KSA complains to FIFA about Qatar’s BeIN using World Cup as political tool

BeIN Sport President Yousef Al-Obaidly is seen at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia on June 14. (Getty Images)
Updated 19 June 2018
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KSA complains to FIFA about Qatar’s BeIN using World Cup as political tool

  • The federation called on FIFA in its complaint to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.
  • Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against the “politicization” of World Cup coverage by the Qatar-owned broadcaster. 

DUBAI: The Saudi Football Federation has filed an official complaint to FIFA over the Qatar-owned BeIN Sports network’s use of World Cup broadcasts as a means of spreading political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.

This falls within the network’s ongoing attempts to instigate hatred in the region, it said.

The federation said its complaint calls on FIFA to address the unacceptable abuse by the channel of its tools for politicizing the media. This was clear after the World Cup’s opening match between Saudi Arabia and Russia and contrary to the laws of the international federation, which stresses the need to exclude sport from politics.

The federation called on FIFA in its complaint to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against the “politicization” of World Cup coverage by the Qatar-owned broadcaster. 

The website sports4everyone.org created the petition and invited fans around the world to urge FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage by the Qatari broadcaster’s Arabic channel.

Among the signatories are Egyptian national football player Ahmed Hassan, Al Arabiya’s Sports Editor Battal Al-Goos, and former Saudi national team captain Yousuf Al-Thunayan.

“The mixing of sport and politics is disgraceful and unethical behaviour, especially with regards to World Cup coverage by the journalists that are present at the channel,” Former Saudi Arabia national team player Khamis Al-Zahrani told Arab News.

“Anything that happens during the match should not leave the pitch, that's the limit. As Saudi supporters, we will always back the Saudi national team no matter the circumstances,” he added.

BeIN Sports holds the rights to broadcast World Cup games across the Middle East and North Africa, although its channels are not available in Saudi Arabia, one of four Arab nations locked in a diplomatic dispute with Qatar over the latter’s alleged ties to terror groups. Doha denies the charges. 

“Sport rises above politics. FIFA tried to keep politics away from games. As fans, we are saddened by BeIN using its permission to telecast sports to transmit its political agenda, violating FIFA rules,” the petition read.

The petition website includes nine clips from BeIN Sports featuring pundits and presenters politicizing the match between Saudi Arabia and the host nation, Russia. 

“Mixing sport and politics in this cheap way has been disgraceful and does not represent respectable Arabs,” Al-Zahrani, who played for Al-Ittihad, said, adding that, ““Hopefully, this petition will fulfil the expectations of all Arabs.”

In one of the station’s broadcasts, a commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while in another the host suggested the Kingdom’s top sporting officials will become “prisoners at the Ritz-Carlton,” a reference to the detentions in Riyadh during last year’s anti-corruption drive.

Egyptian media analyst Abdellatif El-Menawy said BeIN had “distorted the global football event” by using it as a political tool against Saudi Arabia.

“This is an infringement of the rules and standards of professional media,” El-Menawy told Arab News on Saturday. 

“BeIN Sports has abandoned neutrality and professionalism,” he added, saying the network’s coverage after Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 defeat by Russia was “gloating” and “sarcastic.”


Facebook asked to protect users in simmering Sri Lanka

Updated 17 November 2018
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Facebook asked to protect users in simmering Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka has been in crisis since last month with two men claiming to be prime minister
  • The United National Party wrote to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg asking the US firm not to cooperate with Rajapaksa’s administration

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s largest political party Saturday asked Facebook to protect the identity of its supporters, fearing a crackdown by what it called the “illegal” government.
The Indian Ocean nation has been in crisis since last month with two men claiming to be prime minister, MPs brawling in parliament and the administration paralyzed.
It began on October 26 when President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier and replaced him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In chaotic scenes in parliament this week, Rajapaksa lost two votes of no confidence but he is refusing to go and Sirisena has yet to acknowledge the motions.
On Saturday Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) wrote to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg asking the US firm not to cooperate with Rajapaksa’s administration.
“We urge Facebook to refrain from disclosing information about... users of the platform to any officials of the illegal government unless it is properly sanctioned by a court of law,” the UNP said.
The UNP had also complained that its official page was blocked by Facebook on Thursday ahead of a mass rally it organized to express solidarity with Wickremesinghe, who insists he is still prime minister.
Sirisena ordered a ban on Facebook across Sri Lanka in March after blaming it for spreading hate speech and fueling intercommunal violence that led to the deaths of three people and destruction of property.
Since then, Facebook had said it was deploying more staff to identify and remove inflammatory material from Sri Lankan users.
This week Sri Lankans had to rely on social media to watch their lawmakers fighting and throwing chilli powder after the main telecommunications company stopped its live broadcast.