countries, operating in exile.

“[It] is not ideal, but it is better than being in jail or killed,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.

Though some Afghans have already resumed their work from abroad, Butler said Afghans will have a much more difficult time than the people of Myanmar when it comes to restarting their work in exile.

“In Myanmar, there was already much more of a precedent and infrastructure for journalists to operate in exile,” he said.

For Ahmadi, the flight of journalists is especially difficult to bear because the media was one industry where thousands of young people felt heard and challenged at the same time.

Ahmadi describes his years at TOLO and 1TV as a time when he “felt free and supported”.

“Whenever we would present an idea to them, they would say, ‘Great, go do it.’ There really wasn’t anything we were discouraged from trying,” he says, reminiscing about his days at two of the nation’s top-ranked TV stations.

Butler says CPJ is trying to establish contacts with the Taliban to advocate for the rights of the Afghan reporters, but that has proven difficult so far. He says the Islamic Emirate promises it will investigate matters, but has yet to present any actual findings.

Abdullah Khenjani, the former director of news at 1TV, the nation’s second-largest private broadcaster, says if the Taliban truly believes in the free media, as it said shortly after taking power, then they must prove it with their actions.

“So far, the Taliban has not been able to buy public confidence and secure a safe environment for critical journalism in particular,” he said.

Journalists beaten and tortured

That commitment to free media came under renewed scrutiny on Thursday, when CPJ reported the Taliban beat three journalists covering a small women’s protest in one of the busiest areas of Kabul.

Once again, the organisation said the Taliban did not respond to their requests for comment on the incident, which came just a month after the group detained, beat and flogged journalists covering a similar demonstration.

Afghan journalists show their wounds after being beaten by the Taliban in Kabul [File: Etilaatroz via Reuters]

Other journalists Al Jazeera spoke to agreed with Khenjani’s assessment, saying they have faced pushback while trying to report on several issues over the last two months.

Journalists who were beaten and tortured for reporting on protests in Kabul last month told Al Jazeera they have been warned by Taliban officials not to cover such events.

Likewise, journalists also recalled being stopped by the Taliban from reporting from the northern province of Panjshir where an armed resistance against the group started after it took over Kabul.

Abdul Farid Ahmad, the former deputy director for operations at TOLO News, references all of these events when speaking about his efforts to continue working in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

“They have beaten journalists many times. They didn’t let journalists cover the women’s protests. They didn’t let journalists go to Panjshir when it was not under their control. We have so many examples that the Taliban didn’t and still don’t want journalists to work freely,” he told Al Jazeera.

In a recent report, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) described the killing of a journalist by unknown gunmen and seizures of two media outlets in the east and the north as examples of the Islamic Emirate failing to ensure safety of the media.

Like CPJ, the AJSC also says the Taliban has failed to provide details of promised investigations into abuses against journalists.

“I don’t know any journalist who is willing to work with the Taliban, but I do know a lot of journalists who left the country and many others who want to leave the country. Journalists don’t feel safe in Afghanistan,” said Ahmad.

The exodus has greatly affected the quality of reporting in the country. In a recent statement, the AJSC said, “Media reporting quality has reached to its lowest level in the last 20 years.”

Journalists Al Jazeera spoke to over the last two months say they have faced great difficulty in getting sources ranging from hospital officials to other media workers and even average citizens in remote areas to go on the record for their reports.

Khenjani, the former news director at 1TV, says the fears are due to the Taliban’s “rudimentary government structure” which is sorely lacking in qualified professionals and “incoherent policies” which vary from province to province. This, he says, has affected the relationship between media and even their most stellar sources.

Lack of foreign aid

The AJSC went on to say that 70 percent of the media outlets across the country have closed in the two months since the Taliban came to power.

It is not just physical danger that is leading to these closures. Foreign governments and donor organisations have slashed funding to the nation since the Taliban’s takeover. The media was one of the industries most reliant on foreign aid.

Large outlets such as TOLO claim to be self-sufficient based on advertisement sales, a privilege Ahmadi acknowledges few others enjoy.

“For years, we charged some of the highest ad fees. At the time, we could do that.”

Ahmadi says those reserves may help TOLO outlast the current financial crisis, but smaller organisations are not so well-placed to deal with the situation.

Butler from CPJ agrees. “When an economy collapses, so too does the market for ads,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that it will be very difficult for many outlets to continue operations under the current financial constraints.

The overarching unease does not bode well for the Afghan media going forward, said the journalists Al Jazeera spoke to.

“I don’t know how much longer the private media can afford to go on,” said Ahmad.

Khenjani lamented the continued shrinking of the Afghan media. “In Afghanistan, the media works best when it can try to speak truth to power and hold the powerful to account,” he said.

Khenjani said while they “often faltered” with the former Islamic republic, they at least had the chance “to try and challenge the government narrative”.

Today, he says, that is no longer possible. “The Taliban will never accept the kinds of scrutiny and investigations that were conducted during the republic.”

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12 Healthcare Provider Pharma Social Media Predictions for 2022 – Pharmaceutical Executive

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The adoption and growth of social media for healthcare providers (HCPs) will continue apace in 2022. Social behaviors initially prompted by COVID-19 have become standard operating procedures. Embracing nuances and developing new approaches will distinguish effective competitors from also-rans. For pharma marketers, discerning effectiveness of social media marketing and convincing or finessing conservative medical-legal reviewers will continue to be primary challenges.

Looking ahead, consider these 12 emerging factors:

Investigate Influencers. Self-appointed digital opinion leaders are drawing significant numbers of HCPs into surprisingly detailed scientific and clinical interactive conversations on both public and private social media platforms. Initiated in the scramble to treat COVID-19, the availability of peer-to-peer engagement continues to intrigue and attract generalists and specialists. Pharma marketers are watching this phenomenon anxiously from the sidelines, fearful about the lack of pre-approval and content control, knowing that an organization with a hearty risk appetite will probably claim the high ground, engage influencers in potent promotional activities, and score a competitive advantage.

Manage the Metaverse. Pharma marketing has been on the cusp of embracing simulations, gamification and virtual (VR) or artificial reality (AR) for several years. The technology enables a robust creative pallet for illustrating how medications work or how procedures are done. HCP digital natives expect brands to use these familiar approaches to interact, educate and engage them by telling compelling disease awareness or brand specific stories.

Watch Walled Gardens. The major private peer-to-peer gated HCP communities all experienced significant membership and usage spikes as a result of the pandemic. Platforms like Sermo, Doximity, Skipta, Medscape, and G-Med added features and functions, often in parallel with each other. Look for continued efforts to increase traffic, expand frequency of sessions, build longer sessions, expand content, and stimulate conversation and interaction within specialty newsfeeds.

Optimize On-Demand. The COVID-19 driven default to digital communication channels prompted HCPs’ expectation of on-demand messaging. They expect to have pre-recorded or digitized content available when and where they are ready to access it. Videos, infographics, interactive presentations, clinical data sets and games will be critical elements of every brand’s non-personal promotion (NPP) arsenal.

Activate Allied Professionals. Nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, and other professionals are critical members of the care team, often spending the most time with patients and delivering an array of treatments and services. Prominent in social media, they are chronically underserved by pharma marketers who tend to focus time and attention on physicians. Savvy marketers will embrace these populations, carve out budget to reach and persuade them, and dedicate resources to educate and engage them.

Call an Audible. Audio promotion, prompted by the explosion of podcasts and the instant popularity of Clubhouse, will find a place in pharma NPP. Podcasts by HCPs and hospitals increased 40% in 2021 over 2020, according to RadioMD. Audio tracks featuring key opinion leaders (KOLs) and panel discussions will be recorded and posted on websites, Spotify, and social media pages. Voice tracks will animate ads on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn while marketers try to wrestle with the med-legal challenges of live audio. Also consider changing SEO tactics to align with the steady growth of live audio search.

Gauge Groups. The pandemic prompted a spate of HCP group formation on virtually every platform. From journal clubs to ad hoc diagnostics, HCPs rallied to connect and share with peers. Some groups are open, others are cautiously private. Medical science liaisons (MSLs) should transparently join relevant groups to understand and gauge the tone and direction of the conversations and to insert clinical or scientific information where and when appropriate.

Mobilize MSLs. The rising demand for peer-to-peer conversation and consultation opens new avenues and new access for medical science liaison staff to interact with HCPs. The roles of reps versus MSLs as well as the practical definition of promotion is changing. Sharing data, real world evidence, and common experiences, these specialists must play a greater role in pharma marketing to build confidence and credibility among a skeptical population of practicing HCPs.

Promote Patient Programs. The more complex the disease; the more complex the patient paperwork and adherence challenges. Beyond diagnosis and treatment, patients turn to their HCPs for educational materials, pre-authorization, co-pay cards, samples, dosing schedules, and dedicated customer service resources. Pharma marketers are expanding these toolsets and HCPs are eager to obtain and distribute them. 75% of physicians, in a HealthLink Dimensions survey, said they use patient education materials when provided to them. Look for expansion in the number of services offered and the number of pharma brands offering patient support.

Emphasize Engagement. Changing or cementing on-going relationships between pharma and HCPs, HCPs and patients, or hospitals and patients or caregivers is on everyone’s 2022 agenda. Replacing incidental or transactional contacts with sustained interactions will require a different content and contact strategy delivered through a mix of channels. Look for her and ePrescribing vendors to tout their advanced analytics capabilities to predict and transmit the right message to the right patient or HCP at the right moment for optimal impact. Gaining access to the right data and finessing privacy protocols will make or break these claims.

Exchange Data. Google, Apple, and Epic (Fitbit, Apple Watch, MyChart, respectively) are leading the way in building mobile monitoring technologies that collect and traffic real-time health data. The long-term goal is to improve care, react to individual metabolic changes, drive adherence, educate patients, centralize, and synchronize medical records, and predict or anticipate health incidents or needed treatments or procedures. There is a robust pipeline of tools and wearables in development though real-world uptake and substantial diagnostic or treatment benefits have yet to be documented. Imagine the behavior and workflow changes necessary for HCPs when they are confronted with real-time data streams from multiple patients who expect quick, expert reading and reactions. The practical value of these technologies will be scrutinized and debated in the new year.

Redefine Reps: Declining rep access to HCPs and institutions, exacerbated by the pandemic, will force an essential rethinking of pharma’s oldest and best promotional device. There is a clear difference in expectations for the role of reps. HCPs think reps should traffic samples, patient education materials, and pizza. Pharma marketers think reps should prompt brief clinical or scientific conversations and traffic datasets, trial results, or journal articles. Getting both parties on the same page and reestablishing live in-person or live digital encounters is a topic sure to percolate throughout 2022.

Recovering and learning from the pandemic will further set the agenda for pharma marketing in 2022. Savvy marketers will be addressing these dozen issues which will certainly transform the playing field.

Danny Flamberg is the VP Strategy of LiveWorld

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How do we win the war for media and innovation talent? – European Broadcasting Union

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EBU Director of Technology & Innovation Antonio Arcidiacono

Antonio Arcidiacono, EBU Director of Technology & Innovation

This blog post first appeared as the editorial piece in issue 50 of our tech-i magazine.

To guarantee the future growth of public service media, and prevent the global media companies from using their market power to absorb the limited talent available, we need more than ever to invest in our future. This is about the skilled people whose presence in our organizations is a prerequisite for mobilizing and sustaining innovation.

We need to redouble our efforts to create growth. The defensive stance that is the more typical response to a critical period cannot be what drives our efforts. It is only by offering a growth perspective to the youngest generations that we can gain their belief in what we do and, later, the energy injection that is necessary to take us to a stimulating and sustainable future.

A new generation

We are today engaged in a war for talent; winning that war requires a renewed effort to educate a new generation of young media scientists, engineers, technologists and creators. This generation of digital natives is no longer confined to working in one domain, which in the past would have dictated their academic path. Their common humanist background is founded upon an inherent understanding of the importance of trust, rigour, and excellence, of having an open and curious mind, and the ability to engage in deep analysis.

To build our future and guarantee a continuous and increasing flow of energy, we now require new talent, ideas and initiatives at the edge of innovation. To start with we must target deeper collaboration between EBU Members, our T&I team and leading European universities interested in media innovation and related educational activities, as well as other private institutions interested in joining such an initiative.

More concretely, the idea is to actively foster the creation of new curricula in media innovation, whether as graduate courses or vocational training. In addition to cutting-edge technical training, such courses must stimulate the creativity of younger generations, with additional focus on media literacy to develop fundamental skills in producing and managing media content. As we evolve towards ever more immersive experiences, including the prospect of participating in a virtualized ‘metaverse’, citizens must be empowered with knowledge that gives them mastery over the media they consume, instead of being dominated by it.

Human skills

The idea of combining the development of creative and technological skills does not necessarily mean that everyone should be able to shine at the same time in technology and artistic creativity. Rather it is about promoting a positive dialogue across the full spectrum of human skills. (I say this as an engineer with a creative spirit: I studied piano for many years without taking the path towards being a professional pianist. This creative endeavour gives me an additional pleasure and insight when listening to any music but also a wider vocabulary when it comes to exchanges with colleagues in the creative sector.)

It has become more important than ever to provide the knowledge and ability to any university student, and in fact any citizen, to use tools that underpin our new ways of working, accelerated by the COVID crisis, as well as to interact in this rapidly changing media world. This imperative will strongly influence how media R&D&I will be structured. We need to proactively help setting the reference strategies and related technologies that will get us there.

This new ability to attract, reach, communicate and debate represents an additional growth opportunity for society, limiting disinformation, improving citizens’ education, and giving voice to a larger share of the population. We must take steps now to ensure that our youngest generations will not only help define their own future but also be actively involved in the democratic evolution of society.

In the end, this is a joyful and invigorating challenge: extracting and guiding the energy of new generations to rejuvenate our world and reinvent our future!

P.S. I hope you enjoy the 50th issue of tech-i. Since 2009 it has chronicled a period of profound change in our industry (see pages 10–11). Let’s see what we will achieve together in the next ten years, pushing forward our digital transformation!

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Media Beat, Dec. 02, 2021 | FYIMusicNews – FYI Music News

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Shaw Communications is too risky, this portfolio manager says

Whether or not the deal with Rogers goes through, Canadian telecom provider Shaw Communications is too much of a risk, says John Zechner of J. Zechner Associates, who argues that investors should have some of the telcos in their portfolios, just not Shaw at this point in time.

“When Shaw was trading at $36 [after the merger was announced], the upside was ten percent and the downside if something negative happens with the deal, I thought, would be it’ll be back in the low $20s or mid $20s against. So, on a risk/reward basis I thought I’d rather shift to Rogers which if the deal didn’t go through, there certainly wasn’t the same downside,” said Zechner, speaking on BNN Bloomberg on Monday. – Jayson MacLean, CanTech Letter

What Rogers says

With Rogers and Shaw together, thousands of new jobs will be created and ties with communities across western Canada will continue to grow stronger. The new company would create more than 3,000 new jobs, growing the combined team to more than 10,000 people strong across Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

At the centre of it all, a western head office will remain in Calgary. Rogers will also enhance Shaw’s charitable work, including the creation of more youth scholarships. The Shaw Charity Classic will continue for at least the next decade, which has already raised more than $61 million for Alberta kids’ charities. – Company website

Eric Boyko has just spent $1.4N buying 25% more Stingray Group shares

The recent purchase by Eric Boyko was the biggest purchase of Stingray Group shares made by an insider individual in the last twelve months, according to our records. That implies that an insider found the current price of CA$7.47 per share to be enticing. While their view may have changed since the purchase was made, this does at least suggest they have had confidence in the company’s future. We do always like to see insider buying, but it is worth noting if those purchases were made at well below today’s share price, as the discount to value may have narrowed with the rising price. The good news for Stingray Group share holders is that insiders were buying at near the current price. – Inside Wall Street

Commercial Radio Australia cleared to bargain with Google and Facebook

CRA represents 261-member radio stations across metropolitan and regional Australia, including ARN, Southern Cross Austereo, Nova Entertainment, Grant Broadcasters and Nine Entertainment. The authorisation excludes Nine, which previously announced it has reached agreements with Google and Facebook. – Mediaweek

EU plans media act, industry chief Breton says, amid curbs on freedom

The European Commission plans to introduce rules next year to prevent a few large media groups from acquiring smaller rivals and to thwart government interference, EU industry chief Thierry Breton said on Monday.

The move by the EU executive comes amid curbs on media freedom in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia and worries that the channeling of state advertising to pro-government outlets leads to indirect political influence over the media. – Foo Yun Chee, Reuters

Can commercial radio and podcasting go hand in hand

The latest UK radio audience figures from Rajar demonstrated that two-thirds of audiences now listen to radio on digital devices. DAB accounts for 43% of that total, while online and in-app makes up 18%. That means that almost a fifth of all radio listenership occurs on devices such as phones or desktop devices. Those platforms are format agnostic and audiences are just as likely to listen to non-radio audio – if they even make a distinction.

It’s an acknowledgement that the audio space is colliding, with the lines between radio content, podcasts, audiobooks and more being erased by user habit. As a result, there is a huge commercial opportunity to reach audiences that consume ‘audio’ more widely on those devices.

Podcast company Acast saw a 51% increase in listeners across its network in 2020 in addition to a 250% increase in revenue from branded content in 2020. Its UK head of sales Josh Woodhouse believes that is due in large part to an influx of new genres into the podcasting space – which in turn is attracting radio producers to launch commercial podcasts. – Chris Sutcliffe, The Drum

UK newspapers accepted money to publish positive environmental stories about Saudi Arabia around COP26

The Independent and Evening Standard newspapers have been accused of greenwashing after they accepted an undisclosed sum of money from Saudi Arabia to publish dozens of positive environmental stories about the country before, during, and after the COP26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow.

In the days preceding the summit and during its initial days, the Independent published at least 50 stories and videos under a commercial deal with Saudi Arabia, an investigation by Byline Times can reveal. – Byline Times team

Physicists, The Milky Way Is likely full of dead alien civilizations

Researchers used computer simulations to show just how likely it is that our galaxy is teeming with dead alien civilizations. The study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York, showed that if just one civilization in the Milky Way were to become extinct every 100 million years, then it’s highly likely that 20 million civilizations have come and gone in our galaxy. But, if civilizations are becoming extinct every 10 million years, then it’s likely that only one civilization has ever existed in the Milky Way. – Call Me V

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