Egypt frees Jazeera journalist after Qatar thaw

Egypt frees Jazeera journalist after Qatar thaw
Al-Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who had been imprisoned since Dec. 23, 2016, was freed by Egypt, a security source said Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 05 February 2021

Egypt frees Jazeera journalist after Qatar thaw

Egypt frees Jazeera journalist after Qatar thaw
  • The 54-year-old was detained in Cairo when he returned for a family holiday

CAIRO: Egypt has freed Al-Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, a security source said Friday, after four years in jail without trial following the end last month of a rift between the two Arab states.
Hussein, an Egyptian national who had been imprisoned since December 23, 2016, was released on Thursday night, the Egyptian security source told AFP without elaborating.
But Gamal Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said that while the decision to release Hussein had been taken, “he has still not returned home and is still being held.”
The 54-year-old was detained in Cairo when he returned for a family holiday, and was accused of incitement against state institutions and spreading false news.
Qatar’s Al-Jazeera – which has run a daily campaign calling for his liberation – did not immediately confirm his release. It has repeatedly said he was being held “without formal charges nor trial.”
Hussein’s reported release comes two weeks after Egypt and Qatar restored ties, following a three-year Saudi-led freeze on relations with Doha.
Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, followed the lead of Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia and cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, alleging it backed radical Islamist groups and was too close to Riyadh’s rival Iran – claims Doha denied.
Ties were restored following a Gulf summit held in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia last month.
“Releasing Hussein could indicate a sign of goodwill from Cairo to Al Jazeera that it wants a thaw in its relations with the news channel,” said King’s College London assistant professor Andreas Krieg.
“But overall this is more about polishing its terrible human rights record a bit vis-a-vis the (US President Joe) Biden administration,” he said.
“The new tone and priorities in Washington really created fears in Egypt that America will sever relations.”
Egyptian analyst Amr El-Shobaki said Hussein’s release could be linked to rumored plans to review of the status of prisoners in the country.
“There are those ... who believe there should be a change concerning prisoners held in cases related to freedom of expression,” particularly in light of the new US administration, he said.
In May 2019 prosecutors ordered Hussein be released, but a week later he was slapped with another set of charges and ordered to stay in detention.
Al-Jazeera was caught up in a spat between Cairo and Doha after the 2013 military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, who was backed by Qatar.
Cairo considered it a mouthpiece for Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement, and access to its website has been blocked in Egypt since 2017.
“For Egypt, Al Jazeera remains the most important nuisance in the relationship with Qatar,” said Krieg.
After Morsi’s ouster, authorities arrested three Al-Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, provoking international condemnation.
Faced with accusations similar to those levelled against Hussein, they were released in 2015 after receiving pardons from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
El-Sisi’s government is regularly accused of crushing all forms of dissent and repressing political opponents.
Under his rule, authorities have jailed thousands of Morsi’s Islamist supporters as well as liberal and secular activists, including popular bloggers, actors, singers and journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists had said that as of December 2020, at least 27 journalists were imprisoned in Egypt in relation to their work, including several from Al-Jazeera.
Analysts also linked Hussein’s release to Egyptian hopes of wooing investment.
“It may be purely random timing. But it wouldn’t be surprising if the Egyptian government sought ways to remove barriers to ever greater Qatari investment,” said David Roberts of King’s College London.
Tobias Borck of the Royal United Services Institute noted that the day after the Gulf summit renewing ties with Doha, a Qatari delegation was in Cairo for the inauguration of a Qatari-owned hotel.
“I am not sure to what extent this particular move is part of a thawing in relations,” said Borck.
“But it is rather obvious that Cairo and Doha have been in touch for a while – the opening of the $1 billion St. Regis in Cairo the day after the Al-Ula Summit made that pretty clear.”


Gaming, tech mergers, acquisitions on rise in 2020: New report

Gaming, tech mergers, acquisitions on rise in 2020: New report
Updated 04 March 2021

Gaming, tech mergers, acquisitions on rise in 2020: New report

Gaming, tech mergers, acquisitions on rise in 2020: New report
  • There were 702 mergers and acquisitions agreements announced in 2020

DUBAI: Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the technology, media, and telecom (TMT) market last year bounced back from the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic with deals worth nearly $1 trillion.

There were 702 M&A agreements announced with a transaction value greater than or equal to $50 million in the global TMT sector in 2020, according to data and analytics company GlobalData.

Its latest report, “M&A in TMT – 2020 Themes,” revealed that the combined transaction value of $903 billion was a 25 percent increase on 2019, when there were $723 billion worth of deals.

The second quarter (Q2) of 2020 saw just 103 M&A deals in the sector – the lowest quarterly deal count in the last five years – but volume rebounded to 230 in Q3 and 222 in Q4, making the second half of the year the highest in terms of both number and value of deals in the last five years.

In 2020, the total value of M&A deals in the TMT sector was the highest in America (including North, Central, and South America) reaching $492 billion, while it was the lowest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at around $13 billion.

In the MENA region, Israel led with 11 deals with a transaction value of $6 billion, followed by Turkey at $2.6 billion.

Snigdha Parida, analyst for thematic research at GlobalData told Arab News: “The key themes driving the M&A activity in terms of number in the MENA region are gaming, big data, and connectivity.

“M&A in the gaming sector has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic globally with 130 percent year-on-year growth and has the same effect in MENA as well.”

Gaming leads the way with four deals valued at more than $50 million in the MENA region. The biggest deal among these was in the social gaming space where Zynga acquired Peak Oyun Yazilim ve Pazarlama for $1.8 billion.

The other prominent themes were e-commerce and technology. For instance, Collective Growth Corp. acquired Innoviz Technologies for $1.4 billion; Hellman and Friedman bought Checkmarx for $1.1 billion, and EPMG purchased OLX for $1 billion.

“The increase in mobile penetration and prolonged lockdowns with people working from home are driving investment around gaming and connectivity,” added Parida.


Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million

Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million
Updated 03 March 2021

Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million

Daily Mail owner snaps up New Scientist magazine for $97.8 million
  • The purchase comes soon after the British firm agreed to sell its EdTech business, Hobsons

The owner of Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper acquired science and technology magazine New Scientist for $97.80 million in cash, as it looks to build out its subscriptions and digital offerings.
Daily Mail and General Trust said on Wednesday its consumer media division bought the publication from a consortium of investors led by New Scientist owner Bernard Gray.
“New Scientist is a world-renowned publication loved by its readers ... We are very much looking forward to supporting their exciting plans to grow as the go-to publication for anyone interested in the scientific world around us,” DMGT Chairman Jonathan Harmsworth said.
The purchase comes soon after the British firm agreed to sell its EdTech business, Hobsons, in an effort to narrow its focus on a handful of businesses.
New Scientist, founded in 1956, is expected to post an operating profit of about 7 million pounds in 2021, with revenue likely to exceed 20 million pounds, DMGT said.
The publication has a weekly circulation of about 120,000, of which just over half are based in the UK, and gets about 75 percent of its revenue from subscriptions.


Arabic cooking channel Fatafeat announces production plans for 2021

Arabic cooking channel Fatafeat announces production plans for 2021
Updated 04 March 2021

Arabic cooking channel Fatafeat announces production plans for 2021

Arabic cooking channel Fatafeat announces production plans for 2021
  • Channel already has more than 270 hours of traditional TV content scheduled for production in 2021

DUBAI: Arabic cooking channel Fatafeat has announced its production plans for the year reaffirming its commitment to local content.

The channel already has more than 270 hours of linear, or traditional TV, content scheduled for production in 2021, with more to be added in the coming months.

During the last two years, linear content had accounted for around 350 hours over each 12-month period and Fatafeat plans to exceed the number this year.

In addition to linear content, Fatafeat’s studio in Dubai Production City will produce social and digital content, which is expected to exceed the 1,000-plus hours of such content produced in 2020.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdowns and the following safety protocols hit production last year.

Layla Tamim, commercial manager at Discovery, Fatafeat’s parent company, told Arab News: ““In 2020, the lockdown protocols which resulted in the Fatafeat production studio closing occurred only one-month before Ramadan – a peak period for premiere content and partner content each year.”

“Whilst production wasn’t able to continue in the traditional sense, we are fortunate enough to work with an incredibly talented and agile team, which meant that, with some virtual prowess and at-home production equipment, our brilliant chefs and producers were able to continue creating content for fans remotely,” she said.

Layla Tamim, commercial manager at Discovery, Fatafeat’s parent company. (Supplied)

The content being produced at the Dubai-based Fatafeat studio is not only designed for Fatafeat’s linear television channel but also curated for its Genius Kitchen app, as well as social media content for YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook.

Tamim pointed out that the increase in content output, as well as its regional relevance, had resulted in more inquiries for brand collaborations and sponsored programming.

“Our plans for 2021 are not only to increase the hours of output from the studio but also capitalize on the opportunity to develop creative content solutions, which not only add value to our burgeoning fanbase but also showcase real value to our partners.”


Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse

Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse
According to a new report by mobile data and analytics firm App Annie, the Clubhouse app has grown from having more than 3.5 million global downloads in February 2020 to reaching 8.1 million by Feb. 16 this year. (Getty Images)
Updated 03 March 2021

Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse

Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse
  • The Clubhouse app has grown from having more than 3.5 million global downloads in February 2020 to reaching 8.1 million by Feb. 16 this year

JEDDAH: A group of recruitment experts in Saudi Arabia have joined forces to launch a jobs initiative via a popular new audio-only app.
The six volunteers have been giving up three hours a day to speak with job seekers on the Clubhouse social networking platform which is rapidly becoming a go-to staging post for connecting users with the country’s employers.
The team’s Employment Forum Initiative chat room aims to help link people with recruitment specialists and businesses throughout the Kingdom.
The forum is among a number of rooms set up on Clubhouse — that in recent weeks has been among the top three most popular social media apps in Saudi Arabia and worldwide — to discuss labor market needs, job interview techniques, freelancing opportunities, and other employment-related issues.
One of the forum’s founders, Saleh Al-Sodmi, told Arab News: “We are a group of volunteers representing ourselves in this initiative where we united our love of giving and compassion to help people. We are providing assistance to our fellow citizens, which we consider a duty, not a favor.”
Al-Sodmi and his colleagues all work in the human resources and recruitment sector but have been sacrificing their time on a daily basis to help Clubhouse users in their hunt for jobs.


During the first five days of the initiative, the group helped more than 20 people to find employment and numerous others to get job interviews, and Al-Sodmi expected more success stories as the app’s network of HR and recruitment specialists grew.
“It began with two young sisters who were looking for a job and started a room in Clubhouse for that purpose. Gradually many people within the recruitment field joined, and we agreed to carry on such meetings on a daily basis,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Employment Forum Initiative chat room aims to help link people with recruitment specialists and businesses throughout the Kingdom.

• The forum is among a number of rooms set up on Clubhouse — that in recent weeks has been among the top three most popular social media apps in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

Between 700 and 1,000 users have been attending the group’s forums in recent days, and numbers are increasing.
According to a new report by mobile data and analytics firm App Annie, the Clubhouse app has grown from having more than 3.5 million global downloads in February 2020 to reaching 8.1 million by Feb. 16 this year.
Al-Sodmi added: “This initiative has shown how people love good and giving. Personally, all I want in return is an honest prayer. We can always help. Even when we do not have the proper job for the job seeker, we can still offer advice on how to improve their chances or overcome concerns.”
Maryam Saleh, a Clubhouse user, told Arab News: “I am truly fascinated with the idea, and I appreciate the moderators’ commitment to giving three hours of their time or sometimes more to help others.

We are providing assistance to our fellow citizens, which we consider a duty, not a favor.

Saleh Al-Sodmi, Co-founder

“I found out about it from my friend; I hope it grows further and helps young people to get the opportunities they deserve, especially those, like me, who graduated in these difficult times amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”
Al-Sodmi said Clubhouse had helped users reach out to a wider audience and connect with people that were not as easily accessible via social media platforms.
“For instance, Clubhouse allowed the influencers’ privilege to dissolve and helped the different groups of societies to truly mingle amongst themselves and talk to each other.


“We have seen artists, economists, and CEOs connecting and interacting with the public easily and comfortably,” he added.
Hanan bin Fantokh, another volunteer recruitment specialist within the employment initiative, told Arab News that the platform has helped save recruiters’ time finding candidates and conducting initial interviews.
“It has also helped people break through their fear barrier by allowing them to introduce and market themselves publicly. It also helped many enhance their dialogue and persuasion skills.
“On the jobs front, many have started getting interviews, and some have signed contracts. However, the availability of jobs is less than the number of job seekers,” she added.


Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor
Updated 02 March 2021

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor
  • McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role
  • While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews

NEW YORK: As widely anticipated, Fox News said Tuesday that it had signed former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany as a contributor to offer commentary on various network programs.
McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role during an interview with Fox’s Harris Faulkner that aired Tuesday.
It was reported in January that McEnany had disclosed to the US Office of Government Ethics while still in office that she would work for Fox after leaving the White House. Fox said at the time that it had been in discussions with McEnany but had paused them.
Before working for Trump, McEnany was a commentator at CNN.
While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews.
She said Tuesday that her biggest regret at the White House was not being able to hold a briefing outlining all the accomplishments of the Trump administration.
“But after Jan. 6, it just was not tenable,” she said.
She said that “everyone in the administration was horrified” by the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, led by a mob of Trump supporters, but she insisted that it did not represent the former president’s backers.
Asked if she believed Trump bore any responsibility for the riot, she said, “No, I don’t.”
Trump was impeached by the House on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the insurrection but acquitted by the House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump, citing the fact that the former president was out of office by the time the Senate trial began, but McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the riot.