US accused of double standards over Khashoggi, urged to deploy same sanctions on killers of other Arab journalists

People gather to commemorate prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual Luqman Slim at place de la Sorbonne in the French capital Paris, on February 11, 2021. (AFP)
People gather to commemorate prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual Luqman Slim at place de la Sorbonne in the French capital Paris, on February 11, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2021

US accused of double standards over Khashoggi, urged to deploy same sanctions on killers of other Arab journalists

People gather to commemorate prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual Luqman Slim at place de la Sorbonne in the French capital Paris, on February 11, 2021. (AFP)
  • Critics are asking why the US administration is not deploying the same standards to the killers of other journalists, and those involved with similar violence across the region
  • As the US continues to appease Iran in order to bring it back to the nuclear negotiation table, its proxies could get away with silencing even more journalists and critics

LONDON: After US President Joe Biden’s administration took measures to sanction Saudi officials that took part in 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, several Middle East experts have accused the US of deploying double standards.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, as well as several US State Department officials, have repeatedly said that Washington will no longer tolerate the targeting of journalists and dissidents. The case of Jamal Khashoggi has been at the center of these statements.

However, critics are asking why the US administration is not deploying the same standards to the killers of other journalists, and those involved with similar violence across the region.

“We should ask ourselves what is the purpose behind the publication of the report? It is very obvious that the revival of the issue after two years aims at putting pressure on Saudi Arabia,” US-Arab affairs expert Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib told Arab News.

Another commentator, Hussain Abdul-Hussain, tweeted: “Now that we have finished from the Khashoggi affair, can the US give any attention to the assassination of Hisham Al-Hashemi and Lokman Slim? Or is there no lobby behind them to demand the disclosure of their killers?”

Indeed, while this month’s killing of Lebanese publisher and vocal Hezbollah critic Luqman Slim was condemned by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, that was as far as it went — and his statement even shied away from naming the known culprits, Hezbollah.

Another, Iraqi researcher, Hisham al-Hashimi, was shot dead outside his Baghdad home last year in a drive-by long-suspected to have been set up by Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah.

“We also should examine the timing. It is while the US is seeking to go back to the nuclear deal. This could be a tool to pressure Saudi Arabia to accept the decisions of the US regarding Iran, and to coerce the Kingdom into making concessions,” Khatib said, adding: “They don’t want to disturb the flow of communications with Iran.”

She said: “Even though the US is committed to human rights, how adamant and forceful they are in taking a position is taken in a political context.”

While more critics of Iran, its proxies and allies in the region are shot dead by “unknown groups,” much of what the US clearly focuses on is what benefits itself politically. President Biden’s pursuit to label Saudi Arabia as a pariah, as he previously argued for, comes at the cost of allowing Iran and its armed groups in the region to literally get away with murder.

Lebanese journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueini were vocal in their political criticism, and both were assassinated for their vocal critiques by perpetrators that have yet to serve justice.

Journalists killed with no consequences

 
Samir Kassir

Assassinated: 2 June 2005

 
Gebran Tueini

Assassinated: 12 December 2005
 

 
Atwar Bahjat

Assassinated: 22 February 2006
 

 
Hisham El-Hashemi

Assassinated: 6 July 2020

 
Luqman Slim

Assassinated: 4 February 2021

 

Arab countries and groups have expressed their support for Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the report, while stressing the pivotal role that the Kingdom plays in consolidating security in the region.

Political reporter and analyst Ray Hanania told Arab News: “The killing of Jamal Khashoggi is a human tragedy, but the US and the media are determined to play a hypocritical game of political exploitation to balance their foreign agenda.”

He added: “The International Federation of Journalists reports that in 2020, 66 journalists were killed, and yet it seems like only one journalist matters. This in part has also to do with media bias.

“The media, US Congress and activists showcase only one tragedy out of hundreds of journalist killings, because Khashoggi’s death is related to an acceptable foreign policy attack.”

President Biden took little time to retract the terrorist designation that the Trump administration had slapped on the Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi militia, and yet the group continues to lob ballistic missiles to Riyadh on a daily basis.

So as the US continues to appease Iran in order to bring it back to the nuclear negotiation table, its proxies could get away with silencing even more journalists and critics.


MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 October 2021

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
  • Staff reportedly offered a choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning

LONDON: Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC Group announced on Wednesday that it plans to shut its office in Beirut “soon” and relocate to Riyadh.

The company said the reason for the move is a push by authorities in the Kingdom to relocate all state-owned media and broadcasting companies to Saudi Arabia.

While the headquarters of MBC is currently in Dubai, the Lebanon branch was a prominent production office. The company has reportedly offered staff the choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning.

The decision to move the offices of Saudi media companies to Riyadh from other cities in the region, such as Beirut and Dubai, is the result of plans by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to establish the Kingdom as a regional business hub.

News of the move comes a day after George Kordahi, the Lebanese information minister and a former MBC presenter, caused controversy with his comments about Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen.

When asked during an appearance on Barlamanasha3b TV what he thinks about the situation in Yemen, Kordahi said: “They (the Houthis) are defending themselves.”

He added: “Are they attacking anyone? In my opinion, this Yemeni war is absurd and should stop.”


Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
Updated 27 October 2021

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
  • Singapore-based data intelligence specialist acquires minority stake in a deal that values the company at more than $25 million

DUBAI: Singapore-based data intelligence company Near has acquired a minority stake in Middle Eastern SaaS provider of data-driven marketing solutions MEmob+ in a deal that values the company at $25 million.

MEmob+ is a part of Akama Holding, the Dubai-based family office with investments in media, tech and content. It was launched in 2019 by Alexandre Hawari, CEO of Akama Holding and Ihab El-Yaman, the then-head of mobile and performance director of Mediaquest, and current CEO of MEmob+.

The MarTech company has exclusive partnerships with global and regional first party data holders, giving it access to billions of device IDs globally, including more than 400 million in the MENA region. MEmob+ supports brands’ data-driven media activities, location measurement and footfall attribution, research and analysis with a roster of more than 50 major international and regional clients.

“Near, a global giant in the data intelligence market, and MEmob+, a regional leader, were destined to find a common ground and a shared ambition,” said Hawari. 

“Our technical collaboration has now evolved into a financial one. Together, we will capitalize on the attractive growth dynamics in the emerging markets in MEA to further build out MEmob’s leadership position and create the leading global location data intelligence platform,” he added.

In 2020, its second year in operation, MEmob’s turnover grew by 76 percent. Led by El-Yaman, the team behind this growth will continue to build on its track record of performance and innovation.

Near is the global leader in privacy-led data intelligence. The company provides the world’s largest source of intelligence on people, places, and products — processing data from over 1.6 billion monthly users in 44 countries. Founded in 2012, Near is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Bangalore, Tokyo and Sydney.

This is Near’s first equity stake in the Middle East. It is the result of a year of research and negotiations to find the best partner to support its expansion in the Middle East and Africa. The cash-in transaction will see the funds injected into the business to accelerate its growth and development even further by increasing its customer base, backing product extension and supporting geographical expansion.

“Our investment in MEmob+ is at the intersection of our core values at Near: Innovation and scale,” said Anil Mathews, CEO of Near, who will join MEmob’s board of directors.

“We’ve watched them grow, in size and sophistication, and realized the opportunities that would come from a closer collaboration. We focus on partners with high growth and world-class management and are impressed by the leading position MEmob+ has built,” he added.


STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV
Updated 27 October 2021

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV

STARZPLAY signs new deal with Star TV
  • Agreement will see STARZPLAY venturing into south Asian entertainment

DUBAI: STARZPLAY has signed a deal with the Star TV network to feature six of its popular entertainment channels on the platform.

The agreement will see STARZPLAY venturing into the south Asian entertainment market with plans for further expansion in the segment.

As part of the deal, the streaming platform has introduced a dedicated south Asian entertainment package featuring the channels Star Plus ME, Star Gold International, Jalsha Movies, Asianet Movies, Star Vijay International, and Asianet ME.

Chief executive officer of STARZPLAY, Maaz Sheikh, said: “Over the years, we have built strategic partnerships to offer rich and relevant content to our diverse audience. Our latest association with the Star TV network is an expansion of our content offering as we enter the Asian entertainment space, which is hugely popular and loved in this region.

“Star TV is a much-loved TV network in the region, and we are proud to associate with them to further expand their reach across the Middle East and North Africa region.”

Sudhir Nagpal, senior vice president and head of international business at Star India, said: “The MENA region has a large number of south Asian expatriates, and we are excited to bring our compelling and multilingual portfolio through the region’s leading streaming service STARZPLAY.”

The package for Star TV’s six entertainment channels is priced at 25 dirhams ($6.80). Three cricket channels, CricLife Max, CricLife, and CricLife 2, that STARZPLAY already has access to through a separate deal with Etisalat, will also be part of this package.


Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes
Updated 27 October 2021

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes

Twitter avoids revenue hit from Apple privacy changes
  • Twitter saw a “modest” impact to ad revenue due to privacy changes Apple rolled out
  • Twitter has been working to add new features such as audio chat rooms to attract users, and also rolled out improvements to its advertising capabilities

LONDON: Twitter Inc. on Tuesday reported quarterly results that avoided the brunt of Apple Inc. privacy changes on advertising that hobbled its rivals, sending its shares up 3 percent.
The social networking site has been working to add new features such as audio chat rooms to attract users, and also rolled out improvements to its advertising capabilities to reach its goal of doubling annual revenue by 2023.
Advertising revenue was $1.14 billion during the quarter ended Sept. 30, in line with consensus estimates.
The company said it saw a “modest” impact to ad revenue due to privacy changes Apple rolled out, which prevent advertisers from tracking users on their devices without their consent.
Investors had expected Twitter would be relatively shielded from being hurt by the changes, because most of its advertisers do not rely on highly targeted ads.
Twitter’s tech peers Snap and Facebook said the Apple changes hurt their ability to target and measure digital ads, citing the updates as the reason why the companies fell short of revenue expectations.
Twitter said monetizable daily active users, its term for users who are served ads, was 211 million during the third quarter, missing analyst estimates of 212.6 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
While Twitter increased its number of users outside the United States by 5 million from the previous quarter, its US base remained flat.
Total revenue, which also includes money that Twitter earns from data licensing, was $1.28 billion, also in line with Wall Street targets.
Twitter said its costs this year from hiring and investing in a new data center will flow into next year, resulting in a mid-20 percent increase in total costs for 2022.
The company forecast fourth quarter revenue between $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion.
Twitter previously announced it would sell its advertising technology unit MoPub, and the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022.
The company said it does not expect to be able to recoup the revenue loss next year from selling MoPub, estimated between $200 million to $250 million, though it added the sale does not affect Twitter’s goal of doubling annual revenue by 2023.


Trump tightens grip on social media company after SPAC deal success

Former US president Donald Trump announced plans on October 20 to launch his own social networking platform called TRUTH Social. (AFP)
Former US president Donald Trump announced plans on October 20 to launch his own social networking platform called TRUTH Social. (AFP)
Updated 27 October 2021

Trump tightens grip on social media company after SPAC deal success

Former US president Donald Trump announced plans on October 20 to launch his own social networking platform called TRUTH Social. (AFP)
  • Trump will be able to retain the ownership of his newly launched social media venture even if he chooses to make another White House run

LONDON: Former US President Donald Trump will be able to retain the ownership of his newly launched social media venture even if he chooses to make another White House run or is convicted by prosecutors who are looking into his business dealings.
Trump said last week that TRUTH Social would be created through a new company formed by a merger of the Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) and blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp.
According to regulatory filings issued late on Tuesday, Trump was referred to as the “company principal,” even though the exact size of his stake in the company was not disclosed.
However, the former president is set to keep his ownership in TMTG, even if the company faces a “material disruptive event” — the latest filings include a clause that is designed to shield his stake.
“In order to maximize business continuity and to minimize, mitigate, or eliminate any negative impacts on the Company from a Material Disruptive Event, the Company Principal’s ownership and position in the Company shall be structured in such a way as to eliminate the need for restructuring of ownership or changes in position were a Material Disruptive Event to occur,” according to the filing.
Since Trump was voted out of office in the last presidential elections in 2020, he has repeatedly dropped hints that he might seek the presidency for a third time in 2024.
Trump and his business interests are also the subject of numerous investigations from US authorities — in June, Trump’s namesake company and its chief financial officer were indicted, the first charges to arise from a more than two-year probe by New York prosecutors of Trump and his business dealings, Reuters reported.
In the latest filings, DWAC highlighted the risks of being associated with Trump’s company.
“The Purchaser hereby acknowledges the controversial nature of being associated with the Company Principal and the Company Principal’s family,” it said.
As part of an earnout clause in the deal, TMTG shareholders will receive an additional 40 million shares, based on the share price performance of DWAC, which on Tuesday closed down nearly 30 percent but are still trading well above the SPAC’s IPO price of $10 a share.
Earlier in October, Reuters reported that the merger with TMTG has delivered a potential windfall of $420 million for DWAC’s main backer, Patrick Orlando, who has been trying for a decade to reinvent himself as a serial dealmaker.