Lebanese MP Elie Ferzli’s meltdowns become the memes of the moment

Lebanon’s deputy speaker found himself butting heads with journalists over his inoculation ahead of others more in need. (Screenshot/LBCI))
Lebanon’s deputy speaker found himself butting heads with journalists over his inoculation ahead of others more in need. (Screenshot/LBCI))
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Updated 26 February 2021

Lebanese MP Elie Ferzli’s meltdowns become the memes of the moment

Lebanon’s deputy speaker found himself butting heads with journalists over his inoculation ahead of others more in need. (Screenshot/LBCI))
  • Lebanon’s deputy speaker went viral after butting heads with journalists over his inoculation ahead of others more in need

LONDON: Darth Vader, Bruce Lee and Elie Ferzli - only a couple of the many of crossover meme’s Lebanese social media users created following the Lebanese MP and deputy speaker’s meltdowns on television earlier this week.

Ferzli found himself going viral and becoming the meme of the moment after losing his cool in three explosive televised appearances that saw him insult journalists, leave midway through an interview and claim his word is the constitution on Wednesday.

Ferzli’s rampant and aggressive behaviour — in a press conference, on DW, and then on LBCI — comes after he and 10 other lawmakers jumped the queue and received the first shot of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine the day before.

Footage of Ferzli’s meltdown went viral across social media, as memes and posts showcasing the MP shouting dominated Instagram and Twitter.

One post showed Ferzli’s face replacing that of “Star Wars” villain Darth Sidious, with the caption reading “Darth Pfizerius” in reference to the Pfizer vaccine. Another showed stills of him shouting, with the caption reading “many have dropped out of the queue to take the vaccine after dangerous side effects were seen in Elie Ferzli.”

Others placed his comically shouting face side by side with Martial Artist Bruce Lee, with the caption reading “Ferz Lee”. 

One famous cartoonist, Art of Boo, even just placed the Lebanese parliamentarian’s name into a sole comic strip panel as his cartoon of the day.

Other posts also showed his rants dubbed with an infamous speech by Germany's Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.



A post shared by Gino Raidy (@ginoraidy)

Faced with mounting pressure to explain the jump, Ferzli figured that the best way to defend his actions was by insulting journalist and presenter Malek Maktabi on his show “Ahmar bil Khat al Areed” on LBCI after Maktabi asked Ferzli a simple question on his eligibility to take the COVID-19 vaccine.


“I wasn’t simply bothered by the way he was talking and from the tone in which he was talking to me, he insulted me, but I tried to stay calm as much as I can because at the end of the day he is my guest,” Maktabi told Arab News.

“I wanted to get back to my question, I was keen on getting that answer, I did my homework, I knew exactly what my first question was going to be and how I was going to proceed with the interview. So if he doesn’t answer my first question, I won’t be able to get what I want out of the interview.”

Ferzli went on to tell Maktabi: “Don’t you dare say you are not sure when you speak to me,” adding: “My words are the constitution.”

Earlier, Ferzli walked out of a live interview with Ahmed Abida on the arabic version of Deutsche Welle TV, DW Arabic.

“You are speaking with the wrong guy,” Ferzli remarked, adding: “I do not need to beg you to speak.”


Indeed, many politicians — including Ferzli — are used to speaking without being told to stop on several shows.

“My goal is not to grant him another press conference, where he will be speaking by himself. I kept repeating my question, stressing that I want a yes or no answer, to which he kept repeating the Ministry of Health contacted me. My issue is not with the ministry, all he needed to do was answer my question with a simple yes or no,” Maktabi said.

“This is all new to them, intervening in a short segment and asking for brief answers instead of having them going on and on for hours to a simple yes or no question.”

In a press conference at the beginning of the day, Ferzli claimed that there are “internet trolls and hooligans whose job is to attack the person they are targeting.”

He added: “Who taught them that trick? We are well aware who that person is. We are on the lookout, and we will vanquish him. Just like his peers and predecessors, thank you.” 


Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN

Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN
Updated 22 April 2021

Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN

Black Lives Matter leader to take Houthi violence against Ethiopians to UN
  • Hawk Newsome wants Americans to focus on the killings of Blacks inside and outside of the US
  • Arab News reporter Rua’a Al-Ameri details Houthi kidnapping of Yemeni-Ethiopian model

Hawk Newsome, the leader of the Black Lives Movement of Greater New York City, said Wednesday he might take the plight of Africans and especially Ethiopians in Yemen to the United Nations.

Newsome, whose organization confronts racism and racist actions against African Americans, said he was shocked at how little attention the mainstream American news media has placed on Blacks and Ethiopian migrants in places like Yemen.

During an interview on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show,” the BLM leader said people must “rise above” and not just focus on the politics of the conflicts. He wants people to focus on the killing of Blacks inside and outside of the US. A good example was when 44 Ethiopian migrants were massacred in a Houthi-controlled detention center in Sana’a last month.

“I do not have time to get into the personal politics but what I do know is that people were being raped and people were starving in Ethiopia,” Newsome said.

“So, when I hear about what the Houthis did to these African refugees or asylum seekers it really, truly breaks my heart and I am glad that you (Arab News) are all doing a great job in shining a light on this.”

Newsome said that concern for human life should be prioritized above the “politics” of a conflict.

“What we need to do is explain Black Lives Matter across the globe. It does not just matter here because we have phenomenal activists and we also have the first amendment which protects our speech and gives us the right to push back and fight back against this government, at the risk of our deaths,” Newsome said.

“But what folks really need to understand is that a new day has arrived. Black people refuse to be the world’s punching bag, or that they are second-class citizens. We will unify and we will unite and we will shed justice on injustice against Black people wherever it occurs in the world. To my Ethiopian brothers and sisters: My heart bleeds for you and I am terribly sorry for what you are experiencing. But I will do my absolute best to shed light on this subject and to draw attention to this.”

Newsome said that most Americans are unaware of what is happening to Africans in other countries like Yemen and fixate on the politics rather than on the toll it takes on the people, especially Blacks and he blamed the mainstream American news media.

Arab News reporter Rua’a Al-Ameri detailed the kidnapping of Entisar Al-Hammadi, a Yemeni-Ethiopian model, by the Houthi rebels. Al-Hammadi has been held since Feb. 20 as little information on her health or wellbeing has been revealed.

“Entisar is a young Yemeni and Ethiopian model who lives in Sana’a and she was abducted by the Houthis almost two months ago now,” Al-Ameri said.

“She was meant to have her case opened two weeks ago in front of her prosecution. For the second week, it has not been possible. Her lawyer has called for her immediate release. He said she is in a terrible condition and he has also said she is threatening to go on a hunger strike because of her conditions.”

Al-Ameri added the Houthis have a history of persecuting and killing minorities such as the Ethiopians.

“In terms of the Houthis targeting ethnic minority groups, that has been evident in the past,” Al-Ameri said.

“Of course there was the fire in the migrant detention center. The Houthis also have a history of targeting the Jewish community and the Baha’i community in Yemen. So, there has been a lot of issues involving the Houthis and their approach towards minorities.”

Newsome said he was learning more and more about the Ethiopians massacre from last March and is in contact with the Yemeni community in New York City. But he said he was unaware of the kidnapping of Al-Hammadi by the Houthis.

“There is a huge problem in America and in the rest of the world and that problem is called white supremacy,” Newsome said.

“A lot of people will say ‘Oh, you are just calling out racism’ but no the fact is when things happen to Black people they do not matter as much as when they happen to white people. When there is mass murder and genocide happening to Black people across the world, no one cares. But if the same thing were to happen to little blond-haired, blue-eyed white children, then everybody would care.

“So, when you start talking about my Ethiopian brothers and sisters and them being murdered, people barely lift a brow. And that is Black people, that is white people and that is everyone in between because that has been indoctrinated into them. You are taught through the media, you are taught through television, you are taught in so many different ways that our Black lives truly do not matter and that is on a global scale.”

* “The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network on WNZK AM 690 in Detroit and WDMV AM 700 in Washington DC, and live streamed on Facebook.com/ArabNews where you can see the entire interview.

Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq

Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq
Updated 22 April 2021

Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq

Prank TV show with fake Daesh fighters sparks outrage in Iraq
  • Playfully entrapping celebrities is a staple of primetime Ramadan programs, but some viewers say “Tanb Raslan” goes too far 

LONDON: A prank TV show in Iraq has sparked outrage after featuring fake Daesh fighters who kidnap celebrities, strap fake suicide bombs to their chest and threaten the celebrities with execution.

The controversial program, called “Tanb Raslan,” invited celebrities to visit displaced Iraqi families who supposedly fled the clutches of the extremist terrorist group. As participants arrive at the alleged house, they are ambushed with actors disguised as Jihadist fighters who immediately threatened to kill them.

Celebrities were then blindfolded and fake suicide bombs were strapped to their chest. Unknown to the participants that their surroundings are fictitious, they were shown on their knees and get emotional all while the cameras are rolling. 

Iraqi footballer Alaa Mhawi became tearful and pleaded for his life while Nessma, a 58-year-old Iraqi actress, lost consciousness after the fake explosive belt was strapped to her.

Playfully entrapping celebrities has become a staple of primetime Ramadan TV shows in Iraq. However, this program, in particular, attracted criticism, considering Daesh and extremist violence still remain a real threat in the country.

The show is reportedly underwritten by the state-sponsored Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary, whose fighters helped expel Daesh fighters from Iraqi cities. These paramilitaries, still armed, have their own role in the TV show and are portrayed as heroes saving the day.

In the show, the homes of the alleged displaced families are located in the agricultural belt outside of Baghdad where Daesh sleeper cells still roam and extort locals.

Many Iraqi viewers took to social media to criticize the TV show. 

“This is not entertainment,” Bilal Al-Mosuli, a resident of Mosul, wrote on Twitter. 

Ahmed Abderradi expressed disbelief at the show after it made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Saddam Hussein, the dictator who terrorized Iraqis from 1979 to 2003. 

“Or we can throw guests into a river like the victims of Speicher,” Abderradi wrote on Twitter, referring to the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre when Daesh executed 1,700 Shiite conscripts and dumped their bodies into the Tigris.

For others, however, the show saluted anti-Daesh fighters with a slight reservation.

“But it is possible to show the bravery of the Hashd Al-Shaabi and Iraqi troops without introducing terrorism,” Noor Ghazi, an Iraqi living in the US, wrote on Twitter. 

A writer on the show, Dargham Abu Rghif, defended the program: “The scenes are harsh but if Daesh had won, artists would have had a far harder life. And all Iraqis, too.”

Gulf News to charge for digital content

Gulf News to charge for digital content
Updated 21 April 2021

Gulf News to charge for digital content

Gulf News to charge for digital content
  • UAE newspaper launches two subscription models for readers as it sets up paywall

DUBAI: The UAE English-language daily Gulf News has announced that it will start putting its online content behind a paywall.

It is unclear when the content will stop being available for free.

Print subscribers will receive a complimentary one-year access to gulfnews.com; other readers can sign up for Standard Access for AED 5.95 ($1.6) per month or Prime Access AED 8.96 per month or AED 52 per year.

The Standard package allows access to most of the website content, while the Prime package will also allow access to the new categories the newspaper is launching, including Living in UAE, Your Money, Parenting and The Good.

The move is a first for a UAE newspaper. Print revenues have been steadily declining with print media taking less than 5 percent of the total ad revenue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to a GroupM report.

In a Gulf News article, CEO, Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director of Publishing, Abdul Hamid Ahmad, said: “We were offering our high-quality content online for free for the longest time, when the print revenue gave us the freedom to do so. But that is on the decline, as can be seen the world over.”

He added that the decision to put content behind a paywall was taken “a while ago” as it is no longer possible to carry on offering content for free while revenues keep declining.

He said the digital paywall is not meant to be a deterrent for people reading the news. Instead, “it is a gateway for trusted, credible and verified news” that is aimed at protecting readers from “fake news, clickbait and low-quality advertising.”

The Gulf News website has an average of 230 million page views and 15 million unique visitors every month. Yet, said Ahmad, “the commensurate revenue has not come in,” which has an impact on the quality of advertising.

He believes that the paywall will not only encourage better journalism but also better advertising. “Once you have paid subscribers, it will mean a targeted market that advertisers can optimise and utilise more effectively.”

Over the past two years, more publishers have introduced paywalls to sustain their business, although some lowered their paywalls during the pandemic.

“The idea was that information about the outbreak of COVID-19 had life-saving potential, and so it should be available to everyone, not just to subscribers — a fraction of news readers who tend to be the wealthiest and most highly-educated,” reported the Columbia Journalism Review.

Meher Murshed, Executive Editor, Digital at Gulf News, said in an article on the paper’s website that the need of the hour is to break news instantly, which can compromise accuracy.

“There is a cost to fact-checked, responsible journalism, one that is not click bait or chases page views. We have to spend resources for in-depth reporting.”

That is why Gulf News decided to launch a digital subscription, said Murshed, “so we can continue giving our readers quality journalism.”

Kantar announces winners of Creative Effectiveness Awards 2020

Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world. (Supplied)
Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world. (Supplied)
Updated 21 April 2021

Kantar announces winners of Creative Effectiveness Awards 2020

Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world. (Supplied)
  • Awards analyzed more than 10,000 digital, TV ads

DUBAI: Throughout last year, Kantar, a data-driven insights and consulting company, tested more than 10,000 adverts for clients around the world and has now revealed the ones that performed most effectively.

Unlike other awards, Kantar relies on consumer feedback to award campaigns.

The most creative and effective ads of 2020 were:

1. Heineken / US / Cheers to all from Publicis

2. Bosch / Germany / Atino from C3 Creative Code and Content (Stuttgart)

3. Burger King / France / Consignes 2 Security – The Retour from Buzzman

4. Shea Moisture / US / It Comes Naturally from BBDO New York and JOY Collective

5. Samsung / US / Make their year, with Galaxy Buds Live from R/GA

6. Milka / France / And a lot of Milka from DAVID Madrid

7. Google / US / Find your Scene from Google Brand Studio

8. TENA / UK / TENA Silhouette Washable Underwear (I will wear what I want) from AMV BBDO, London

9. TD / Canada / Keeping your business moving forward from Leo Burnett

10 Adrenaline Rush / Russia / More from KAPIBARA

11. YouTube Kids / US / YouTube Kids Brand Anthem Film from Droga5

12 Avocados from Mexico / US / Avocados from Mexico Shopping Network from Energy BBDO Chicago

13. Gatorade / Chile / Gatorade GOAT CAMP from TBWA / Chiat de Los Angeles

14. Toyota Corolla / Canada / Vente Etiquettes Rouges from The Showroom

15. Kozel / Slovakia / Pimp my goat from Armada

16. Nissan Sentra / US / Joy Ride from Nissan United

17. Panadol Actifast / Malaysia / Delivery Rider Malaysia from Grey Group Singapore

18. eBay Australia / Australia / The Fast and the Furious from Che Proximity Australia

19. Siemens Home Appliances / Turkey / Ankastre from MullenLowe Istanbul

20. Hershey’s Kisses / US / Bells to Blossoms from mcgarrybowen


Based on the winners for 2020, the company identified five habits of the most effective advertisers.

Daren Poole, global head of creative at Kantar, said: “While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to creative and effective advertising, we observed five habits from our winners that ensure their advertising will deliver for their brand – in both the short and long term. These can act as guidelines for all advertisers.”

The five habits:

Be distinctive: Create the ability to be noticed and remembered in a world where there is a profusion of ads. Your ad is not just competing in its category. It is competing for attention against the world. Stand out from the category as a minimum, and ideally from any other advertising.

Brand intrinsically: Make sure that the attention won by the ad is at the service of the brand. Get your branding cues right. A surprising number of companies forget this basic rule.

Be meaningfully different: To grow market share or defend premium pricing you need to fulfil consumers’ functional, emotional, and social needs in the category and illustrate your uniqueness compared to the competition.

Trigger an emotional response: Making the viewer feel something, wins engagement for the ad, bypassing the natural tendency to screen out advertising. It also has positive effects on the brand’s emotional associations.

Talk with your consumer: Successful marketers know they can get too close to their creative journey and lose perspective, so they listen to viewer feedback during creative development.

Garena Free Fire wins over mobile gamers

Garena Free Fire wins over mobile gamers
Updated 21 April 2021

Garena Free Fire wins over mobile gamers

Garena Free Fire wins over mobile gamers
  • From tournaments and partnerships to a great gaming experience, Garena Free Fire ticks all the boxes

DUBAI: People spent an average of approximately 3.5 hours a day globally on their mobile phones in 2018. That is predicted to rise about 4 hours this year, according to Statista.

It’s unsurprising, given that more people use their mobile devices for everything from relaxing and socializing to shopping and even doctor’s visits — and that a significant portion of the time spent on mobiles is on gaming apps. In 2020, mobile playtime went up by 62 percent, according to Game Analytics, mostly as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. Although gaming, in general, is more popular among younger audiences, mobile devices have opened up the arena to older audiences as well.

The increased time spent on mobile gaming – an estimated $85 billion industry – has encouraged developers to launch games that go beyond the puzzle game style popularized by the likes of Candy Crush.

One such game is Garena Free Fire. Launched in 2017, the battle royale style game shot to popularity in 2019 with the game achieving more than 100 million peak daily active users in 2020. It was the most downloaded mobile game worldwide both in 2019 and 2020, according to App Annie.

Battle royale games are multiplayer survival games that require players to eliminate other players to win. Since such games usually feature high-end graphics and animation, they’re better suited to bigger screens. However, Garena Free Fire was designed exclusively with the mobile gamer in mind, said Hans Saleh, Country Head for Garena, Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The gaming market in the MENA region is full of potential. According to a Frost & Sullivan report, gaming in the MENA region is estimated to be worth $4.5 billion, with the number of gamers believed to be more than 100 million.

The report also found that Saudi Arabia ranked 19th in gaming revenues in 2019, while the UAE ranked 35th.

“Saudi is definitely one of the big markets, and so is the UAE. We are also seeing growth in Egypt. We are focusing on being closer to the gamers because it’s all about the user experience for us,” said Saleh.

The company conducted extensive research to get feedback on its product. Saleh attributes the popularity of the game to this user-centric approach. In fact, currently, Garena is in the process of beta testing a new version of the game called Garena Free Fire MAX, although there are no plans for a public launch yet.

Garena Free Fire-related content recorded more than 72 billion view counts across YouTube globally in 2020, making it the most viewed mobile-only video game globally on YouTube for both 2019 and 2020. It was also the third most viewed among all video games on YouTube in 2020.

The company is also promoting the game by building Garena Free Fire communities globally through grassroots events and influencer engagements; and through collaborations such as those with Netflix’s “Money Heist” and football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

To attract players in the region, Garena Free Fire recently announced a collaboration with Arab superstar Mohamed Ramadan. He will be introduced as an in-game character, becoming the first-ever playable Arab character in a battle royale game.

Another way of engaging gamers is through tournaments. The Free Fire World Series was launched in 2019 with a top prize of $200,000. “It gathers all the champions from different regions globally and they compete to become the world champion,” said Saleh.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the World Series was converted to the Continental Series in 2020 with separate tournaments for America, Asia, and the Europe and Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region with a total prize pool of $900,000 divided among the three regions.

This year, Garena is launching a new format especially for the MENA region, which includes the launch of the Free Fire Arab League and Free Fire Arab Championship. The winners of the Arab Championship will be eligible to participate in the Arab League, the winners of which will then go on to represent the MENA region in the Free Fire World Series.

The Free Fire World Series 2021 will take place in May in Singapore and will feature a $2 million prize pool.

Garena believes that the new format can engage viewers and players, as well as being sustainably run for the foreseeable future, said Saleh.