Foreign media’s ‘shallow coverage’ of protests angers Lebanese

Foreign media’s ‘shallow coverage’ of protests angers Lebanese
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The ‘revolution not only attracted people of all sects, religions and social backgrounds, but also has become a powerful voice for Lebanese women. (AFP)
Foreign media’s ‘shallow coverage’ of protests angers Lebanese
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Tarek Ali Ahmad reported from central Beirut on the ‘revolution.’ (AN photo by Youssif Itani)
Foreign media’s ‘shallow coverage’ of protests angers Lebanese
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The ‘revolution not only attracted people of all sects, religions and social backgrounds, but also has become a powerful voice for Lebanese women. (AN photo by Youssif Itani)
Foreign media’s ‘shallow coverage’ of protests angers Lebanese
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Tarek Ali Ahmad reported from central Beirut on the ‘revolution.’ (AN photo by Youssif Itani)
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Updated 21 August 2020

Foreign media’s ‘shallow coverage’ of protests angers Lebanese

Foreign media’s ‘shallow coverage’ of protests angers Lebanese
  • Lebanon's unprecedented cross-community uprising is drawing global media attention
  • Many complain the protests are being unfairly portrayed by foreign media outlets

BEIRUT: Shallow. Superficial. Politically motivated. These are some of the epithets being used by Lebanese men and women to describe the portrayal by the foreign media of the ongoing protests against the country's political elite.

From Sidon in the south to Hermel in the north, Lebanon is witnessing an unprecedented cross-community uprising as public frustration with the country's tottering economy, administrative  paralysis, crumbling infrastructure and chronic corruption boils over.

From the very start, many Lebanese say, the protests have been mischaracterized by Twittering "armchair pundits" and sections of the foreign media as a "Whatsapp Revolution" because of the telcommunications minister's abortive attempt to introduce a daily $0.20 fee for users of Whatsapp and other internet-calling apps. Some Twitter users suggested the Lebanese "are going bonkers in the streets" because of the "Whatsapp tax."

It was not just comments on social media that many Lebanese found deeply objectionable. Time magazine had posted a photo on Instagram of burning tires with a caption that said: “Tension had simmered for months but on Thursday, protesters learned about the government's plan to tax Whatsapp calls. As the streets swelled, the Associated Press adds, that plan was withdrawn.”

The Instagram post spurred many Lebanese abroad into reporting it for playing into media stereotypes of the historic protests. But the attitude of some media outlets closer to home was seen as no less frivolous.

The New York Times carried an opinion piece with the sub-headline "The Middle East could use a decent country. One million Lebanese protestors are demanding one. Hezbollah has other ideas". The reference to “decent country” got heavy flak from Lebanese and Arabs on social media, prompting the newspaper to modify the sub-headline.

A Saudi daily carried a report on the protests decorated with images of what it described as Lebanon's “attractive and revolutionary” women, with the headline: “Lebanese babes: All the beautiful women are revolutionary.”

For a people who were defying deeply entrenched sectarian and political divisions to take part in the protests, such portrayal unsurprisingly struck a raw nerve. “They’re not taking this revolution seriously. They are not covering it as they should be,” Chourouk Kaassamany, a protestor, a protester interviewed by Arab News on the stairs of the Al-Amine mosque in Beirut's Martyrs Square.

“They are only looking at the negative part of the revolution, only those who are here to make jokes, to have fun, to dance. But they're not focusing on the serious people and the real message out of this revolution.”

The “revolution,” which entered its 13th day on Oct. 29, has not only attracted people of all sects, religions and social backgrounds, it has become a powerful outlet for the many concerns and grievances of Lebanese women, who have been participating in the solidarity rallies in very large numbers.

 

In almost all images, social-media posts and videos, Lebanese women have been at the forefront of the campaign, with their voices overtaking those of fellow male protesters.

To many Lebanese, a woman who kicked an armed bodyguard of a minister in the groin summed up the fearless, anti-establishment spirit of the movement.

The video of the incident, which went viral on Lebanese social media on the eve the protests, is credited by many with keeping the momentum of the protests going.

The footage shows an incident that occurred when the convoy of Minister of Education was confronted by demonstrators in central Beirut. When one of the minister's bodyguards got out of the car and fired his assault rifle into the air, it drew an angry reaction from the crowd.

During the scuffle, when another bodyguard held up his gun into the air, the now famous woman leaned back and landed a kick with her left foot on his groin.

The bodyguard can be seen staggering forward in a state of shock.

The clip is seen by many Lebanese as an accurate — and inspiring — snapshot of the campaign against political corruption and misrule.

“When they steal your money, corrupt your country, and pull a machine gun at you — you give them a quick kick in the groin!” one Twitter user wrote.

Another said: “Our women don’t just kick ass, they kick men with guns.”

As part of a collective outpouring of anger not seen since the civil war ended in 1990, Lebanese have formed a human chain across the country, joining hands along coastal roads in an attempt to span 171 kilometers from south to north.

The continuing anger against politicians accused of corruption and driving Lebanon towards an economic collapse has compelled the government to announce an emergency reform package among several other steps.

“Eventually, we're here for a reason,” Kaassamany said. "We're not here to dance, we're not here to sing, we're not here to party. We are here to deliver a message on behalf of those who cannot afford to eat, cannot afford to go to hospitals, cannot afford to do many other things.

“We are here especially the people who cannot take part in the protests. The media should not focus on people dancing and enjoying themselves. Instead they should take the developments more seriously.”

Another protester, Josee Arbajian, found the foreign media's fixation on the lighter aspects of the protests  “shameful” because the people of Lebanon are “out here doing their best” but are being portrayed in a frivolous light.

What especially irks Lebanese is the use of words such as “festival” and “rave revolution” in international media reports to describe some of the public rallies' throbbing vibe and ambiance.

For proof, critics say, one need look no farther than the disproportionate media interest generated by the scenes of a DJ playing music for a huge crowd of protesters in Sahet Al-Nour in Tripoli, of elderly people dancing and singing together in Zouk, and a full stage set up in Martyrs Square playing revolutionary chants.

“Lebanese have been known to have this spirit of perseverance, so if this is the way we have to protest, go down on the streets and stay down their all night and protest peacefully in a civil way, if that's portrayed as a rave or whatever the Western media portrays it, then let them portray it this way,” Maya, a protestor in Riad Al-Solh Square in Beirut, told Arab News.

“If you want to add music to it, that's fine. If it keeps people on the streets, then it's fine. It's not easy to protest on the streets day and night.”

Nevertheless, on ABC’s The View host Whoopi Goldberg showed a video of protestors singing the song “Baby Shark” to a frightened child in a car, which went viral around the world as numerous media outlets picked it up.

 

Predictably, Lebanese media personalities have joined the chorus of their compatriots’ criticism, with Ali Jaber, MBC's director of television and an “Arabs Got Talent” judge, taking issue with the way the protests are being covered by prominent international news outlets.

“Foreign coverage of the revolution in Lebanon was shallow and superficial,” Jaber said on Twitter. “CNN rarely mentioned the news in its bulletins, and Time magazine and others have trivially emphasized (Lebanese Foreign Minister) Gebran Bassil through the ‘hela ho’ chants and pictures of our beautiful women. Just think a little …”
 


Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 June 2021

Germany opens antitrust probe against Apple

Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple face antitrust investigations in Germany, France and the US. (File/AFP)
  • Germany launches investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, shortly after similar probes against Amazon, Google and Facebook.
  • Germany and France have joined calls from the US to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent on companies like Amazon and Facebook.

BERLIN: Germany on Monday opened an investigation against Apple over anti-competition practices, making the iPhone maker the fourth US tech giant to be hit by such probes.
The antitrust authority had in recent weeks opened similar investigations against Amazon, Google and Facebook under a new law that took effect in January giving regulators more powers to rein in big tech companies.
The watchdog said it has initiated the first stage of the probe to determine if Apple has “cross-market significance.”
“An ecosystem extending across different markets can be one indication of such a position held by a company,” said the authority. “Such positions of power can make it very hard for other companies to counter it.”
Andreas Mundt, who heads the Federal Cartel Office, said his service will look at whether Apple has established such a digital ecosystem across several markets around the iPhone with its proprietary operating system iOS.
“A key focus of the investigation will be the operation of the App Store, because in many cases, it empowers Apple to have an influence on the business activities of third parties,” he added.
An Apple spokesperson underlined the company’s contribution to the employment market in Germany, saying its iOS app economy supported 250,000 jobs.
“We look forward to discussing our approach with the FCO and having an open dialogue about any of their concerns,” said the spokesperson in a statement.


Following the first stage of the probe, the cartel office said it might then look at other specific issues after it received complaints from “several companies against potential anticompetitive practices.”
This included a complaint against the company’s alleged tracking restrictions of users in connection with the introduction of the iOS 14.5 operating system.
It added that complaints had also been filed by app developers disputing the usage of Apple’s system for in-app purchases.
Germany’s tougher stance against the digital giants came after new EU draft legislation unveiled in December aimed at curbing the power of the Internet behemoths that could shake up the way Silicon Valley can operate in the 27-nation bloc.
The push to tighten legislation comes as big tech companies are facing increasing pressure around the globe, including in the United States, where Google and Facebook are facing antitrust suits.
Besides looking at the reach of the companies, scrutiny often extends to privacy issues.
In its investigation targeting Google, for instance, the German cartel office said it was examining if consumers who wish to use the search engine giant’s services “have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data.”
The multinationals are also facing a crackdown from Western governments seeking to claw back taxes which they fear had been channeled unfairly into tax havens.
Germany and France have joined calls from the United States to impose a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 percent, a move which targets multinationals like Amazon and Google.
Critics have repeatedly warned that many of the world’s biggest companies use tax havens or exploit loopholes to pay far less in taxes than some individuals.


Facebook launches Clubhouse-like live audio rooms and podcasts

Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform. (Facebook)
Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform. (Facebook)
Updated 21 June 2021

Facebook launches Clubhouse-like live audio rooms and podcasts

Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform. (Facebook)
  • Facebook launches live audio rooms, similar to Clubhouse, pushing the giant tech platform towards social audio.
  • Facebook is partnering with public figures including musicians, journalists and athletes in the live audio rooms rollout.

June 21 : Facebook Inc. on Monday launched its own Clubhouse-style live audio rooms and a way to find and play podcasts on its platform, marking a push into social audio by the world’s largest social network.
Facebook’s rollout of a potential Clubhouse rival follows the explosive early success of the invite-only live audio app, which became a hit as people stayed at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was one of the Silicon Valley celebrities who have made appearances on the app, which recently expanded to Android users.
Facebook, which has said it wants to make audio a “first-class medium” on its platforms, joins Twitter Inc. and messaging platform Discord which have already launched their own live audio offerings. Spotify debuted its own version, “Greenroom,” last Wednesday. Slack, Microsoft Corp-owned LinkedIn and Reddit are also working on similar products.
Public figures and certain Facebook Groups in the United States using iOS will be able to create live audio rooms, with up to 50 speakers and unlimited listeners. These users can also invite people without a “verified badge” to speak, Facebook said in a blog post. Users on iOS and Android can listen to the rooms.
The company, which has been vocal about its push to attract content creators, said it is partnering with public figures including musicians, journalists and athletes in the live audio rooms rollout.
Listeners will be able to send Facebook’s virtual currency “stars” to creators in live audio rooms. Zuckerberg has said the company will not take a cut of creator revenue until 2023.
A number of select podcasts will also be available on Facebook to US listeners and the company said it would soon add to this initial slate.
Facebook, which has been criticized for its handling of problematic content across its products, will face the challenges of moderating live and recorded audio content, including in private Facebook Groups.
Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform.


Brands can now advertise on Instagram Reels

Brands can now advertise on Instagram Reels
Updated 21 June 2021

Brands can now advertise on Instagram Reels

Brands can now advertise on Instagram Reels
  • Reels will allow brands to place ads between user content

DUBAI: In August 2020, Instagram launched Reels, its short-form video offering similar to TikTok.

Earlier this year, it began testing out advertisements on Reels and now, less than a year after the launch of the new format, it will allow ads in between clips.

“We see Reels as a great way for people to discover new content on Instagram, and so ads are a natural fit. Brands of all sizes can take advantage of this new creative format in an environment where people are already being entertained,” said Justin Osofsky, chief operating officer, Instagram.

The ads will be full-screen and vertical, similar to ads in Stories, and will appear in between individual Reels. These ads will loop, can be up to 30 seconds and are distinguished by a “sponsored” tag below the name of the account.

People can comment, like, view, save and share Reels ads. Users also have the option of skipping, hiding or reporting the ad.

“Taking advantage of new and innovative formats like Reels ads is a top priority for our clients, so we’re excited about this new opportunity for brands to reach potential customers,” added Amanda Grant, global head of social media, GroupM.

Brands already had a presence on Reels. At the end of last year, Instagram integrated shopping within Reels so businesses and creators could tag products in Reels, enabling users to discover products and shop from directly within Reels.

Now, with the launch of ads, brands with and without online stores can advertise on Reels.


TikTok launches regional creative competition Rock the Tok

The competition has been designed to encourage this creativity. (TikTok)
The competition has been designed to encourage this creativity. (TikTok)
Updated 21 June 2021

TikTok launches regional creative competition Rock the Tok

The competition has been designed to encourage this creativity. (TikTok)
  • Rock the Tok invites agencies to showcase their creativity in regional competition.

DUBAI: A new initiative from TikTok aims to bring together creative agencies in a competition specific to the platform. Titled Rock the Tok, the competition is a partnership between TikTok and The Marketing Society, a global community of marketing leaders.

“Since our arrival in the region, some of the most creative campaigns on TikTok have been crafted by our media partners who have boldly experimented with our platform and advertising solutions with exceptional results,” said Shant Oknayan, general manager of Global Business Solutions METAP.

The competition has been designed to encourage this creativity and embolden agencies to build entertaining content, he added.

Marketers, creative professionals and advertisers from agencies across the Middle East, Turkey and Pakistan can enter the Rock the Tok competition in teams of up to four participants. There are three briefs that participants can enter — all designed to showcase TikTok’s advertising capabilities — by submitting their TikTok video entries and a supporting write up for one or more of them before July 8:

TikTok for Everyone: Agencies will need to prove that every brand can find its place on TikTok by choosing a brand seemingly unsuitable for the platform and creating a campaign for its target audience.

Learn on TikTok: This category is aimed at demonstrating that TikTok is not only for entertainment but can also be used for education, inspiration or motivation. Agencies will have to highlight TikTok as a platform where valuable content exists beyond entertainment.

TikTok beyond the Hashtag Challenge: In this category, agencies will need to demonstrate that TikTok is not only useful for driving awareness but also for a full-funnel approach by showing how brands can achieve their objectives from awareness to conversion.

During the competition, TikTok will work closely with participants in building their skills on the platform and by providing access to TikTok tutorial videos, including a How to TikTok guide, as well as case studies of successful creators and brand campaigns on TikTok, both globally and from the region.

The winning agency will receive $20,000 worth of ad credits and collaborations with three popular TikTok creators to bring their proposed campaign to life. It will also have exclusive access to TikTok’s brand strategy team and a consultation with the TikTok Creative Lab, along with several other prizes for the individual team members.

“I am very excited to see the creative work which will come out of regional agencies during this competition and look forward to sharing our knowledge and expertise, which I am confident will benefit the participants not just for this competition but as they progress in their careers,” added Oknayan.


HK’s Apple Daily to shut within days, says Jimmy Lai adviser

A supporter of Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper holds up a copy of the newspaper during a protest outside court in Hong Kong. (AFP)
A supporter of Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper holds up a copy of the newspaper during a protest outside court in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 21 June 2021

HK’s Apple Daily to shut within days, says Jimmy Lai adviser

A supporter of Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper holds up a copy of the newspaper during a protest outside court in Hong Kong. (AFP)
  • Two executives in Apple Daily who were charged under security law denied bail.
  • Pro-democracy newspaper could cease publication on Saturday, undermining Hong Kong's reputation as an open and free society.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities froze the company’s assets under a national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.
The closure of Apple Daily would undermine the former British colony’s reputation as an open and free society and send a warning to other companies that could be accused of colluding with a foreign country, media advocacy groups said.
Next Digital, publisher of the top-selling 26-year-old newspaper, would hold a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward after its lines of credit were frozen, the adviser, Mark Simon, said.
“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month. It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days,” he said by telephone from the United States.
Vendors had tried to put money into the company’s bank accounts but had been rejected, he said.
The newspaper would stop publication on June 26 if a board meeting on Friday decided to stop operations, an internal memo seen by Reuters showed.
Apple Daily management could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The newspaper said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left it with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.
Chief Editor Ryan Law, 47, and Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail on Saturday after being charged with collusion with a foreign country.
Three other executives were arrested on Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices, drawing condemnation from Western countries, global rights groups and the UN spokesperson for human rights.
Those three are still under investigation but were released from police detention.
Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said that media freedom and other rights will remain intact but national security is a red line.
Security Secretary John Lee told a news conference on Thursday the police operation against the Apple Daily was aimed at those who use reporting as a “tool” to endanger national security and did not target the media industry as a whole.
China’s Foreign Commissioner’s Office said in a statement on Thursday the national security law protected press freedom and warned “external forces” to “keep their hands off Hong Kong.” The office said press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for those who commit crimes.
The office of the city’s chief executive did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. Beijing’s chief representative in the city, the Liaison Office, and the city’s Security Bureau also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

’WE CAN’T BANK’
In May, Reuters reported exclusively that Hong Kong’s security chief had sent letters to tycoon Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank threatening up to seven years’ jail for any dealings with the billionaire’s accounts in the city.
A Hong Kong-based spokesperson for Citibank said at the time the bank did not comment on individual client accounts. HSBC declined to comment.
Authorities are also prosecuting three companies related to Apple Daily for alleged collusion with a foreign country and have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.
Simon told Reuters it had now become impossible to conduct banking operations in the global financial hub as authorities had “criminalized” any activities with the company’s accounts.
“We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favor ... and it was rejected.”
Reuters could not determine the banks where Apple Daily vendors had tried to deposit funds only to have their transactions rejected.
Apple Daily said on Sunday it planned to ask the government’s Security Bureau to unfreeze the assets of the three companies. If that did not work, it may challenge the decision in court, it said.
The paper has come under increasing pressure since owner and Beijing critic Lai, who is now in jail, was arrested under the national security law last August and has since had some of his assets frozen.
A source with direct knowledge of the board’s discussions said an application had been made to the Security Bureau to ask Hong Kong security chief John Lee to unfreeze the assets to allow essential payments to staff and suppliers.
The company has about 600 journalists, according to Simon.
The US-based adviser said some reporters had received threatening phone calls from unknown sources.
“Our staff are now just worried about personal safety,” he said.
Police have said dozens of Apple Daily articles were suspected of violating the national security law, the first case in which authorities have cited media articles as potentially violating the legislation.
Simon and the source said their understanding was that about 100 articles were under scrutiny.
“After all this is said and done, the business community is going to look up and recognize that a man’s company was gutted and stolen by a communist regime in Hong Kong,” he said.
“That’s a big deal.”