Turkey’s media regulator warns Spotify over critical content

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek speaks during a media event in New York on May 20, 2015. (REUTERS file photo)
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek speaks during a media event in New York on May 20, 2015. (REUTERS file photo)
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Updated 09 May 2021

Turkey’s media regulator warns Spotify over critical content

Turkey’s media regulator warns Spotify over critical content
  • The digital platform has gained a wide audience recently as one of the last remaining outlets for free speech in Turkey
  • Spotify was granted an operating license by Turkey for 10 years after applying on Oct. 15 

ANKARA: Turkey’s media watchdog has warned online audio streaming giant Spotify to “regulate its content” in line with Turkish legislation or risk critical items being removed or cut. 

In a surprise move late on Friday, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) said that it will consider removing or cutting all content found “inappropriate” — a term that is open to interpretation when applied to high-profile critical podcasts that attract large audiences. 

Spotify was granted an operating license by Turkey for 10 years after applying on Oct. 15. But its digital content is open to monitoring by the country’s media regulator. 

The digital platform has gained a wide audience recently as one of the last remaining outlets for free speech in Turkey, especially with its podcasts providing critical reporting and commentary on Turkish domestic politics. 

Spotify offers a relative free space in a media environment in which almost 90 percent of companies are related to pro-government conglomerates. 

“The RTUK’s move to regulate the content of streaming companies is another example of the Turkish government’s efforts to tighten its grip on online content,” Cathryn Grothe, research associate at Freedom House, told Arab News. 

Grothe said that the move is part of a long decline in internet freedom, characterized by restrictive regulations such as the social media law, blocked websites, and heavy-handed crackdowns on independent media and journalists. 

“Streaming services such as Spotify create a unique space where people can express themselves, relate to loved ones and friends over shared music or podcasts, and engage on a range of important issues, including human rights and politics,” she said. 

Grothe believes the threat from the Turkish government could encourage Spotify to restrict essential information for people in Turkey, effectively shrinking the remaining opportunities for free expression, journalism and artistic freedom.

Utku Cakirozer, a journalist and MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said that restrictions over digital media had been discussed since 2019. 

“Such legislative constraints will only boost the global perception about the extent of censorship in Turkey. If you tend to ban a digital platform just after it is granted a license, it will go away sooner or later. You cannot expect them to accept such restrictions forever,” he told Arab News. 

Experts believe the RTUK’s latest statement signals growing censorship of the podcast sector in Turkey. 

Orhan Sener, a journalist who has been preparing a podcast for a year about technological developments in the country, said that content developers and journalists at Spotify have been self-censoring to avoid drawing government ire. 

“This trend will grow after the media regulator’s move. I don’t expect an absolute and omnipresent censorship on Spotify podcasts in the short run because the company attaches high importance to Turkey’s vast market, but Turkish journalists will have to revise their content to a certain extent to preserve their place in this sector,” he told Arab News. 

Sener said that a potential restriction on podcast content shows that the government is unwilling to tolerate any dissident voice, even if comes from the digital sphere. 


Heartbreak in newsroom as Apple Daily bids farewell to Hong Kong

Heartbreak in newsroom as Apple Daily bids farewell to Hong Kong
Updated 9 sec ago

Heartbreak in newsroom as Apple Daily bids farewell to Hong Kong

Heartbreak in newsroom as Apple Daily bids farewell to Hong Kong
  • Staff at the Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily bid farewell as the paper prints its last edition on Thursday.
  • Overnight, hundreds of Hong Kong residents gathering in the rain outside Apple Daily offices where a million copies were being printed.
HONG KONG: Apple Daily cub reporter Yau Ting-leung could not sleep much. Tired, he lay in bed on Wednesday morning checking the news.
The 23-year-old had been in his dream job at the pro-democracy tabloid for less than a year, but now things were unraveling.
Six days after a police raid on Apple, the arrests of its top two editors and a freeze of core assets on national security grounds, the company was running out of cash and options.
Final publication was set for Saturday, with a skeleton crew putting out the last of the roughly 9,500 editions of the paper.
“At 11:30 a.m. the news came that they’d arrested our lead columnist,” Yau told Reuters. “At that moment, I just felt numb.”
Soon afterward, the board decided it would be the last day for the feisty Chinese-language publication that combined celebrity gossip with investigations of the powerful.
Yau, the youngest member of the paper’s investigative team, ignored a warning from management to stay home, showing up at the office in an isolated industrial estate. Many others did the same.
With Apple’s website and 26 years’ worth of content to be purged at midnight, time was running out.
“I didn’t have to write anything today. I was put in charge of saving our work, including our award-winning reports,” said Yau, who is three years younger than Apple Daily. But he was unable to finish: “No matter how hard I tried to back up ... there just wasn’t enough time.”
Ten meters from Yau, Norman Choi was at work on a story. This time, though, it was an obituary for Apple Daily.
Surrounded by the clutter of 22 years at the paper, including crackers and empty liquor bottles, the 51-year-old senior features editor clacked away at his keyboard, wearing a black mask and clothes.
As he tried to focus, Choi had a mountain of other tasks, such as taking down slogans beside his desk.
“I’m not deliberately staying behind. I just don’t want to leave my fellow reporters,” he said.
Deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man, out on bail after her arrest, wandered the open-plan newsroom with its “I love Apple” logos on the wall, red-eyed at times.
“It’s hard to control our emotions,” she said.

APPLE TREE
As news of the paper’s impending closure spread, staff could see and hear crowds gathering outside. Some chanted “Thank you Apple Daily — Add oil!” a Chinese expression of encouragement that had become a refrain among supporters of the paper.
Around midnight, the first warm copies of the record 1 million to be printed — more than 10 times the usual press run — came off the presses and were handed out to the cheering crowd.
Ryan Law, 47, Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief, told Reuters before his arrest, “No matter what happens to us, you can’t kill the people who read Apple Daily.”
Photographer Harry Long, and his pictures team did not have to venture far for their last front-page image.
They settled on a shot from the roof showing the people, many with umbrellas, and vehicles clogging the normally quiet street below. Beside the picture, the headline read: “Hong Kongers bid a painful farewell in the rain.”
Lights from mobile phones twinkle up from the supporters.
“I’m heartbroken,” Long said.
Yau waved down from the roof with his own mobile phone, hugging colleagues soon to be out of a job.
“We would all suddenly start crying as we just couldn’t bear to see this end,” he said. But at the same time, “everyone was happy too. That we could all work through this last day together, united in doing this one thing.”
Choi, the features editor, found the public support touching.
“It’s the first time so many readers come and support us here, and I know it’s the last time,” he said. Their showing up “means everything in my career in Apple Daily, and in my life.”
Papers were stacked and loaded onto lorries and vans and whisked to newsstands across the city of 7.5 million.
At a kiosk in the working class district of Mong Kok, hundreds queued around the block to snap up a copy. Some chanted “Liberate Hong Kong — Revolution of our Times,” the rallying cry of the city’s mass anti-China protests in 2019.
The last edition carried a farewell letter from Chan, the deputy chief editor.
“When an apple is buried beneath the soil, its seed will become a tree filled with bigger and more beautiful apples.
“Love you all forever, love Hong Kong forever.”

Bangladeshi cleric issues fatwa on Facebook emoji

Ahmadullah is among Bangladesh’s new crop of Internet-savvy Islamic preachers who have drawn millions of followers online. (File/AFP)
Ahmadullah is among Bangladesh’s new crop of Internet-savvy Islamic preachers who have drawn millions of followers online. (File/AFP)
Updated 9 min 24 sec ago

Bangladeshi cleric issues fatwa on Facebook emoji

Ahmadullah is among Bangladesh’s new crop of Internet-savvy Islamic preachers who have drawn millions of followers online. (File/AFP)
  • A prominent Bangladeshi cleric has issued a fatwa against people using Facebook’s “haha” emoji to mock people.
  • He posted a three-minute video in which he discussed the mocking of people on Facebook and issued a fatwa.

DHAKA: A prominent Muslim Bangladeshi cleric with a huge online following has issued a fatwa against people using Facebook’s “haha” emoji to mock people.
Ahmadullah, who uses one name, has more than three million followers on Facebook and YouTube. He regularly appears on television shows to discuss religious issues in the Muslim-majority country.
On Saturday he posted a three-minute video in which he discussed the mocking of people on Facebook and issued a fatwa, an Islamic edict, explaining how it is “totally haram (forbidden)” for Muslims.
“Nowadays we use Facebook’s haha emojis to mock people,” Ahmadullah said in the video, which has since been viewed more than two million times.
“If we react with haha emojis purely out of fun and the same was intended by the person who posted the content, it’s fine.
“But if your reaction was intended to mock or ridicule people who posted or made comments on social media, it’s totally forbidden in Islam,” Ahmadullah added.
“For God’s sake I request you to refrain from this act. Do not react with ‘haha’ to mock someone. If you hurt a Muslim he may respond with bad language that would be unexpected.”
Thousands of followers reacted to his video, most of them positively, although several hundred made fun of it — using the “haha” emoji.
Ahmadullah is among Bangladesh’s new crop of Internet-savvy Islamic preachers who have drawn millions of followers online.
Their commentaries on religious and social issues are hugely popular, drawing millions of views per video.
Some have earned notoriety with bizarre claims on the origin of the coronavirus. A few are accused of preaching hatred, while several have turned into celebrities for their fun-filled videos.


Orange Egypt makes it to No. 2 on YouTube Ads Leaderboard, Cannes Edition

Orange Egypt makes it to No. 2 on YouTube Ads Leaderboard, Cannes Edition
Updated 20 min 28 sec ago

Orange Egypt makes it to No. 2 on YouTube Ads Leaderboard, Cannes Edition

Orange Egypt makes it to No. 2 on YouTube Ads Leaderboard, Cannes Edition
  • Egyptian telecom provider is the only regional brand to be featured on the global leaderboard

YouTube released its Ads Leaderboard, 2021 Cannes Edition, celebrating the most popular video ads from around the world posted between June 1, 2020, and May 30, 2021.

The top 10 ads represent over 635 million global views across the whole leaderboard.

This year, telecom provider Orange Egypt’s Ramadan ad placed second, making it the only brand from the Middle East region to rank on the leaderboard. The ad was created and distributed by Orange Egypt’s creative agency Leo Burnett and media agency UM.

 

 

“It brings us great honor and pride for our campaign to be ranked at second place, surpassing many other strong global brands,” Maha Nagy, vice president of communications at Orange Egypt, told Arab News.

In the region, Ramadan advertisements are a critical part of any brand’s marketing strategy. But, as people started celebrating Ramadan differently due to the pandemic, it became essential for brands to shift away from the usual theme of physical togetherness to stay relevant.

“It was crucial to build a campaign with relevant human insight in order to stand out and appeal to people. The emotional and human campaign “سنة الحياة,” highlights how people today maintain their closeness through technology and how Orange, as a leading telecom company, plays a major role in helping individuals stay connected,” said a spokesperson from Orange Egypt.

Here’s a list of all the ads on the Cannes YouTube Ads Leaderboard:

1. Hyundai x BTS — For the Earth 60 sec

Brand: Hyundai Motor Company

Media Agency: Innocean Worldwide

Creative Agency: Innocean Worldwide

 

2. Orange — Ramadan 2020

Brand: Orange Egypt

Media Agency: UM-IPG

Creative Agency: Leo Burnett

 

3. Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Alexa’s Body

Brand: Amazon

Media Agency: Rufus Global

Creative Agency: Lucky Generals

 

4. OPPO F17 Pro — Diwali Edition | #BeTheLight To Spread The Light

Brand: OPPO India

Media Agency: HYHK

Creative Agency: CCLAB

 

5. You Can’t Stop Us — Nike

Brand: Nike

Media Agency: Within

Creative Agency: Wieden + Kennedy

 

6. LOST & CROWNED — A Clash Short Film

Media Agency: In-house

Creative Agency: Psyop (Animation Partner)

 

7.  No Drama

Brand: My Switzerland

Media Agency: SirMary

Creative Agency: Wirz

 

8. Feel the Rhythm of KOREA: JEONJU

Brand: Imagine Your Korea

Media Agency: Incross

Creative Agency: Korea Press Foundation; HS Ad

 

9. Introducing Apple Watch Series 6 — It Already Does That

Brand: Apple India

Media Agency: NA

Creative Agency: NA

 

10. #VilsHere — Launch Ad

Brand: Vodafone Idea (Vi)

Media Agency: Wavemaker India

Creative Agency: Ogilvy India

 


Dutch journalist held in Greece for sheltering asylum seeker

After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon. (File/Twitter)
After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon. (File/Twitter)
Updated 38 min 36 sec ago

Dutch journalist held in Greece for sheltering asylum seeker

After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon. (File/Twitter)
  • Dutch journalist, Ingeborg Beugel, faces a year in prison and a hefty fine in Greece for sheltering an Afghan asylum seeker.
  • Beugel had been trying to help her 23-year-old Afghan guest Fridoon, who had been picked up by Greek police earlier in the day.

ATHENS: A Dutch journalist faces a year in prison and a 5000-euro ($6,000) fine in Greece after police arrested her for sheltering a young Afghan asylum seeker, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Ingeborg Beugel, 61, says she spent the night in a police cell earlier this month on the island of Hydra and was taken handcuffed to court under a 30-year-old law designed to discourage assistance to Albanians who came to Greece illegally at the time.
Since coming to power in 2019, the conservative Greek government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has toughened migration and asylum laws.
Beugel’s lawyer Vassilis Papadopoulos told AFP that being convicted for sheltering a migrant would be “very unusual in Greece.”
A correspondent for Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, Beugel was arrested on June 13 in Hydra where she has lived on and off with her children for the past 40 years.
She had been trying to help her 23-year-old Afghan guest Fridoon, who had been picked up by police earlier in the day.
After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon.
Having alerted the Dutch embassy in Athens, she was soon released and her court case was postponed to October.
“The clause in the law is about hiding undocumented migrants. I have never hidden that Fridoon lives with me,” Beugel told De Groene Amsterdammer, which reported on her story.
In an interview with AFP, Beugel said a police officer told her that “angry islanders had called the police, anonymously.”
She added that Fridoon only became “’illegal’ involuntarily” as the Greek Asylum Service was closed for months due to the pandemic and he was unable to meet specific deadlines.
He fled Kabul because his father and uncle were killed by the Taliban, and arrived in Lesbos in 2015, Beugel said.
“He has had two asylum applications rejected because in July 2017 when he had to tell his story to the Greek Asylum Service, he got a translator who wrote his story wrong in Greek. It took years to correct that wrongdoing, and he is now entitled to another attempt,” she told AFP.
In 2017 in a similar case, Cedric Herrou, a French national, was sentenced to four months in prison and a fine of 3,000 euros for sheltering migrants. He was acquitted on appeal in 2020.


Google Doodle celebrates life of Algerian artist Mohammed Racim

Google Doodle celebrates life of Algerian artist Mohammed Racim
Updated 24 June 2021

Google Doodle celebrates life of Algerian artist Mohammed Racim

Google Doodle celebrates life of Algerian artist Mohammed Racim
  • Racim’s art helped revitalize Algerian pride, playing an instrumental role in the North African country’s independence movement

DUBAI: Google has created a doodle to celebrate the life of Algerian artist Mohammed Racim Thursday, marking 125 years since his birth on June 24.

The doodle can be seen in Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Lebanon and Algeria.

Born in 1896, to a family of established artisans in Algiers, Racim’s first exposure to art was a stint working in a colonial drawing office when he was 14, where he copied the designs of carpets, Arab embroideries, copper ornaments, and wood sculptures.

He is buried with his wife in the Thaalibia Cemetery of the Casbah of Algiers.

While these helped develop his art, it was an introduction to the ancient form of illustration -  Persian miniatures – that became the foundation for his work.

From then onwards he developed his own personal hybrid form of expression through miniatures – combining traditional materials, classical arabesque and calligraphic styles - but used them to frame figurative inserts that had modern features.

He was still a teenager when he became established, decorating with calligraphic plates.

Racim’s main customers were businessmen and government officials.

By 1930, Racim's vibrant miniatures were making the rounds, elevating him to a major figure in Algerian culture.

Racim reinvigorated Maghrebi cultural customs while redefining the global perspective of the Arab world through art. 

Racim’s art helped revitalize Algerian pride, playing an instrumental role in the North African country’s independence movement.

As with most of his work, Racim's “Women at the Cascad” illustrates an imagined past, before the arrival of the French colonizers at a time when the indigenous people ruled their lands freely.    

His memory lives on today, with much of Racim’s personal collection displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Algiers. 

And the Algerian School for Miniature Painting he founded with his brother, Omar – remains open.