Saudi crown prince tops Time Person of the Year readers’ poll

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pictured here in November, is spearheading a raft of political and economic reforms in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 06 December 2017
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Saudi crown prince tops Time Person of the Year readers’ poll

LONDON: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is leading Time magazine’s people’s poll for its “Person of the Year 2017” award.
The famous poll — which has been published on an annual basis for 90 years — awards a chosen person who has had “the most influence over the news in the last 12 months.”
By lunchtime on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed had clinched 24 percent of the “people’s vote,” ahead of the magazine’s deadline for submissions by the end of Dec. 4. The official Time Person of the Year will be announced on Dec. 6.
Crown Prince Mohammed has racked up global headlines this year as he spearheads political and economic reform in Saudi Arabia.
Key reforms in Saudi Arabia have included the move to allow women to drive, plans to sell a stake in national oil giant Aramco, restricting the powers of the religious police and a clampdown on corruption that has seen many royals and business people detained.
By securing almost a quarter of the vote, Crown Prince Mohammed is currently 18 percentage points ahead of the nearest contender, the #MeToo campaign, which highlighted sexual harassment cases globally.
Time editors drew up the shortlist of 33 people from diverse fields of activities across the world.
Ultimately the magazine’s editors have the final say in who is deemed Person of the Year — but the reader plays an important role and provides editors with “a window into who the reader thinks most shaped 2017,” according to the magazine.
The Time Person of the Year award has previously honored luminaries including Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin (1993), Gandhi (1930) and Winston Churchill (1940, 1949).
It has also previously seen some controversial choices of winner, such as Joseph Stalin (1942) and Ayatollah Khomeini (1979).
Former US President Barack Obama, who has been included in the shortlist 11 times, is the person who has been cited most often, and was named Person of the Year in both 2008 and 2012.


Egypt tightens grip on media with new bill

This file photo taken on March 22, 2018 shows apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Egypt tightens grip on media with new bill

  • Social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook will be treated as media outlets
  • The media council will supervise the law and take action against violations

CAIRO: A controversial law passed by Egypt’s Parliament on Monday classifies social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, exposing them to the country’s harsh regulations for journalists.
Under the new law, social media users with a large following can be subject to prosecution for spreading false news or inciting crime.
The law prohibits the establishment of websites without first obtaining a license from the Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media, a government body with authority to legally suspend or block websites in violation of the country’s strict laws, and penalize editors with hefty fines.
Journalists are also forbidden from filming in prohibited areas, according to the new law.
While the bill stipulates that its provisions will apply to press and media organizations, Article 19 states that personal websites, blogs or social media accounts with no ties to the press are also liable to prosecution and must be licensed by the Supreme Council.
“That power of interpretation has been a powerful legal and executive tool used to justify excessive aggressive and exceptional measures to go after journalists,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told Reuters this week.
The law’s vague language gives authorities even more power to control the media, he said.
Egypt has faced mounting criticism in recent years for its draconian laws regarding the press and freedom of expression, in addition to widespread human rights violations.
A 2015 counterterrorism law, enacted by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, gave the government sweeping powers over the regime’s critics under the guise of protecting the nation. The law allows prosecutors to detain suspects without judicial review, and order surveillance of suspected individuals or organizations without the need for a court order.
With a broad definition of what constitutes a terrorist act, the law creates a vague framework under which the government can arbitrarily detain citizens and implement punishments as severe as the death penalty. The law also requires journalists in Egypt to report only the official state version of any news related to national security.
In May 2017, the Egyptian government blocked about 20 websites affiliated with local and international news outlets, including independent news sites such as Mada Masr and Daily News Egypt, as well as blogs criticizing the regime.
A few months later, the government’s efforts were expanded to include sites affiliated with human rights groups and organizations. This included websites of local NGOs as well as international organizations like Human Rights Watch.
More than 500 websites are now blocked in Egypt, including VPN and proxy sites such as Tor and TunnelBear that allow Egyptians to circumvent online censorship. No official government body has claimed responsibility for blocking the websites.
According to a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch, El-Sisi’s repressive legislation offers the government “near-absolute impunity for abuses by security forces under the pretext of fighting terrorism.”
The report goes on to explain that in addition to numerous extrajudicial killings, hundreds have been placed on terrorism lists without due process with many more civilians being sent to military trials with charges of political dissent.
“The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent rights group, said that as of mid-August, 378 people had disappeared over the previous 12 months and the whereabouts of at least 87 remained unknown. These numbers do not include those who were found killed after having gone missing,” the report said.
Reporters Without Borders called Egypt “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists” and said that many reporters have spent years in prison without being formally charged.
“The Internet is the only place left where independently reported news and information can circulate, but more than 400 websites have been blocked since the summer of 2017 and more people are being arrested because of their social network posts,” it said.