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SHARJAH/Sharjah Government Media Bureau, June 12, 2017 – Top Arab social media celebrities and influencers last night (Sunday, June 11) turned the spotlight on the growing power of social media, debating its immense potential, both positive and negative, vis-à-vis traditional media. 

Speaking during the fifth session of the popular Sharjah Ramadan Majlis at Al Majaz Amphitheatre, Mahira Abdel Aziz, Al Arabiya TV news anchor and celebrity, argued that while social media are fast emerging as a popular platform, it would be wrong to compare it to the traditional media.  

“Traditional media has an advantage over the new media or social media as it enjoys credibility. What appears on television or in a newspaper is viewed with greater seriousness and credibility. This is why even social media celebrities are always looking for coverage by traditional media. MBC TV is an example of this reality,” she asserted.  

“Social media may be a growing phenomenon but traditional media still matters. Social media certainly offers greater freedom but traditional media demands serious commitment and professionalism,” emphasised the anchor.    

Power of Social Media 

Mohammed Hilal, eminent Emirati businessman and CEO of Mohammed Hilal Group, however, disagreed with her saying social media is the present and future of the media.  “What happens in 30 seconds (over social media) has changed the experience of 40 years of traditional media,” he declared. 

Hilal argued that social media has a huge role to play in areas like marketing, sales and development.  “Social media stars have been doing a great job of promoting various products and lifestyle across the region.  We must give due credit to social media stars for this,” he added. 

He said that both social media and traditional media have their roles defined and there is no need to run down each other.  Thanks to social media, companies like his have been able to promote their business successfully and effectively, he added. 

Positive Role Models

Faisal Albasri, popular Kuwaiti media personality, while acknowledging the potential of social media, called for celebrities to be careful about the kind of products they endorse.  “If we promote a bad or corrupt product, we set a bad example and are responsible for its ill effects,” he said. 

While asking social media celebrities, who have tens of thousands of followers across the Arab world to be good role models, he said ultimately it is the responsibility of parents to groom their children and set a good example. 

Pointing out that social media channels are public spaces, he called for everyone including celebrities to behave. “Just remember Allah is watching you, and not just your followers,” he asserted.

Esraa Al Hajri, social media celebrity and fashion icon, said that it is wrong to describe people like her as ‘fashionistas.’  “I like fashion and follow fashion.  However, there is more to me than mere fashion.  I am a blogger and have my own successful business, besides endorsing certain products,” she emphasised. For example, she added, during the holy month of Ramadan, I take part in lot of charity activities.  Social responsibility is also another duty of a celebrity. 

Al Hajri argued that money being paid to social media celebrities to endorse lifestyle products is well invested and spent as these endorsements encourage thousands of people to buy those products. 

Rejecting the criticism of social media phenomenon as being unhealthy, she said society does not accept anything new.  “At the end of the day, social media engagement is a hobby.  Some people take it too seriously,” she added. 

The debate was moderated by Hamad Al Ali, media personality and chairman and CEO of Al Ali Group.  HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council presided over the session, which was attended by a number of senior officials, social media stars and critics.

Social media are immensely popular across the Arab world with the majority of the population, especially young people, spending a great deal of their time engaged with them.

The Sharjah Ramadan Majlis is hosted every year as part of the Emirate’s efforts to promote a culture of tolerance, dialogue and understanding.  The Ramadan Majlis sessions will continue twice a week until June 14 at Al Majaz Amphitheatre after taraweeh prayers.