Dubai Expo team member tests positive for COVID-19

The Expo 2020 is due to start in October. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Dubai Expo team member tests positive for COVID-19

  • All people the team member has been in contact with are quarantined
  • The organizers of the expo say they continue to assess the situation with the expo

DUBAI: Organizers of the Expo 2020 Dubai have confirmed that a member of the team has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus and they say they are taking precautions to ensure the virus does not spread further among other staff.

The confirmation comes just days before the the Expo 2020 Dubai team plan to meet on Monday to discuss further the event’s future.

There have been 248 cases of COVID-19 in the UAE so far and two people have died, there have been 45 recoveries.

“We can confirm that one member of Expo 2020 staff has been diagnosed with COVID-19,” an Expo 2020 Dubai spokesman said.

“All those in contact or in touch with the individual are following the Dubai Health Authority protocols, including testing, quarantine, and self-isolation measures. As with all other organizations, we continue to follow all relevant guidelines and instructions from relevant health and governmental authorities.”

Organizers estimated last year that the Expo would draw 11 million overseas visitors. It is billed as a showpiece of culture, business and technology with pavilions from 192 countries plus concerts and other events.

The expo is due to open in October this year, but with the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus, organizers continue to review the situation and are regularly reviewing plans and preparations in line with guidance from authorities in the United Arab Emirates and international stakeholders, the spokesman said.

The Expo 2020 Steering Committee, which groups participating nations, is scheduled to hold a virtual meeting on March 30 for further consultations. 

“We continue to closely monitor the global situation relating to COVID-19, as we have since the beginning of the virus emerging,” the spokesman said.

“We are regularly reviewing plans and preparations in line with guidance from UAE and international stakeholders. Following BIE processes, the Expo 2020 Steering Committee will reconvene on 30 March for further consultation.”

“We remain committed to hosting a World Expo that we all envisioned, to showcase the best examples of collaboration, innovation and cooperation from around the world. Any decision on the World Expo needs to be a collaborative one that is made with the participants and the BIE, as well as other stakeholders.”


Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

Updated 10 April 2020

Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

  • Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent

ISTANBUL: Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be legally bound to appoint a formal representative in Turkey under a new draft law that will be brought to the country’s parliament soon.

The bill is initially designed for the government’s fight against the spread of the coronavirus, but it covers clauses about social media restrictions.

According to the experts, if adopted, this bill will pave the way for exercising government pressure on the platforms.

Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent. The social media platforms are also obliged to share users’ information with the prosecutors’ office when required.

They will also have to execute decisions coming from the criminal courts for “content removal” and/or “access denial” without any exception. Even individuals may apply to state authorities to ask the platforms to remove content. The platforms could be fined up to 1 million Turkish lira if they do not comply with the request within 24 hours.

It is still unclear whether news outlets with social media sites will also have to abide by these requirements.

Last August, the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) was officially granted the authority to regulate and monitor online platforms, including series on digital TV platforms such as Netflix, news broadcasts on YouTube and social media platforms delivering news on a regular basis. Those broadcasting online were obliged to get a license first from RTUK. According to that legislation, overseas companies who broadcast in Turkey on the internet are also required to establish a company and obtain a license.

Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu, a scholar at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University and editor in chief of NewsLabTurkey.org, said it had long been the wish of the Turkish government to keep Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter — as some of the most-used social networks in the country — under control.

“This new draft that will be brought to the parliament is a concrete step toward making Turkey’s digital sphere more controllable than ever for the government,” he told Arab News.

According to Uzunoglu, it is natural that Twitter, Facebook, Google and others are questioned by governments worldwide due to their financial activities and uncontrolled flow of money worldwide.

“Some responsible governments and politicians always question this shady feature of social networks. However, unfortunately, Turkey is not one of these countries or Turkish politicians aren’t the kind of politicians that think (about) the privacy of individuals. All they want is clearly a person who will be like an ambassador for the brand in their country whom they can get in touch with on a regular basis,” he said.

The bill also requires that all data about Turkish social media users be stored in Turkey.

Uzunoglu thinks that the daily routine of such a representative will not be very different from the life of the US ambassador in the time of crisis between US and Turkey.

“The only difference is, the government will try to keep this person and social network for everything in the platform. So that will be a disaster for both the operation of the social platform and the democracy of the country. And unlike an ambassador, the national law system in Turkey will be imposed on them. So, Facebook or Twitter won’t be different from any other web site active in Turkey,” he said.

Turkey has also increased control over social media during the coronavirus outbreak. More than 400 people have been arrested for “provocative” posts on their social media accounts about the virus.

Turkey has blocked access to social media platforms several times in the recent past, especially after the military deployments to Syria.

As social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter host the remaining free-speech platforms and provide an alternative information flow, Uzunoglu thinks that being forced to give away data about their users will be an attack on individual privacy.

“This definitely shows that the government is living in a completely different reality, or they imagine to live in a completely different world,” he said.

Uzunoglu also drew attention to the problematic timing of the move, especially under the extraordinary conditions caused by COVID-19.

“Just think about the Internet freedom related activism of the early 2010s when people went into the streets for the first time to protect Internet freedom. Comparing it to the self-isolation period that we are experiencing right now, it would be naive to think that it is just coincidental,” he said.