Did Qatari media side with Daesh by attacking MBC’s ‘Black Crows’?

A screenshot from Ramadan TV drama ‘Black Crows’ produced by the MBC Group.
Updated 06 June 2017
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Did Qatari media side with Daesh by attacking MBC’s ‘Black Crows’?

LONDON: The Qatar-owned media have incited terror and death threats against a rival broadcaster over the hit Ramadan TV drama “Black Crows,” it has been claimed, leading to questions over whether the Doha-backed channels are standing up for extremist ideology.
The series, produced by the Saudi-owned MBC Group, dramatizes the brutal life under Daesh rule in Syria and Iraq, documenting crimes like the sexual assault, enslavement and rape of women.
Yet Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language service has attacked the show, helping stoke terror threats against the channel and its employees, an MBC executive said.
One tweet by the channel on June 2, for example, implied that “Black Crows” is demeaning to Sunni Islam and that the show positioned women living under Daesh rule as hungry for sex. “Black Crows: A TV series to fight terror, or providing a free service for extremist groups showing Sunni Muslim women seeking sex?” the channel’s provocative message, which has been retweeted more than 22,000 times, asked.
Other Qatar-backed media also took a critical stance on the “Black Crows” show, given that it is made by a Saudi-owned broadcaster.
The London-based Middle East Eye, for example, claimed that the show “underlines Saudi’s self-appointed role as bulwark against extremism but critics say (the) Kingdom is a sponsor of violence and intolerance.”
Ali Jaber, MBC’s director of television, questioned why the Qatari channel was attacking the show and inciting violence against MBC’s employees.
“What is hard to swallow is why… the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, which understands very well the risks of inciting radicals against media practitioners, would want to put the lives of their colleagues at MBC at risk when they are supposed to be with us in the same anti-terrorism camp,” Jaber told Arab News.
“They should rise above any politics… media ethics should never be affected.”
MBC Group was forced to step up security at its facilities across the Middle East following Daesh threats made over the broadcast of “Black Crows,” while Kuwaiti actress Mona Shaddad has said she and other cast members had received death threats, according to media reports.
Jaber said he could not understand why Al-Jazeera or others would criticize “Black Crows,” which is clearly aimed at confronting the tyranny of Daesh.
“This is not the first time we face criticism or even threats at MBC; however our position has been and will always be (to confront) extremism in all shapes and forms,” he said.
Asked about claims by the likes of Al-Jazeera that “Black Crows” demeans Sunni Islam and positions women as sex-hungry — rather than as victims of rape and cruelty under Daesh rule — Jaber said: “First and foremost, the show did not invent the reality that Daesh exists, or make up how they treat women or brainwash them. This is something, which you see or read about in the news every day.
“All… we are doing is merely criticizing in a dramatic way and alerting viewers to the many ways this evil group propagates its ideas.”
Some of the accusations made against “Black Crows” imply that its critics believe Daesh should not be condemned in such TV dramas, Jaber argued.
“What is yet to be understood is why this upsets critics? What are they trying to say? That Daesh should not be criticized and condemned every day and in every way possible? What is their interest? This is particularly strange since we should all be aligned when it comes to countering extremist ideology,” Jaber said.
He then slammed critics by saying: “It is always very easy to discredit or move public opinion against anything or anyone by accusing them of being sectarian; this is absolutely unethical and irresponsible.”
He added: “MBC takes these threats seriously because we have paid a dear price for our moderation and opposition to violent extremism. Fifteen of our colleagues were killed over the past decades but it never deterred us from doing the right thing be it against Sunni or Shiite extremism.”
Journalist Abdel Latif El-Menawy, the former head of Egypt’s state TV news under ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, said that Qatar had been “furiously attacking” its neighbors in the Gulf.
He said the Al-Jazeera TV channel had “unintentionally revealed its true positions” in its attack on the MBC series.
“They stood in the same trench as the terrorist groups in Syria, such as the Al-Nusra Front, and other groups which joined Al-Jazeera in attacking the MBC series,” he said.
The allegations against Al-Jazeera come at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf region.
Several Arab and Islamic countries on Monday cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over Doha’s alleged support for extremist groups.

WATCH: Black Crows Episode 1

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Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

  • Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability
  • Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is not close to launching a search engine app in China, its chief executive said at a companywide meeting on Thursday, according to a transcript seen by Reuters, as employees of the Alphabet Inc. unit called for more transparency and oversight of the project.
Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told staff that though development is in an early stage, providing more services in the world’s most populous country fits with Google’s global mission.
Hoping to gain approval from the Chinese government to provide a mobile search service, the company plans to block some websites and search terms, Reuters reported this month, citing unnamed sources.
Whether the company could or would launch search in China “is all very unclear,” Pichai said, according to the transcript. “The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options.”
Disclosure of the secretive effort has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations. They are concerned that by agreeing to censorship demands, Google would validate China’s prohibitions on free expression and violate the “don’t be evil” clause in the company’s code of conduct.
Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability,” according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday.
After a separate petition this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the US military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.
The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, “makes clear” that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate “are not enough.”
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” states the document seen by Reuters.
The New York Times first reported the petition on Thursday. Google declined to comment.
Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly, and their remarks at the company-wide meeting marked their first about the project since details about it were leaked.
Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.
Pichai told employees: “We’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here” on Dragonfly, according to the transcript. He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can “cause issues.”
Three former employees involved with Google’s past efforts in China told Reuters current leadership may see offering limited search results in China as better than providing no information at all.
The same rationale led Google to enter China in 2006. It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyberattacks against Google and other large US firms.
The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google. A Chinese official, who declined to be named, told Reuters this month that it is “very unlikely” Dragonfly would be available this year.