Myanmar’s protests will be broadcast, despite junta blackout

Myanmar migrants sharing their activities on social media before going to a local protest against the military coup in their home country, at a house in the outskirts of Bangkok (AFP)
Myanmar migrants sharing their activities on social media before going to a local protest against the military coup in their home country, at a house in the outskirts of Bangkok (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2021

Myanmar’s protests will be broadcast, despite junta blackout

Myanmar migrants sharing their activities on social media before going to a local protest against the military coup in their home country, at a house in the outskirts of Bangkok (AFP)
  • Thousands of people around the country have been wielding their phones to document defiance in real time
  • The new military regime struggles to tamp down opposition to last week’s coup

HONG KONG: Myanmar’s web-savvy protest movement has overcome social media blocks and even a nationwide Internet blackout to transmit real-time information out of the country, as the new military regime struggles to tamp down opposition to last week’s coup.
After spending most of the last 60 years under the yoke of army rule, Myanmar is no stranger to bold public condemnations of its armed forces — many of which were suppressed with lethal violence.
But unlike earlier years, when generals used onerous censorship laws and travel bans to keep crackdowns hidden from the outside world, thousands of people around the country have been wielding their phones to document defiance in real time.
“Actually, I’m not interested in politics at all,” said Aung, who has spent the last few days uploading footage from protests in his hometown.
“But what the military did is so disgusting.”
Aung, who asked for his real name to be withheld, said he cried while watching the television broadcast last week that confirmed the putsch after the dawn raids that saw Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders taken into custody.
Since Monday, he has marched around the streets of his town with his old high school teacher — pushed along in the procession in her wheelchair — demanding the military respect the results of recent elections that Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.
“They arrested our leaders, our representatives,” the 20-year-old told AFP. “We feel like our dreams have disappeared.”
State TV channels now under military control have gone to great lengths to ignore the chorus of outrage erupting around the country, broadcasting karaoke reels and traditional dance routines even as police respond to rallies with tear gas and rubber bullets.
But on Facebook and other platforms, private media outlets and ordinary citizens are running live videos that document huge crowds thronging the streets, along with tense confrontations between demonstrators and officers.

The blanket footage of Myanmar’s burgeoning anti-coup movement is a stark contrast to the last uprising against military rule in 2007, when Buddhist monks led a protest against fuel price hikes that morphed into demands for democratic rule.
Some foreign media outlets were able to pipe out images of the bloody crackdown that followed, but the full extent of the carnage only became clear to the outside world after undercover Myanmar journalists smuggled handheld video cameras over the border into Thailand.
Myanmar’s decade-long experiment with civilian rule also democratized the flow of information in the country, with the entrance of foreign telecoms making SIM cards affordable for the entire population and the end of draconian censorship rules.
The new military regime attempted to turn the tide last week as a civil disobedience campaign gained momentum, first by demanding mobile operators block Facebook and other social media platforms, and then ordering a blanket Internet shutdown over the weekend.
But even as most local web traffic ground to a standstill, protesters still managed to livestream snowballing demonstrations across the city using foreign SIM cards with data roaming services.
“They called and asked me what’s going on — what’s the situation, has there been any more international pressure?” said Natty Tangmeesang.
The Thai public relations professional and former Yangon resident returned home to Bangkok last year during the Covid pandemic but managed to make contact with her friends back in Myanmar during the blackout.
Internet services had largely returned by Sunday afternoon, hours before the shutdown was supposed to end, by which time hundreds of thousands of people were on the streets all over the country.
Yangon-based activist Ingyin, who uses one name to protect her identity, said the attempt by the junta to cut her country off from the world might have backfired.
“People felt that when they couldn’t talk about what happened online, they had to go out on the street,”


The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power

The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power
Updated 12 April 2021

The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power

The Academy for Cultural Diplomacy: Turning soft power into smart power
  • Over the past two decades the ICD has grown to become one of Europe’s leading cultural exchange organizations, with programs extending to every continent of the world
  • The academy, quickly expanded to a major campus in Berlin in 2014, and then in 2020 opened its second campus in a castle, Schloss Bornheim, outside of the former capital of Germany, Bonn

LONDON: During a childhood trip to Israel and Palestine, Mark Donfried witnessed, for the first-time, serious violence between peoples who share their roots within one culture.

From that moment on, he decided to commit his personal and professional life to building cultural bridges with the goal of preventing further conflicts – and in 1999 he founded the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) in New York, before moving it to Berlin.

“At the time when the ICD was founded, cultural diplomacy had fallen by the wayside and had been thrown away by most governments who did not see the benefit of using it,” Donfried told Arab News.

Over the past two decades the ICD has grown to become one of Europe’s leading cultural exchange organizations, with programs extending to every continent of the world.

Read the full report co-published with the Academy of Cultural Diplomacy on Arab News Research & Studies here

In that time, the organization has dedicated its time to running research projects and hosting forums around the world to promote the strategies of cultural diplomacy among the current and next generation of global leaders.

“With the emergence of digital revolutions and rapidly evolving social network platforms, the simple private citizens were able to now immediately publicly critique any politician, government, or corporation,” Donfried said.

“Suddenly governments and corporations started to look for new tools to build better relations with their citizens and their consumers.”

It was no wonder that, parallel to the evolution of the social media, “corporate social responsibility” departments have emerged in almost all major global companies, he said.

In 2011, Donfried decided that cultural diplomacy needed to break into mainstream academia – and so the Academy for Cultural Diplomacy was established offering first ever master programs in cultural diplomacy resulting in training thousands of students from around the world including ambassadors, members of parliament, CEOs and academics.

Read the full report co-published with the Academy of Cultural Diplomacy on Arab News Research & Studies here

The academy, quickly expanded to a major campus in Berlin in 2014, and then in 2020 opened its second campus in a castle, Schloss Bornheim, outside of the former capital of Germany, Bonn.

“Cultural diplomacy can ease and slow the deterioration of human and international relations and can serve as a kind of ‘vaccine’ to help protect individuals, nations and companies from attacks or conflicts,” he said.

“Cultural diplomacy cannot directly save lives; however, indirectly it has proven over the last decades that it does have the power to transcend international borders, tear down walls and change the way the hearts and minds of entire groups and nations think and act.”


Yemeni journalists call for release of 4 sentenced to death by Houthis

Yemeni journalists call for release of 4 sentenced to death by Houthis
Updated 11 April 2021

Yemeni journalists call for release of 4 sentenced to death by Houthis

Yemeni journalists call for release of 4 sentenced to death by Houthis
  • 10 detained in 2015 say they were tortured, convicted of ‘collaborating with the enemy’
  • Amnesty International: Trial based on ‘trumped up charges’

LONDON: Four Yemeni journalists formerly imprisoned and tortured by the Houthi militia have called for the release of four of their colleagues currently facing the death penalty.

They were among 10 journalists arrested in the capital Sanaa in 2015, and say they were subjected to torture, including being starved and placed in solitary confinement, before being put on trial in 2020.

All 10, having been detained shortly after the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, were convicted of “collaborating with the enemy” and “spreading false news and rumors,” but six were released and left the country.

Now living in Cairo, Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram Al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, alongside family members of the four facing execution, say not enough is being done to secure their colleagues’ freedom.

“We would need to write books to (fully) describe what we went through and suffered in these detention facilities. Only God knows the hardships and suffering of our families in our absence,” they said in a statement.

“And there are still four journalists, who were sentenced to death inside these dark prisons, waiting for fate to intervene to save their lives and bring them back to their children.”

Amnesty International, which said the trial was based on “trumped up charges,” added that none of the detained had been permitted a lawyer or family members to be present, and had seen appeals rejected.

The mother of one detainee told The Observer: “My son is just a civilian, he’s not a soldier, he didn’t fight anyone, he wasn’t involved in politics. He didn’t deserve something like this for seven years.”

She added: “We went everywhere, we talked to everyone but no one really helped us. I’m crying everyday, and I can’t sleep.”

Al-Mansouri’s brother Abdullah said: “We still don’t know why some of the journalists were released and others condemned to death. They were targeted to make an example for others.”

Adding that his brother had been “a healthy young man when he was first detained,” he said the Houthis had denied him medical treatment in captivity, leading to him developing diabetes and kidney issues.

Buthaina Faroq, a Yemeni activist who was forced to flee the country, said the journalists still in captivity are likely being used as leverage.

“These four colleagues are being used by the Houthis as pawns, to blackmail both the international community and the Yemeni government,” she added.

“Every single day is important for them stuck in prison. The Houthis are unpredictable, they could decide to keep them or execute them at any moment.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, the four detained journalists are among at least 20 members of the media being held by the Houthis or by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Throughout the conflict, the Houthis have been known to target journalists. Their leader Abdul-Malik Badreddin Al-Houthi is known to have called journalists “more dangerous than those fighting on the front lines.”

As well as torture, the Houthis are thought to deliberately imprison people in military areas likely to be targeted by coalition airstrikes.


Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated political show hosts axed in Egypt

The presenters hosted politically-fueled shows that were axed from Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated television stations Al-Sharq and Mekameleen. (Screenshot)
The presenters hosted politically-fueled shows that were axed from Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated television stations Al-Sharq and Mekameleen. (Screenshot)
Updated 11 April 2021

Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated political show hosts axed in Egypt

The presenters hosted politically-fueled shows that were axed from Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated television stations Al-Sharq and Mekameleen. (Screenshot)
  • Ankara-based Egyptian journalists, Moataz Matar and Muhammad Nasir, are known to be affiliated with the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood

CAIRO: Two Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated presenters - known for their anti-Egyptian rhetoric - have said they are on "open leave" after their politically-fueled shows were axed from television stations Al-Sharq and Mekameleen.

Egyptian journalists, Moataz Matar and Muhammad Nasir, based in Ankara and known to be affiliated with the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood, shared Twitter posts on Saturday that suggested the looming suspension of their shows. 

Matar announced Saturday evening that his program “With Moataz” on the Al-Sharq channel had come to an end, saying that he was going to be on open leave.

He also described the move as “one he had never desired.”

Matar added in a statement he recited on the program that the program’s halt came in order “to avoid any embarrassment that might fall on Turkey” in a reference to his continuous criticism of the Egyptian government.

Meanwhile, Nasir said on Twitter that he was also going to be on vacation during Ramadan from his show on Mekameleen channel.

It was reported earlier in March that Turkey demanded both satellite channels - which are affiliated to the Brotherhood - to halt airing political shows critical of Egypt according to sources cited by Al Arabiya TV.

The step came following statements by Turkey aimed at easing tensions with Egypt after eight years of disputes between the two countries.


Palestinian short film ‘The Present’ wins BAFTA award

Palestinian short film ‘The Present’ wins BAFTA award
Updated 11 April 2021

Palestinian short film ‘The Present’ wins BAFTA award

Palestinian short film ‘The Present’ wins BAFTA award

DUBAI: Palestinian-British filmmaker Farah Nabulsi’s short film “The Present” has won the award for Best Short Film at the 2021 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) ceremony, which took place on Saturday. 

Nabulsi’s movie beat out “Eyelash,” “Lizard,” “Lucky Break” and “Curvy.” 

“The Present” tells the story of Yusef, played by renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, and his daughter Yasmine, played by young actress Maryam Kanj, who set out in Palestine’s West Bank to buy his wife a gift.

The film is also in the running for the “Best Live Action Short Film” category at the upcoming 2021 Oscars. 

It is competing against Doug Roland’s “Feeling Through,” Elvira Lind’s short drama “The Letter Room,” Travon Free’s “Two Distant Strangers” and the Tomer Shushan-directed “White Eye.”


Hamas attacks Al Arabiya TV for exposing prisoner mistreatment

Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries. (Screenshot)
Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries. (Screenshot)
Updated 10 April 2021

Hamas attacks Al Arabiya TV for exposing prisoner mistreatment

Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries. (Screenshot)
  • Prisoners loyal to Hamas were accused of physically beating Al-Shahateet due to an organizational dispute with the leader of Hamas

LONDON: Hamas issued a statement attacking Al Arabiya TV on Friday for exposing the mistreatment of Mansour Al-Shahateet, a prisoner who was released from an Israeli jail after a 17-year sentence.

Prisoners loyal to Hamas were accused of physically beating Al-Shahateet due to an organizational dispute with Yahya Al-Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, who was also serving a prison sentence.

Al-Shahateet, originally from Dura, southwest of Hebron, was released with serious psychological injuries after being kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time. Hamas prisoners who were confined with Al-Shahateet reportedly refused to stay in detention with him after he was severely beaten, and requested that he be transferred to solitary confinement.

Al-Shahateet’s health was neglected and his mental state deteriorated rapidly. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas requested that the Ministry of Health provide him with the necessary medical treatment.