Hong Kong’s embattled Apple Daily to close by Saturday

The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. (AFP)
The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2021

Hong Kong’s embattled Apple Daily to close by Saturday

The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. (AFP)
  • Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper will print its last edition on Thursday and close its doors on Saturday.
  • Last week, the Hong Kong police arrested five editors and executives from the newspaper on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper will close by this weekend, its parent company said Wednesday, following last week’s arrest of five editors and executives and the freezing of $2.3 million in assets under the city’s national security law.
The board of directors of Next Media said in a statement that Apple Daily’s print edition and online edition will cease no later than Saturday due to “the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong.”
The paper’s closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019. The announcement also coincided with the start of the first trial under the national security law, imposed by Beijing about a year ago.
The widely expected move to close Apple Daily followed last week’s arrests of the five editors and executives, who were detained on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security. Police cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of an alleged conspiracy to encourage foreign nations to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.
It was the freezing of assets that spelled the paper’s demise. The board of directors had earlier this week written to Hong Kong’s security bureau requesting the release of some of its funds so the company could pay wages.
Police earlier Wednesday arrested a 55-year-old man on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security. According to Apple Daily, which cited unidentified sources, the man writes editorials for the newspaper under the pseudonym Li Ping.
The police operation against Apple Daily drew criticism from the US, the E.U. and Britain, which say Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for illegal activities.
The national security law imposed last year criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion.
The first person to stand trial under the law, Tong Ying-kit, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of terrorism and inciting secession by driving a motorcycle into police officers during a 2019 rally while carrying a flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” Several officers were knocked over and three sustained injuries.
His trial will set the tone for how Hong Kong handles national security offenses. So far, more than 100 people have been arrested under the security law, including prominent pro-democracy activists such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the publisher of Apple Daily.
The slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times” was often chanted during anti-government demonstrations demanding broader democratic freedoms. Protests accuse Beijing of walking back on its promise at the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain that the city could retain its freedoms not seen elsewhere in China for 50 years.
China responded with tough measures silencing opposition voices, including the national security law.
The legislation makes calls for Hong Kong independence illegal, and a government notice last July said the protest slogan connotes a call for independence and subversion of state power.
A court ruled last month that Tong will stand trial without a jury, a departure from Hong Kong’s common law traditions. Under the national security law, a panel of three judges can replace jurors, and the city’s leader has the power to designate judges to hear such cases.
The law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison for serious offenses. Tong is on trial at the High Court, where sentences are not capped.


Like Digital & Partners appoints new director of technology

Shukla has managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates. (Supplied)
Shukla has managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates. (Supplied)
Updated 05 August 2021

Like Digital & Partners appoints new director of technology

Shukla has managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates. (Supplied)
  • Pradeep Shukla to lead all enterprise technology practices at the agency

DUBAI: Digital agency Like Digital & Partners has appointed Pradeep Shukla as director of technology.

Shukla will oversee all the agency’s “enterprise technology practices,” which include Sitecore and Shopify.

“We are very excited to have Pradeep onboard. We have noticed his work for a while now and understand the knowledge and expertise he brings. We look forward to the transformation and know-how he brings to the agency,” Karl Escritt, the agency’s co-founder, said in a press release.

Shukla has over 15 years of experience in the business at agencies including Wunderman Thomson, Hexagon and Mirum, and at organizations including TATA Consultancy Services and General Mills. Recognized twice with the Sitecore MVP award in the Technology and Ambassador category, Shukla has worked on various accounts across sectors including oil and gas, retail, telecom, tourism, and government.

He has also managed several technology teams for clients including Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, and Mall of Emirates.

“Joining a new team is always a learning curve. I have learned so much in my previous positions and I am so excited to bring my expertise to these new projects at Like Digital & Partners,” Shukla said in the press release.


General Entertainment Authority, MBC Academy launch nationwide talent search

Creative Journey Around the Kingdom Awards Ceremony in Abha. (Twitter)
Creative Journey Around the Kingdom Awards Ceremony in Abha. (Twitter)
Updated 05 August 2021

General Entertainment Authority, MBC Academy launch nationwide talent search

Creative Journey Around the Kingdom Awards Ceremony in Abha. (Twitter)
  • The Saudi General Entertainment Authority launches its “Creative Journey Around the Kingdom” initiative in partnership with MBC Academy

LONDON: The Saudi General Entertainment Authority has launched its “Creative Journey Around the Kingdom” initiative in partnership with MBC Academy.

The aim is to discover talented individuals from across the Kingdom in order to boost the country’s media and entertainment industry, in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

So far, from 1,687 applicants, 77 people have been chosen by MBC Academy and the General Entertainment Authority to take part in the scheme. Twenty of those participants hail from Tabuk, 18 each from Jazan and AlUla, and seven from Jeddah.

The search will continue in Taif from August 16 to 18, before moving on to Qassim, Al-Khobar, and finally Riyadh.


Facebook suspends accounts of group over ad transparency dispute

The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. (File/AFP)
The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 August 2021

Facebook suspends accounts of group over ad transparency dispute

The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook suspends the personal accounts of a group of researchers for publishing academic studies about the platform at “the expense of people’s privacy.” 

LONDON: Facebook suspended the personal accounts of a group of researchers on Tuesday for publishing academic studies about the platform at “the expense of people’s privacy.” 

The suspended accounts belong to members of the Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University (NYU) who criticized the platform’s political advertizing transparency tools, revealing a number of flaws.

“We repeatedly explained our privacy concerns to NYU, but their researchers ultimately chose not to address them and instead resumed scraping people’s data and ads from our platform,” a Facebook spokesperson told Arab News. 

“We have provided the researchers the opportunity to use our transparency tools in ways that don’t violate our terms and that are privacy-protective,” the spokesperson added. “We were left with no choice but to disable the researchers’ developer access, accounts and apps. We welcome academic study of our platform — just not at the expense of people’s privacy.”

The tool in question is a browser extension called Ad Observer, which can be downloaded voluntarily by Facebook users. 

The users give the extension access to their personal Facebook pages in order to collect anonymized data about the adverts they see. That information then goes into a public database, where journalists and researchers can observe how and where politicians are focusing their spending.

Facebook has previously warned the researchers several times that Ad Observer was a breach of users’ privacy and issued them with a warning before the tool was even launched. 

A researcher in NYU, Laura Edelson, tweeted on Tuesday that Facebook had suspended her account alongside other members of the group. 

 “This evening, Facebook suspended my Facebook account and the accounts of several people associated with Cybersecurity for Democracy, our team at NYU. This has the effect of cutting off our access to Facebook’s Ad Library data, as well as CrowdTangle,” she said.

“Outside analysis of Facebook content from essential organizations like the Ad Observatory are increasingly exposing Facebook as a breeding ground for extremism and right wing trash,” a spokesperson for the Real Facebook Oversight Board, an activist group established to counter the company’s own Oversight Board, stated.

“Now like the authoritarian governments they court, Facebook is cracking down on its critics.”


UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge
Updated 05 August 2021

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge

UK media urge govt to give Afghan colleagues refuge
  • A number of Afghan journalists and media workers have been killed or wounded in attacks over recent months

LONDON: Britain’s leading newspapers and broadcasters on Thursday urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give sanctuary to media workers in Afghanistan under threat from the resurgent Taliban.

In an open letter, every major newspaper plus broadcasters Sky News and ITN said media workers risk “persecution, physical harm, incarceration, torture or death.”

The “peril is acute and intensifying” as the Islamist insurgents take control of vast swathes of the countryside and key border towns, they added.

“President Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan without conditions is a risk to western security, but more urgently still to Afghanistan’s people, the letter said.

“None are more exposed than Afghan civilians who have served western military forces during their 20-year mission to thwart terrorism and Islamist extremism in the country, and in particular those who have helped western media organizations to report it,” it continued.

“We and other media organizations implore and plead with Boris Johnson and (Foreign Secretary) Dominic Raab to put in place a special visa program for journalists and other media workers who are at risk in their home country. Honour and duty require it.”

The letter was organized by the Times and The Guardian, who fear the return of the Taliban following the NATO pull-out spells danger for those who helped western entities during the two-decade war, or who reported critically on the group.

They pointed to the murder of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a reporter with Radio Free Europe, who was killed in November last year by an explosive device attached to his car.

“Time is running out. Should Afghan journalists be left to the Taliban’s mercies, the costs to Britain’s reputation will be immense,” they wrote.

A number of Afghan journalists and media workers have been killed or wounded in attacks over recent months.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer backed the campaign, saying “the UK must not abandon them.”


STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio
Updated 04 August 2021

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio
  • Partnership adds ‘CricketPang’ animation series endorsed by Ajinkya Rahane, vice captain of Indian cricket team

DUBAI: STARZPLAY has expanded its portfolio of kids’ content on the streaming platform with the addition of “CricketPang,” an animated TV series based on cricket and endorsed by the talented Ajinkya Rahane, vice captain of the Indian cricket team.

“We are thrilled to stream ‘CricketPang’ for our youngest viewers who can now enjoy a fun animation show while also honing their creative skills. We look forward to our partnership with YouNeedCharacter and are confident that this all-new edition will be loved by our MENA subscribers,” said Nadim Dada, vice president of content acquisition at STARZPLAY.

The series is produced by global character creation and animation production company YouNeedCharacter, which recently signed Indian cricketer Ajinkya Rahane as the brand ambassador for the show. With Rahane onboard, the company aims to launch activities to support cricket by securing scholarships for promising young cricketers.

“‘CricketPang’ offers a simple and interesting way for kids to learn while being entertained, and we hope that animation fans in the region enjoy the series as much as we enjoyed creating it,” said Minsu Song, CEO of YouNeedCharacter.

Each episode of “CricketPang” has been designed to contain stories of friendship, conflict resolutions, cooperation and creativity in ways that children can understand and learn from. The fun and light-hearted stories aim to help children with problem-solving, cooperation and communication skills.

“We have been working continuously to increase awareness for ‘CricketPang’,” Song said, adding that the partnership with STARZPLAY would further strengthen the brand.

The first season of the series is currently streaming on STARZPLAY.