Iraq bans prank TV shows over ‘cruel’ fake terrorist scenes

Iraq bans prank TV shows over ‘cruel’ fake terrorist scenes
International footballer Alaa Mhawi was subjected to a prank kidnapping. (Screengrab)
Short Url
Updated 04 May 2021

Iraq bans prank TV shows over ‘cruel’ fake terrorist scenes

Iraq bans prank TV shows over ‘cruel’ fake terrorist scenes
  • One show, “Tanb Raslan,” or “Raslan’s Shooting,” features fake Daesh fighters kidnapping celebrities and threatening them with execution
  • Celebrities were shown terrified, in tears and one even lost consciousness while the cameras were rolling

LONDON: Iraq banned two prank TV shows on Tuesday for breaching broadcast rules following outrage from viewers when the programs first aired.

One show, “Tanb Raslan,” or “Raslan’s Shooting,” features fake Daesh fighters kidnapping celebrities and threatening them with execution.

Despite prank shows being a staple of Ramadan TV in Iraq, both shows were heavily criticized for being “tone deaf” and cruel since Daesh and extremist violence remain a real threat in the country. 

In “Raslan’s Shooting” celebrities are invited to visit displaced Iraqi families who supposedly fled the clutches of Daesh. As they arrive at the intended destination, however, they are ambushed by fake militant fighters who blindfold them and strap fake suicide bombs to their chests. 

While prank shows are popular, viewers accused the show of going too far. Celebrities were shown terrified, in tears and one even lost consciousness while the cameras were rolling.


How the inconvenient truth of Jeff Bezos’s fabricated ‘phone leak’ story revealed a deeply-rooted media bias against Saudi Arabia

Bloomberg Businessweek published an excerpt from journalist and author Brad Stone’s tell-all book on the Amazon chief which revealed the truth behind the leak. (Amazon Unbound)
Bloomberg Businessweek published an excerpt from journalist and author Brad Stone’s tell-all book on the Amazon chief which revealed the truth behind the leak. (Amazon Unbound)
Updated 18 May 2021

How the inconvenient truth of Jeff Bezos’s fabricated ‘phone leak’ story revealed a deeply-rooted media bias against Saudi Arabia

Bloomberg Businessweek published an excerpt from journalist and author Brad Stone’s tell-all book on the Amazon chief which revealed the truth behind the leak. (Amazon Unbound)
  • Many US, UK publications rushed to blame Saudi Arabia for the leak of the 2020 scandal, but only four retracted their stories when the truth emerged that Riyadh had nothing to do with it
  • Experts slam the now Bezos-owned Washington Post for failing to report fairly on him after recent book revealed that leak came from former brother-in-law, not Saudi Arabia

LONDON: On May 8, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Aljubeir took to Twitter to ask whether or not those who have accused the Kingdom of the so-called Bezos Hack would come forward and acknowledge their mistake, or “simply delete their tweets and hope that their positions at the time disappear into the sunset?”

The Bezos Hack refers to an incident in January 2020 when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was accused, without any proof, of illegally tapping into the phone of Amazon’s Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos. The crown prince was accused of leaking news of the affair with presenter Lauren Sanchez to US tabloid the National Enquirer because of Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post.

For over a year, major Western news outlets — from the New York Times and Washington Post to Britain’s Guardian and Daily Telegraph — have peddled story after story of the alleged leak by Saudi Arabia and each revelation that came afterwards.

And yet, when Bloomberg Businessweek published an excerpt from journalist and author Brad Stone’s tell-all book on the Amazon chief which revealed the truth behind the leak, the final follow-up story never came.

“This was a serious accusation and if evidence emerges that it’s untrue it’s important that media outlets either report this or correct their previous stories,” William Neal, a London-based strategic communications consultant, told Arab News.

“More broadly, too often Western outlets are keen to cast Saudi Arabia in a negative light rather than reporting the facts. Their audience deserves to see the full picture, not partial reporting,” Neal said.

The truth — which appears to have involved nothing more than Sanchez’s Hollywood B-list agent brother selling his sister out for $200,000 in what was described as a “public-relations masterstroke” from Bezos —  was not as useful to the outlets as a falsified Saudi connection was.

The Saudi angle, as Stone notes, was “only a fog of overlapping events, weak ties between disparate figures and more strange coincidences.”

He added: “For Bezos and his advisers, though, who were still trying to positively spin the embarrassing events surrounding his divorce, such a cloud of uncertainty was at the very least distracting from the more unsavory and complicated truth.”

A two-week media monitoring period by Arab News since the Bloomberg Businessweek revelation saw few Western outlets publish features on the latest update or correct their previous reporting, which has now been proven to be unsubstantiated.

Outlets including the New York Times and CNN, among others, did not run the story — a decision which goes against their supposed professional journalism practices and industry norms. Meanwhile, the Bezos-owned Washington Post found itself in its own conflict of interest where it vehemently defended its owner throughout the ordeal, while keeping silent over the latest findings.

“I would say that it does show bias when media outlets don’t take the time to correct incorrect claims, and issue corrections when new information comes out. Or sometimes what we'll see is they will issue the correction, but they'll do it quietly. So then, the original incorrect story got a lot more attention.” Julie Mastrine, director of marketing at AllSides, a US media watchdog, told Arab News.

“Our position is that ‘there is no such thing as unbiased news’ and what people really need to do is become aware of that and then learn how to spot bias and read broadly across the political spectrum so that they get multiple perspectives that can kind of challenge them to think critically and consider multiple angles.”

The Bezos-Washington Post conflict of interest has, however, been the subject of coverage by the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. They, as well as the Daily Mail and The Times of London, have published features revealing how Bezos took advantage of his ownership of the Washington Post and of former US President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to the National Enquirer to cast himself as a “political target.”

The Journal’s Holman W. Jenkins wrote in a column: “Seldom will you find a newspaper admitting that it lied to you unless it can push the blame off on a plagiarizing or fabulizing reporter who will be said to have defrauded his or her own editors and institution. Now the Washington Post has an owner who fits this description.”

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos (R) and his partner US new anchor Lauren Sanchez. (File/AFP)

A Saudi newspaper editor and a member of the Saudi Journalists Association said: “This wouldn’t be the first time that Western media has been accused of foregoing the standards of journalism that it holds others accountable for.”

They added: “It is understandable that in our industry, most editors prefer bad news and scandals. Nobody is asking these British and American newspapers for favorable coverage of Saudi Arabia, what we as fellow journalists expect of them however is to abide by their own professional standards and retract or apologize for the false stories they published.”

Other examples of bias in Western media came last March when a Houthi-caused fire at a Yemeni migrant detention center killed scores of Ethiopians. Fewer than a handful of Western media outlets covered the incident. Meanwhile, any mistakes committed by Saudi Arabia — ones that the Kingdom has acknowledged and apologized for —  are immediately scrutinized by the press.

The lack of coverage of the migrant fire even stoked criticism from one of Black Lives Matter Greater New York’s founding members.

“This is an issue that needs attention. This is something that can’t be ignored. This is something I won’t ignore. There are 44 people murdered and the news isn’t paying attention,” Hawk Newsome said in an interview on the Arab News-sponsored Ray Hanania radio show.

“I have strong reason to believe that the news isn’t paying attention because they’re black people. It’s my duty to fight for black people across the world.”

Twitter: @Tarek_AliAhmad


Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets

Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets
Updated 18 May 2021

Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets

Israel under fire for ‘sickening’ rocket emoji tweets
  • The social media account, reportedly managed by the foreign minister, claimed that the posts refer to the number of rockets fired at Israeli citizens by Hamas
  • Critics argued, however, that the posts, which came amid fresh Israeli strikes on Gaza, were insensitive

LONDON: Israel has come under fire for posting hundreds of rocket emojis on the state’s Twitter account on Monday amid its heavy bombardment of Gaza.

The social media account, reportedly managed by the foreign minister, claimed that the posts refer to the number of rockets fired at Israeli citizens by Hamas. 

Israel clarified that the tweets were merely an attempt to give viewers a perspective on the recent airstrikes. 

The tweets were accompanied by a message that read: “Just to give you all some perspective, these (rocket emojis) are the total amount of rockets shot at Israeli civilians. Each one of these rockets is meant to kill. Make no mistake. Every rocket has an address. What would you do if that address was yours?”

Critics argued, however, that the posts, which came amid fresh Israeli strikes on Gaza, were insensitive. 

The Israeli bombing campaign has killed at least 213 Palestinians so far, including 61 children, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The tweets were met with heavy criticism online. Louis Fishman, an associate professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, tweeted that “Israel has lost the diplomatic front in this war. It is now left to emojis. Really, this is pathetic.”

Others online called the tweet “sickeningly cruel and vindictive”, “deranged” and “beyond vile.” 

Israel has escalated its violent campaign on Palestine, with more than 52,000 Palestinians displaced and hundreds of buildings destroyed in the Gaza Strip.


Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats

Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats
Updated 18 May 2021

Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats

Israeli reporters facing physical attacks and online threats
  • The N12 channel provided security details for four of its on-air reporters – Dana Weiss, Guy Peleg, Yonit Levi and Rina Mazliah – after a rise in online threats against them
  • Journalist and presenter Ayala Hasson was part of a TV crew that was assaulted in Lod with rocks last week by people from the far-right group La Familia

LONDON: A rise in physical attacks and online threats against high-profile TV reporters perpetrated by members of far-right Jewish groups has been recorded in Israel and Palestine, with one media outlet providing security for some of its journalists as a result.

The N12 channel provided security details for four of its on-air reporters – Dana Weiss, Guy Peleg, Yonit Levi and Rina Mazliah – after a rise in online threats against them. One suspect has been arrested in connection to the threats made against Weiss.

Reporters from Channel 12, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan News, and Channel 13 were attacked after extremists took to the streets to target Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin in locations including Tel Aviv and Lod. 

Journalist and presenter Ayala Hasson was part of a TV crew that was assaulted in Lod with rocks last week by people from the far-right group La Familia. 

Concern over journalist safety has increased significantly since Israel bombed a Gaza tower block used by Associated Press and Al Jazeera at the weekend.


Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region

Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region
Vimal Badiani, MD of Merkle and dentsu’s Customer Experience Management (CXM) Service Line for MENA
Updated 18 May 2021

Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region

Customer experience firm promotes key managers in MENA region
  • Vimal Badiani made MD of Merkle, Dentsu’s CXM Service Line, and will be responsible for leading and growing the business
  • Beth Williams becomes Merkle’s head of performance media

DUBAI: Vimal Badiani has been promoted to managing director of customer experience management (CXM) company Merkle, which is part of Dentsu.

And he will also head Dentsu’s CXM service line for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

In his new role, Badiani will be responsible for leading and growing the business by helping clients deliver a total customer experience.

Previously head of performance, he has been part of the Dentsu group for nearly five years. He joined Merkle UK in 2016 to oversee paid search through the acquisition of Periscopix, which is now Merkle’s media agency, and moved to the MENA region in 2017 to develop Merkle’s performance business.

“My focus will be on delivering growth and maturity through new business support and existing client engagement, providing a total customer experience, underpinned by a strong data foundation, proof in performance media execution, and highlighting the value of CRM (customer relationship management) strategies for nurture,” said Badiani.

Beth Williams, the newly appointed head of performance media at Merkle MENA, has been part the business for eight years, gaining market experience in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, and now MENA.

She joined Merkle at the beginning of her career in 2014 as an associate and has experience across ad tech platforms as well as building additional service lines for Merkle MENA in feed management. In her new position, Williams will oversee Merkle’s growing performance team in Dubai and Lebanon.


Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service

Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service
Updated 18 May 2021

Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service

Twitter reportedly set to launch new subscription service
  • $2.99 per month Twitter Blue rumored to include features such as Undo Tweet and Collections

DUBAI: Twitter is reportedly working on a new subscription service called Twitter Blue that would charge users $2.99 a month.

App researcher Jane Manchun Wong tweeted that she had discovered details about the paid service, which would include features such as Undo Tweets – similar to Gmail’s Undo Mail option – and Collections, a way for users to organize favorited tweets.

According to Wong, Twitter is also working on a tiered-subscription pricing model wherein higher tiers would have premium features such as a “clutter-free news reading experience.”

Talk of Twitter launching a subscription service is not new.

In July, the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey told CNN that the firm was looking at additional streams of revenue including, potentially, a subscription model.

That same month, journalist Andrew Roth tweeted pictures of a survey the company was conducting to find out what users would like in a paid service. The options included features such as undo tweets, longer videos, and ad blocking.

In January, Twitter bought newsletter platform Revue and in May acquired Scroll. In a blog post, Mike Park, vice president of product at Scroll, said that the service was going into private beta “as we integrate into a broader Twitter subscription later in the year,” indicating that the subscription service was due for launch this year.

Twitter was reportedly also planning to launch a $4.99 per month subscription product this year called Super Follows, which would allow users and publishers to earn money from followers for exclusive content and e-commerce deals.

The exact launch date and pricing as well as product details of Twitter Blue and Super Follows are yet to be officially announced by the company.

Twitter declined to comment on the launch of Twitter Blue but with regard to Super Follows a spokesperson told Arab News: “Our purpose is to serve the public conversation. As a part of that work, we are examining and rethinking the incentives of our service – the behaviors that our product features encourage and discourage as people participate in conversation on Twitter.

“Exploring audience funding opportunities like Super Follows will allow creators and publishers to be directly supported by their audience and will incentivize them to continue creating content that their audience loves.

“Super Follows is not available yet, but we’ll have more to share in the coming months,” the spokesperson said.