Ukraine’s president-elect offers passports to Russians

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the mmedia during press conference at his campaign headquarters in Kiev on April 21, 2019, after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine's presidential election, that showed him as the winner. (AFP)
Updated 29 April 2019

Ukraine’s president-elect offers passports to Russians

  • Putin’s decree last week allows people living in Ukraine’s unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk breakaway republics to receive a Russian passport within three months of applying for one

KIEV: President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed an offer by Vladimir Putin to provide passports to Ukrainians, and pledged instead to grant citizenship to Russians who “suffer” under the Kremlin’s rule.
The Russian president on Saturday said Moscow was considering plans to make it easier for all Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship, after it earlier moved to grant passports in the country’s separatist east.
Kiev has been fighting Moscow-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine since 2014 in a war that has killed 13,000.
Zelensky, a comedian who won Ukraine’s presidential election last week, responded to Putin’s offer by releasing a statement on Facebook late on Saturday.
“We know perfectly well what a Russian passport provides,” he said, listing “the right to be arrested for a peaceful protest” and “the right not to have free and competitive elections.”
He pledged instead to “give citizenship to representatives of all nations that suffer from authoritarian and corrupt regimes.
“But first and foremost to the Russian people who suffer most of all.”
He said that one of the differences between Ukraine and Russia is that “we Ukrainians have freedom of speech, freedom of the media and the Internet in our country.”
A political novice, Zelensky has pledged to “reboot” peace talks with the separatists that also involve Russia and the West.
Putin has not congratulated Zelensky on his election, but said he is ready to talk with a new Ukrainian leadership and wants to “understand” the actor’s position on the conflict.
In his Facebook post, Zelensky warned Russia not to talk with Ukraine “in the language of threats or military or economic pressure.”
He previously called for more international sanctions against Moscow in response to Russia providing citizenship to residents of Ukraine’s separatist east.
The EU also condemned Moscow’s passport scheme, calling it a fresh assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and saying Russia sought to “destabilize” Ukraine after its presidential election.
Putin’s decree last week allows people living in Ukraine’s unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk breakaway republics to receive a Russian passport within three months of applying for one.
Zelensky is due to take office by early June.


Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

Updated 22 September 2020

Malaysia welcomes its first halal TV streaming service

  • Service attracts more than 10,000 subscribers since July

KUALA LUMPUR: Netflix could soon have competition from a homegrown entertainment platform in Malaysia which, its makers say, will cater to Muslims’ “halal TV” needs based on Islamic values.

Dubbed “Nurflix,” the platform is Malaysia’s first Shariah-compliant streaming service and has attracted more than 10,000 subscribers since July.

Nurflix is the creation of Syah Rizal Mohamed, who wants to produce and release original content for the platform before its official launch in January.

“We spent $9.7 million for the startup, but the company will produce 1,000 (items of) original content in multiple categories like mainstream, educational, spiritual and motivational and kids, with about 12,000 episodes in the first five years of operating,” the 43-year-old CEO told Arab News.

He also plans for Nurflix to acquire content from local and international producers, as long as they align with the service’s production guidelines, with a focus on markets in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore before setting up internationally.

“We see ourselves covering the Southeast Asian region in the next five years with our readiness to establish hubs in the Middle East and Europe to gain traction in the international market.”

He said the decision to tap into the streaming service market was driven by the rapid growth of video-on-demand media and consumers choosing this, as well as over-the-top subscription services, as their main form of entertainment. 

Consumers agreed that there was a market for a halal content platform.

“The Islamic streaming service just enriches the Islamic entertainment ecosystem because there is a niche for it,” 25-year-old public relations executive Puteri N. Balqis told Arab News.

Media consultant Amir Hadi Azmi said a Shariah-compliant streaming service was an interesting niche, particularly for more conservative users, but that the concept was not unique to Islam or Muslims.

“In America, for example, there is a service called Pure Flix which caters to more conservative Christian viewers,” he told Arab News.

Amir Muhammad, managing director of Kuman Pictures, said that as a producer, the more outlets that were made available to content producers and filmmakers, the better. Kuman Pictures, which is known for releasing horror and thriller content, could create appropriate content if need be.

“I have not seen their actual guidelines, but if they want halal horror, we will give them halal horror,” he told Arab News.

The Nurflix CEO said there would be a Content Advisory Council and that it would be headed and supervised by Habib Ali Zaenal Abidin Al Hamid and the Honorable Ustaz Raja Ahmad Mukhlis.

“Productions, including third-party content providers, will be monitored by the council to ensure the end product abides by the set guidelines. Nurflix is unique in the market because it is not just offering Islamic-guided content. The production will be monitored by the council to ensure all aspects of work are conducted in a Shariah-compliant manner.”

Although there is no formal collaboration with the Islamic Affairs Department, he said that Nurflix’s ideas and concepts had already been shared with Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

When contacted by Arab News, the director-general of Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development Paimuzi Yahya said his department was still working on “collaborating with the streaming service” and declined to comment further.