Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting

Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting
Copies of Apple Daily’s July 1, 2020, edition are seen with its front page title of “Draconian law is effective, one country two system is dead” at the newspaper’s printing house in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 18 June 2021

Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting

Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting
  • Hong Kong’s historical status as a press freedom bastion has been on shaky ground for years
  • Hong Kong and Chinese officials insisted the arrests were not an attack on the media

HONG KONG: The arrest of five senior executives over content published in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper is a stark warning to all media outlets on the reach of a new national security law, analysts and industry figures say.
It was the first time articles published in Hong Kong have sparked arrests under the new law that cracks down on dissent in the international business and media hub.
Hong Kong’s historical status as a press freedom bastion has been on shaky ground for years. But Thursday’s police raid against Apple Daily was a watershed moment.
Some 500 officers descended on the paper’s newsroom, bundling computers and notepads into evidence bags.
Five executives, including its editor and publisher, were being arrested for “collusion with foreign forces,” one of the new offenses under a national security law China imposed on Hong Kong last year.
Justifying the arrests, Senior Superintendent Steve Li said the contents of 30 articles calling for international sanctions were evidence of “conspiracy” to undermine China’s national security.
Li warned Hong Kongers not to share the articles even as he refused to say which ones were now deemed illegal.
Some, he confirmed, were published before the security law was enacted in June last year, although it is not supposed to be retroactive.
For reporters and publishers across the city, the message was clear: what one writes or prints could lead to a knock on the door from the national security police.
“It’s very heartbreaking,” said Bao Choy, a local reporter who was recently prosecuted over an investigation into the police’s failure to stop an attack by government loyalists on pro-democracy protesters during political unrest in 2019.
“We are walking into a very dark tunnel, it’s kind of endless at this point. I’m not optimistic about the future of journalism in Hong Kong,” she said.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials insisted the arrests were not an attack on the media.
Security secretary John Lee portrayed Apple Daily as an outlier, a “criminal syndicate” that was different to other media.
“This action has nothing to do with normal journalism work,” he said.
“It is aimed at suspected use of journalism as a tool to commit acts that endanger national security. Normal journalists are different from them. Don’t get involved with them, and keep a distance from them.”
Lee’s comments did little to alleviate already heightened concerns that Hong Kong’s days as a media hub are numbered.
Sharron Fast, a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school, said Lee’s words were both “ominous” and opaque.
“There was no clarity at all provided on what amounts to a conspiracy to collude with foreign forces in the context of reporting on developments concerning sanctions and boycotts,” she said.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said Lee’s words had “spread fear and panic among journalists.”
It said the security law was now “a weapon to prosecute media executives and journalists for publishing reports and articles that are deemed as a threat to national security.”
The city’s Foreign Correspondents Club said the arrests “will serve to intimidate independent media in Hong Kong and will cast a chill over the free press.”
Multiple international media companies, including AFP, have regional headquarters in Hong Kong, attracted to the business-friendly regulations and free speech provisions written into the city’s mini-constitution.
But many are now questioning whether they have a future there.
The New York Times moved its Asia hub last year to South Korea after the law was enacted, and others have drawn up contingency plans.
The Washington Post also chose Seoul for a new Asia hub.
Visas are taking much longer to obtain while Beijing’s state media and senior officials have penned increasingly angry denunciations of the western media’s coverage.
Hong Kong’s leaders say they remain committed to allowing an independent media although the city has steadily plunged down an annual press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders, from 18th place in 2002 to 80th this year.
Mainland China languishes 177th out of 180, above only Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
It is not clear how long Apple Daily can survive with its owner Jimmy Lai in jail, five executives arrested and most of the company’s assets now frozen.
“The writing is on the wall for Apple Daily,” Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said.
“Whatever formal justification may be put for the raid on Apple premises and for the arrests, I think the real objective is to make it impossible for Apple to continue to publish in Hong Kong,” he added.


Twitter brings the Olympics to the platform with new features

Olympic symbol logo is seen near Japan New National Stadium for Olympic in Tokyo. (Shutterstock)
Olympic symbol logo is seen near Japan New National Stadium for Olympic in Tokyo. (Shutterstock)
Updated 31 July 2021

Twitter brings the Olympics to the platform with new features

Olympic symbol logo is seen near Japan New National Stadium for Olympic in Tokyo. (Shutterstock)
  • The platform has also created specific lists featuring curated tweets, such as Arab athletes at Tokyo, Latest news on Tokyo in Arabic, Team UAE at Tokyo, Team KSA at Tokyo, and Team Egypt at Tokyo among others

DUBAI: Following a year of delays, the Olympics are underway in Tokyo and, as with many real-life events, viewers are turning to social media to watch, comment and follow the developments.
On the opening weekend, from July 23 to 25, daily tweet volumes went up by a massive 165 percent.
In response to the increased activity around the Olympics, Twitter has introduced new features and tweaks to the platform such as an official Olympics emoji, for the first time, in more than 30 languages including Arabic.

It has also introduced emojis dedicated to sporting events such as archery, golf, fencing and tennis; gold, silver and bronze medal emojis; and country flag emojis when users tweet a three-character country hashtag such as #KSA, #EGY and #UAE.

SPEEDREAD

Twitter has introduced emojis dedicated to sporting events such as archery, golf, fencing and tennis; gold, silver and bronze medal emojis; and country flag emojis when users tweet a three-character country hashtag such as #KSA, #EGY and #UAE.

Another hashtag-based feature is #ExpertEngine. When a user tweets the hashtag #ExpertEngine along with @Olympics and a sporting event hashtag such as #Wrestling, the user will automatically receive a video reply with information about that sport.
In another first, Twitter has created a dedicated tab in the Explore section called #TokyoOlympics, which will feature country-specific Event Pages including UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, as well as dedicated sports pages featuring top tweets from trusted accounts.
The platform has also created specific lists featuring curated tweets, such as Arab athletes at Tokyo, Latest news on Tokyo in Arabic, Team UAE at Tokyo, Team KSA at Tokyo, and Team Egypt at Tokyo among others. “Make no mistake, Twitter will be the roar of the crowd in the coming weeks and where sports fans everywhere will be coming for the latest content and conversation,” said Jay Bavishi, sports partnerships, Twitter, in a blog post.


SRMG hosts US delegation, discusses media issues

SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation. (Supplied)
SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation. (Supplied)
Updated 30 July 2021

SRMG hosts US delegation, discusses media issues

SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation. (Supplied)
  • The meeting included an introduction about SRMG’s work, its new identity and future plans, and the leading role it plays in the Arab media

RIYADH: The Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) recently hosted an American delegation from the Middle East Institute headed by president Dr. Paul Salem.

SRMG’s chairman of the board of directors, Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Ruwaita, received the delegation in the presence of a number of the group’s leaders and some editors-in-chief of the group’s publications and platforms.

The meeting, which included elite members of the institute’s board of directors, experts, consultants and former US ambassadors, was an opportunity to discuss international media issues and the future of media.

The meeting included an introduction about SRMG’s work, its new identity and future plans, and the leading role it plays in the Arab media.

Topics related to developments in research, studies, publishing, content and technical progress in the media sector were also discussed.

 


Global advertising agency expands roles of 3 regional leaders

Alex Lubar (L), president of McCann Worldgroup APAC - Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network - Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC. (Supplied)
Alex Lubar (L), president of McCann Worldgroup APAC - Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network - Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC. (Supplied)
Updated 30 July 2021

Global advertising agency expands roles of 3 regional leaders

Alex Lubar (L), president of McCann Worldgroup APAC - Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network - Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC. (Supplied)
  • McCann Worldgroup trio Ghassan Harfouche, Alex Lubar, Ji Watson will take on additional responsibilities across markets

DUBAI: Global advertising agency network McCann has expanded the roles of three of its top regional leaders.

Additional responsibilities have been given to Ghassan Harfouche, group chief executive officer of the Middle East Communications Network (MCN), Alex Lubar, president of McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific (APAC), and Ji Watson, chief financial officer of McCann Worldgroup APAC and representative director of McCann Worldgroup Japan.

Bill Kolb, chairman and CEO of McCann Worldgroup, said: “Alex, Ghassan, and Ji have each demonstrated an impressive ability to drive client growth and create effective marketing solutions before and even during the difficult period of the (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 pandemic.”

The network has added APAC to the remit of Harfouche at MCN, McCann Worldgroup’s and Interpublic Group’s partner network in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (MENAT), and he will now also serve as president of McCann Worldgroup APAC.

Harfouche, who joined MCN in 2011, leads a network in the MENAT region that encompasses 14 different Interpublic Group advertising, media, and PR agency brands in 15 cities across 13 countries.

Prasoon Joshi, the current chairman in APAC, and CEO and chief creative officer of McCann Worldgroup India, will continue in his roles. Harfouche and Joshi will work together on leadership tasks while continuing to provide vision and direction to the company.

Lubar has been named president of the McCann advertising agency network in North America.

He first joined McCann in New York in 2012 and two years later was promoted to global chief marketing officer, overseeing all integrated new business activity for McCann Worldgroup. He moved to Singapore two years ago to assume his current leadership position.

In his new role, Lubar will drive creativity, growth, and further integration across all McCann brand agencies leading a region that has been highly recognized for its business and creative achievements.

Meanwhile, Watson will take over as CEO of McCann Worldgroup Japan while retaining her other existing roles.

Watson has nearly 30 years of marketing industry experience. She spent the first 20 years of her career in senior management roles on the client side, working for Turner Broadcasting, Coca-Cola, and Samsung. She moved to the agency side with global roles at Ogilvy for seven years before joining McCann APAC in 2016.

“APAC is a region of enormous significance for us as it encompasses the second and third-largest advertising markets (China and Japan). Greater connectivity between the regions will lead to increased opportunities. We have some of our best talent in the network focused on APAC and I’m excited to see what the future holds,” Kolb added.


Facebook, Twitter shut down hate preacher Anjem Choudary’s accounts

Facebook, Twitter shut down hate preacher Anjem Choudary’s accounts
Updated 30 July 2021

Facebook, Twitter shut down hate preacher Anjem Choudary’s accounts

Facebook, Twitter shut down hate preacher Anjem Choudary’s accounts
  • Move came 5 days after he created them
  • Choudary, featured in Arab News’ Preachers of Hate series, is linked to known terrorists 

LONDON: Notorious British hate preacher Anjem Choudary, 54, has had his Facebook and Twitter accounts shut down just five days after he joined the social networks.

Twitter said Choudary’s page was “permanently suspended for violating the rules” of its violent organizations policy.

Choudary, who is featured in Arab News’ Preachers of Hate series, recently had his ban on public speaking lifted. The ban had been imposed on him as one of the conditions of his early release from prison.

He was sentenced to five and a half years behind bars in 2016 for inviting support for Daesh, but served just half that time. 

The rest of the sentence was spent outside prison but under strict license conditions, including curbs to his internet and phone usage, a ban on public speaking, and a ban on contacting certain people without approval.

Those conditions came to an end on July 18 and he was legally allowed to set up an online presence, though the social networks have no obligation to allow him on their platforms.

Before he was jailed, Choudary earned notoriety as an outspoken extremist with a significant following.

Among his followers was the killer of British soldier Lee Rigby, who was beheaded in a London street, and Siddhartha Dhar, who joined Daesh in 2014 reportedly as an “executioner.”


Netflix releases trailer for ‘Al-Rawabi School for Girls’

Netflix releases trailer for ‘Al-Rawabi School for Girls’
Updated 30 July 2021

Netflix releases trailer for ‘Al-Rawabi School for Girls’

Netflix releases trailer for ‘Al-Rawabi School for Girls’
  • The Arabic Original series will premiere on Aug. 12 exclusively on Netflix

DUBAI: Netflix has released the trailer of its Arabic production, “Al-Rawabi School for Girls,” which is the first-of-its-kind young adult series in the region.

                            
“Al-Rawabi School for Girls” tells the story of a bullied highschool girl who gathers together a group of outcasts to plot the perfect revenge on their tormentors.
The six-episode series was created and written by Tima Shomali and Shirin Kamal in collaboration with Islam Al-Shomali and directed by Shomali.
Premiering on Aug. 12, the show will be released in 190 countries and available in more than 32 languages. It will also have audio and written descriptions for disabled audiences.
For Shomali, “Al-Rawabi School For Girls” is the result of a lifelong project. “What started out as scribbles on a blackboard is now an original show on Netflix,” she wrote in a blog post.
Shomali and co-creator Kamal set out to make a series that resonated with young adults while highlighting the challenges that young women experience in high school.
“The one thing I always found lacking in most shows that talk about women is the female perception on their issues,” Shomali said. This meant it was integral that female talent formed a significant part of the team working on all elements of the show, from the script to the set design and music.
The crew includes Farah Karouta as costume designer, Rand Abdulnour as production designer, Nour Halawani as sound mixer, Magda Jamil as post-production supervisor, and Rachelle Aoun and Ahmad Jalboush as directors of photography, among others.
“We collaborated with talented individuals who were solely chosen based on their artistic and creative abilities. And for that, I could not have been more proud to have worked with such an amazing cast and crew, the men and women alike, whose passion and dedication were the main force behind delivering the show’s vision,” Shomali said.
“Al-Rawabi School For Girls” is reflective of Netflix’s investment in the region. Last year, Netflix signed a five-year exclusive partnership with Saudi Arabian animation studio Myrkott to produce Saudi-focused shows and films along with a similar period first-look option on the company’s upcoming projects. It is also expanding its library of Arabic content, investing in more original Arabic productions, localizing content via subbing and dubbing efforts, partnering with businesses, and hiring people from the region to further fuel its growth in the Arab world.
The streaming giant is also committed to providing a platform for more female talent. Earlier this year, on International Women’s Day, Netflix pledged $5 million globally toward programs that help to identify, train and provide work placements for female talent around the world.
The investment is part of Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, which will result in the company investing $20 million a year for the next five years in building more inclusive pipelines behind the camera.
In the Arab world, this means working with creators such as Shomali. Later this year, it will launch “Finding Ola,” in which Egyptian Tunisian actress Hend Sabry will take the role of executive producer for the first time in her career.
Currently, the platform features several Arab female talents from the entertainment industry through shows and films including “Nappily Ever After” and “Whispers,” directed by Haifa Al-Mansour and Hana Al-Omair from Saudi Arabia; “The Kite” and “Solitaire,” directed by Randa Chahal Sabag and Sophie Boutros from Lebanon; and “Wajib,” directed by Anne Marie Jacir from Palestine.