How Qatari media tiptoed around the Barclays scandal

The offices of Barclays in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London. (Reuters)
Updated 16 February 2019
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How Qatari media tiptoed around the Barclays scandal

  • The story of the first major UK criminal trial to emerge from the global financial crisis has yet to make many headlines in Qatar
  • During the fraud trial, the prosecution told the court that the then Qatari Prime Mister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded a personal fee for investing in Barclays

LONDON: The London trial of former Barclays executives accused of fraud over a deal with Qatar during the global banking crisis of 2008 has attracted global media coverage.
The opening of the case at London’s Southwark Crown Court saw a courtroom so packed that reporters had to request tickets to gain entry.
But the story of the first major UK criminal trial to emerge from the global financial crisis has yet to make many headlines in Qatar — where much of the drama originates.
At the time, Barclays raised billions of pounds from Qatar in a move that allowed the bank to avoid taking a government bailout.
During the fraud trial — which began in January — the prosecution told the court that the then Qatari Prime Mister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim demanded a personal fee for investing in Barclays.
International coverage of the trial has been extensive.
On Jan. 25 under a story headlined:“Barclays executives discussed ‘dodgy’ fee for Qatari PM, jury told,” the Financial Times reported on a fee demanded by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani for investing in the then ailing bank
“You can’t have the prime minister of Qatar as an adviser to Barclays Bank  . . .  It’s like having the President of the United States (as) advisers to JPMorgan; you just can’t have it,” said Roger Jenkins, known as “big dog” by his colleagues, and the “gatekeeper” of Barclays’ relationship with Sheikh Hamad. I don’t know what to do with this  . . .  he wants his money.”
On Jan. 30, The Guardian reported that Barclays’ lawyers did not object to £322 million in fees paid to Qatar and that the bank’s legal team had “persuaded themselves” that the 2008 agreement was lawful.

But while the international media have devoured the sensational revelations around Qatar’s involvement in the 2008 Barclays bailout, the appetite of the Doha-based media for the story has been somewhat muted.
The only mention of Barclays in state-owned Al Jazeera Arabic was in November last year. Similarly, the only mention of the case in Al Sharq was published in May, titled: “Barclays cleared of obtaining a Qatari loan.” There was no other mention of the accusations against the executives .
The muted coverage has raised questions by some media analysts over whether Doha-based Al Jazeera and its Arabic-language service deliberately downplay stories that reflect negatively on Qatar. “There is no longer a need to make much effort to prove that Al Jazeera has become far from professional,” said Abdellatif El-Menawy, a writer and columnist.
“So it was normal to select from news and events what is consistent with the policy and interests of its owners.
And also, to ignore what it considers to be disclosure of abuses by Qatari officials, even if they are proven or circulating in the media.”


Australia threatens social media execs with jail over terror images

Updated 13 min 14 sec ago
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Australia threatens social media execs with jail over terror images

  • Morrison met with a number of tech firms Tuesday, including Facebook, Twitter and Google
  • PM asked how they planned to keep their platforms from being "weaponised" by terrorists

SYDNEY: Australia warned social media giants Tuesday that executives could be jailed if they fail to quickly remove extremist material from their platforms.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with a number of tech firms Tuesday -- including Facebook, Twitter and Google -- to ask how they planned to keep their platforms from being "weaponised" by terrorists, as Canberra considers new laws in the wake of the New Zealand massacre.
Social media platforms "can get an ad to you in half a second," Morrison told reporters ahead of the meeting.
"They should be able to pull down this sort of terrorist material and other types of very dangerous material in the same sort of time frame and apply their great capacities to the real challenges to keep Australians safe," he added.
Facebook said it "quickly" removed a staggering 1.5 million videos of the harrowing viral Christchurch mosque attacks, which accused white supremacist gunman Brenton Tarrant livestreamed on the social media platform.
A 17-minute video of the March 15 rampage that claimed the lives of 50 people was widely available online and experts said was easily retrievable several hours after the attack.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the response from firms during Tuesday's meeting was "thoroughly underwhelming".
"The more important discussion we wanted to have today was how do you respond quicker, or indeed prevent the livestreaming of this type of material in the first instance? And the answers to those questions were not overly satisfactory," he said.
Porter said the government was "absolutely considering" the possibility of jail time for executives as it mulled new laws.
He warned Australian laws had "extra-territorial reach" regardless of where a company is based.
Cyber-security expert Nigel Phair, from the University of New South Wales, cast doubt over the ability of proposed Australian laws to impose jail time.
"The penalty is only for Australian domiciled executives, and on the whole they're marketing executives, not those responsible for running and maintaining the platform," he told broadcaster SBS.
Facebook said after the meeting it remained "shocked and saddened" by the Christchurch attacks.
"We are committed to working with leaders and communities in New Zealand, Australia and other countries, alongside other technology and media companies to help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism," Facebook said in a statement.
The government has set up a task force, which includes representation from tech firms, to review possible responses to posting and spread of terrorist material online.