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

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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WATCH: Black Crows Episode 6


Egypt grapples with women’s freedoms online as #MeToo re-emerges

Updated 02 August 2020

Egypt grapples with women’s freedoms online as #MeToo re-emerges

  • Egypt has in recent years enforced strict Internet controls
  • Stringent laws were approved in 2018 allowing authorities to block websites seen as a threat to national security

CAIRO: Social media has become a new and dangerous battleground for women’s rights in Egypt after young TikTok influencers were jailed while a resurgent #MeToo movement decried male sexual violence.
Last Monday, a court sentenced five female social media influencers, Haneen Hossam, Mowada Al-Adham and three others, to two years in jail each on charges of violating public morals over content posted to video-sharing app TikTok.
International digital rights group Access Now described them as “all women, all young, all exercising their right to freedom of expression online.”
Just two days later, a court sentenced another young social media influencer, Manar Samy, to three years in prison over TikTok videos, deeming the clips in which she dances and lip-syncs to popular songs to be “inciting debauchery.”
Many in the deeply conservative country have cheered on the arrests, as traditional social values clash with online content seen as racy and sexually suggestive.
“The Egyptian government is on a campaign to arrest and prosecute women influencers on... TikTok for violating ‘the values of the Egyptian family’ and ‘inciting debauchery and immorality,’” Access Now said in a statement.
The Egyptian authorities “not only want to control what citizens say, but also how they should dress, talk, and behave online,” said Marwa Fatafta, the group’s Middle East and North Africa policy manager.

Egypt has in recent years enforced strict Internet controls as it walks a tight line between balancing the Islamic law that shapes its governance and adapting to a rapidly shifting society with a penchant for social media content.
Stringent laws were approved in 2018 allowing authorities to block websites seen as a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with over 5,000 followers.
“In the past, the Egyptian regime tightened its stronghold on the Internet... Now, the online repression extends to non-political activity too,” said Fatafta.
The six jailed women combined have millions of followers.
Hossam was arrested after posting a clip saying that girls could make money by working with her, a message that was interpreted as a call for prostitution, while Adham had posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram.
Aside from being a virtual battleground of competing interpretations of morality, social media has also empowered young Egyptian women to speak up about sexual assault, sometimes with negative consequences.
In May, a shocking video came to light of a young woman sobbing, her face battered and bruised.
Menna Abdel-Aziz, 17, posted an Instagram video in which she said she had been gang raped by a group of young men.
The authorities’ response was swift: the six alleged attackers were arrested — but so was Abdel-Aziz. All were charged with “promoting debauchery.”
“She committed crimes, she admitted to some of them,” the prosecutor-general said in a statement. “She deserves to be punished.”

Since Abdel-Aziz’s case surfaced, a revived #MeToo movement among Egyptian women, mostly from affluent backgrounds, has sprung into action.
A gang rape allegation made in late July stemming from a prominent social media account has been one trigger.
Another was young women posting testimonials about sexual misconduct that led to the arrest earlier in the month of Ahmed Bassam Zaki, 22, a former student of some of Egypt’s most elite schools and universities.
But the movement faces an uphill battle.
Rights groups say the government of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has been curtailing freedoms since he took office in 2014.
Comedians, academics, bloggers, journalists, political dissidents, lawyers and activists are among those who have been jailed in recent years, and a music video director has died in custody.
Imprisoning social media influencers, the latest group to be targeted, “has nothing to do with protecting social values. It’s about Internet policing and control,” Access Now’s Fatafta said.
“With the massive increase in content creators and influencers on TikTok in Egypt, there is a high risk that more prosecutions targeting this community are yet to come,” the organization added.