Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

Social media users and civil rights groups reacted with outrage to initial reports of Afghanistan’s move to block WhatsApp and Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2017
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Afghanistan orders suspension of WhatsApp, Telegram

KABUL: Afghanistan has ordered the suspension of WhatsApp and Telegram to resolve “technical problems,” officials said Saturday, sparking outcry among social media users.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Telegram are popular messaging apps among smartphone-using Afghans — including Taliban and Daesh terrorists.
So far state-owned Salaam Network is the only Internet provider to obey the order, which applies from November 1 to November 20, telecommunications ministry spokesman Najib Nangyalay told AFP.
“We are testing a new technology and WhatsApp and Telegram will be temporarily blocked,” Nangyalay said.
“It is not a blow to the freedom of communication in Afghanistan — we have access to Facebook, Twitter. We are committed to the freedom of expression.”
Acting telecommunications minister Shahzad Aryobee said the move was in response to dissatisfaction with the services — something industry insiders rejected.
“In order to improve the services and solve the technical problems of these two programs the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology is considering to introduce a new technology,” Aryobee said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Testing is “time-consuming” and required the temporary stoppage of WhatsApp and Telegram.
The move has ignited a firestorm on social media with users describing the move to block the messaging services as an assault on their right to free speech.
“Blocking WhatsApp and Telegram is the beginning of censorship by the Afghan government and bringing the virtual world under their control in Afghanistan. I think this is intolerable,” Facebook user Abdullah wrote.
Another user Mahdi Yasir said the quality of WhatsApp and Telegram “are great” and urged the government to focus on closing “factories producing Pakistani suicide bombers” instead.
“The two applications we were using the most are blocked. God damn this government,” Abdulraouf Sharifi posted.
A telecommunications official scoffed at the government’s claim to be developing a new technology.
“They are not going to match an international standard app,” he said.
“WhatsApp is very popular because it uses less data and the quality is very good.
“It could be security related (but) if they block it people can access VPNs,” he added, referring to virtual private networks.
Around eight million people, largely in Afghanistan’s major cities, can access the Internet, up from almost none during the Taliban’s repressive 1996-2001 regime. Most do so through mobile phones.
The Taliban frequently uses WhatsApp to post statements in Afghanistan while IS militants favor Telegram.
 


Titanic battle for Sky culminates in auction

Updated 22 September 2018
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Titanic battle for Sky culminates in auction

  • Sky is currently trading at $20.57 a share — above Comcast’s latest offer price of $19.14
  • Sky’s subscription base of 23 million and rights to English Premier League football make it one of Europe’s most profitable and powerful TV companies

LONDON: A titanic takeover battle for European TV operator Sky between Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and US cable giant Comcast culminates Saturday in a rare blind auction.
Sky’s subscription base of 23 million and rights to English Premier League football make it one of Europe’s most profitable and powerful TV companies.
The auction pits two traditional US media behemoths who are seeking content to keep viewers from switching to streaming services such as Netflix.
Comcast’s latest offer values Sky at $34 billion.
Fox has boosted its own bid to $31.7 billion and Saturday will decide who finishes with the highest offer in a complex process being held away from the public eye.
The showdown will help determine whether Australian-born US citizen Murdoch succeeds in acquiring the 61 percent stake in Sky he does not already have but has long sought.
The two-year saga is also reshaping the US media-entertainment world landscape by allowing Walt Disney Co. to complete its mega-merger with Fox.
Saturday’s auction has thus turned into a proxy battle between Comcast and Disney for Sky.
Comcast’s holdings already include Universal Studios and the US television channels NBC and CNBC.
Disney’s empire stretches from its film studio and theme parks to the US television network NBC and the various ESPN sport channels.
Critics argue that allowing Murdoch — who owns major British newspaper titles The Times and The Sun — full control of Sky News would give him too much influence in the UK news business.
Fox has proposed to remedy this by sell the rolling TV news channel to Disney should it win full control of Sky.
It is rare for a takeover of this size and impact to be determined in a blind 24-hour auction that is due to end at 1600 GMT.
Britain’s Takeover Panel decided this course after neither offer was deemed to be final and it sought “an orderly framework for the resolution of this competitive situation.”
The Takeover Panel will not declare an auction winner but simply state the size of the offers made.
Sky shareholders will then have several days to decide which suitor they find most attractive and a final deal will be struck.
It set October 11 as the deadline “on which either offeror’s offer can become or can be declared unconditional” by shareholders.
Sky is currently trading at $20.57 a share — above Comcast’s latest offer price of $19.14.