Myanmar court extends pretrial detention of US journalist

The US Embassy arranged to have the detained journalist speak by phone with his wife, Julianna, in Yangon. (AFP PHOTO / COURTESY OF THE FENSTER FAMILY)
The US Embassy arranged to have the detained journalist speak by phone with his wife, Julianna, in Yangon. (AFP PHOTO / COURTESY OF THE FENSTER FAMILY)
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Updated 02 July 2021

Myanmar court extends pretrial detention of US journalist

The US Embassy arranged to have the detained journalist speak by phone with his wife, Julianna, in Yangon. (AFP PHOTO / COURTESY OF THE FENSTER FAMILY)
  • Myanmar court extends the pretrial detention of US journalist Danny Fenster who was arrested in May.
  • Fensert is reportedly in good health but appeared to have lost some weight at Thursday’s hearing at the special court at Yangon’s Insein Prison, where he is being held.

BANGKOK: A court in Myanmar on Thursday extended the pretrial detention of Danny Fenster, a US journalist employed by an online news magazine in the military-led Southeast Asian nation who was arrested in May on an incitement charge that carries a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment.
Fenster, who is the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24, as he was trying to board a flight to go to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family.
Fenster’s lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, told The Associated Press that the 37-year-old journalist was in good health but appeared to have lost some weight at Thursday’s hearing at the special court at Yangon’s Insein Prison, where he is being held. He asked that his wife send him medicine and food. Two consular officials from the US Embassy also attended the hearing, the lawyer said.
The next hearing is scheduled for July 15, but the case will not come to trial then because the court has too many cases backed up, he said.
Fenster’s court appearance came a day after authorities began a release of about 2,300 prisoners who were charged in connection with protests that erupted after the military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February. The new government has tried to silence independent news media by withdrawing their licenses and by arresting journalists.
Those released included protesters as well as journalists. Most were being held on the same charge as Fenster. Because there is no official list of freed detainees and the releases are taking place over several days, the exact number of journalists freed is not known.
An unofficial tally kept by Myanmar journalists says of 88 journalists who were arrested after February’s military takeover, 49 have been released, including 14 on Wednesday.
In June, a court released US journalist Nathan Maung, who was arrested in March while working for Kamayut Media, a local online news platform. The charges against him were dropped, his case dismissed and he was deported to the United States.
“The Myanmar junta’s continued detention of journalist Danny Fenster is outrageous and unacceptable. Independent reporting of what’s happening on the ground in Myanmar should not be considered a crime,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in an emailed statement.
“The authorities should immediately drop all charges against Fenster, and permit him to leave the country if that is what he wants to do. The junta should also unconditionally free the more than 50 Burmese journalists who are still in detention and lift the license revocation orders imposed against numerous local media outlets,” Robertson said. Myanmar is also known by its old name, Burma.
Than Zaw Aung said Fenster is charged in connection with his work at a previous job, as a reporter and copy editor for the online news site Myanmar Now.
Myanmar Now, along with several other media outlets, had its license revoked in early March, banning it from publishing on any platform. However, it has continued to operate online.
Fenster resigned from Myanmar Now in July last year and joined Frontier Myanmar a month later, so it is unclear why he was arrested, his lawyer said.
“I don’t know in detail. What I can say is that he was accused as a staff member of Myanmar Now. I’m not clear if it concerns a story posted on Myanmar Now or not.”
Fenster’s family in the United States, led by his parents and brother Bryan, have rallied support for his release with a website, an online petition and contacts with their representatives in Congress to keep pressure on the State Department to push Myanmar on the case. The US government has made repeated pleas for media freedom in Myanmar and for Fenster’s release.
The Irish rock band U2, which has long taken an interest in the fight for democracy in Myanmar, on Wednesday tweeted its support for Fenster’s release.
“Journalism is not a crime. We join @RepAndyLevin and @bryanfenster in urging the immediate release of journalist Danny Fenster from detainment in Myanmar and thank heroic organizations like @pressfreedom for fighting to protect journalists everywhere — #BringDannyHome,” it said.
“This is what we want. We want champions of human rights and social justice in a connected world to take on our cause,” Bryan Fenster said Thursday. “And what better example of that than all the guys in U2?”
Bryan Fenster said he was able to speak to his brother on the phone this week — their first conversation since Danny Fenster was detained.
The US Embassy arranged to have the detained journalist speak by phone with his wife, Julianna, in Yangon. “Then, they were able to get in touch with me on another phone and kind of held them up to each other so we could hear each other and talk to each other,” Bryan Fenster said.
“To finally hear his voice, you know, we could finally exhale, sink into the back of the couch for a little bit,” he said. “He sounded good. We were able to crack a few jokes that made me feel really good, in particular, because he’s got a great sense of humor. And happy he has his wits about him given the circumstances.”


Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
Updated 26 November 2021

Rights watchdog condemns assault of Afghan journalist

Afghan journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi was recently attacked while walking to his home in Kabul. (CPJ/Social Media)
  • Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, a presenter at privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him
  • In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the violent attack on Afghani journalist Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, who was assaulted in Kabul while on his way home. 

Ahmadi, a presenter at the privately owned broadcaster Ayna TV, was walking to his house when two unidentified men assaulted him and attempted to shoot him. 

The men, whose faces were covered by black handkerchiefs, reportedly shouted, “Reporter! Stop,” demanded to see his identification card and asked him where he worked. 

“The Taliban has repeatedly failed to uphold its stated commitment to press freedom, as violent attacks against journalists continue and proper investigations or accountability are nowhere to be found,” said CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, Steven Butler.

“The Taliban should reverse this trend by thoroughly investigating the attack on Ahmad Baseer Ahmadi, and holding the perpetrators accountable.”

Ahmadi’s assailants reportedly demanded he unlock his phone and open his WhatsApp and Facebook accounts. When Ahmadi refused, the men beat him with pistols and proceeded to shoot at him when he asked for help. 

The shots missed Ahmadi, but the men continued kicking him while he was on the ground, breaking his jaw. 

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers. 

In October, unidentified gunmen injured journalists Abdul Khaliq Hussaini and Alireza Sharifi in separate attacks in Kabul, and Taliban members beat and detained Zahidullah Husainkhil.


Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists

News photographers light candles to pay tribute to Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui, after he was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters. (Reuters/File Photo)
News photographers light candles to pay tribute to Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui, after he was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 26 November 2021

Advocacy group calls on EU states to provide safe passage for Afghan journalists

News photographers light candles to pay tribute to Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui, after he was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called on EU states to provide safe passage for fleeing Afghan journalists and commit to helping them resettle in the EU.

Tom Gibson, CPJ’s EU representative, said: “Journalists fleeing Afghanistan have received far too little support from governments around the world and their safe passage must now become a political priority.

“EU member states must make clear commitments to Afghan journalists fleeing persecution, including concrete and collaborative strategies for their evacuation and resettlement. The EU has a duty not to turn the other way,” he added.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, the CPJ has voiced concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers.

Recently, Afghan journalist Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was shot and injured in the capital Kabul for his work as a media professional. Similarly, a week earlier, Taliban fighters raided the homes of two journalists and seized cars, desktop computers and a licensed weapon from one of the houses.

The Taliban also raided the homes of three Deutsche Welle journalists in Afghanistan the week before, shot dead a relative of a DW reporter and severely injured another while attempting to track him down.

While EU member states, the UK and the US vowed to provide a safe passage for Afghan journalists, they are yet to voice clear commitments to aid in the resettling of high-risk Afghans in their own countries.


Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
Updated 26 November 2021

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony

Award winners revealed at prestigious Middle East PR industry gongs ceremony
  • 88 entries shortlisted in 56 categories for 2021 Middle East Public Relations Association awards

DUBAI: This year’s winners of a prestigious Middle Eastern public relations awards scheme were revealed at a recent presentation ceremony in the UAE.

More than 88 entries were shortlisted across 56 categories in the 2021 edition of the Middle East Public Relations Association awards.

The communications industry has been seriously impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic with many companies and organizations cutting their advertising and marketing budgets.

And the latest MEPRA awards took into account the damage caused to the sector by the global health crisis through categories such as best creative approach and best internal communications response during COVID-19, and best social impact campaign in response to the virus outbreak.

The classes saw gold trophies awarded to APCO Worldwide for its campaign “Adapting UOWD’s Education Model in the Age of the Pandemic,” Mastercard MEA for its “Priceless Together” project, and Action Global Communications for “ADEK Back to School,” respectively.

During the awards ceremony held in Dubai on Wednesday, Red Havas bagged gold for best campaign in the Middle East with Adidas’ “Beyond the Surface,” and Hill+Knowlton Strategies took silver and bronze for its PUBG Mobile “Game on Henedy,” and Facebook Inc. “#MonthofGood” campaigns, respectively.

To mark MEPRA’s 20th anniversary this year, the awards featured a new category of people’s choice for the best Middle East campaign over the last two decades, won by Weber Shandwick MENAT and Environment Agency Abu Dhabi for the “Vote Bu Tinah!” campaign.

Special gongs on the night included the chairman’s lifetime achievement award that went to Jack Pearce of Matrix Public Relations, the small in-house team of the year accolade handed to Mastercard MENA, and the large in-house team of the year prize given to the UAE government’s media office.

Agency titles were awarded to Gambit Communications for best home-grown operation as well as small agency of the year, with Acorn Strategy being crowned large agency of the year.


New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2021

New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
  • New Zealand PM said tech giants and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online

LONDON: Tech giants like Meta’s Facebook and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019 after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch while live-streaming his rampage on Facebook.
This Christchurch Call initiative has been supported by more than 50 countries, international organizations and tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.
Ardern said on Friday the initiative had been successful in its first aim of establishing a crisis protocol, including a 24/7 network between platforms to quickly remove content, in response to events like those in Christchurch.
“We have had real world stress-testing of those systems and they have worked very effectively,” Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
“I am confident that we are operating more effectively than we have before,” she added. “The next challenge though, is to go further again.”
Asked what tech companies should be doing, Ardern replied: “much more.”
Ardern said the next step was to focus on prevention, looking at how people are finding or coming across hateful or terror-motivating content online and perhaps becoming radicalized.
“That’s where we are really interested in the ongoing work around algorithms and the role that we can all play to ensure that online platforms don’t become a place of radicalization,” she said.
A Christchurch Call conference earlier this year was attended by the United States and Britain.


MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
Updated 25 November 2021

MENA Effie Awards announces 2021 winners

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards. (Supplied)
  • The 13th edition of the awards program celebrates marketing effectiveness

DUBAI: The MENA Effie Awards, the regional edition of the globally renowned marketing industry honours, announced its 2021 winners at an awards ceremony in Dubai on Nov. 24.

After a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, the awards made a comeback this year, recording a 40 percent increase in entries from 2019.

This year’s grand prix went to FP7 McCann Dubai for the “The Bread Exam” campaign for the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation. The Most Effective Advertising Agency Office of the Year title was awarded to FP7 McCann Dubai, while Omnicom Group’s PHD Dubai was named Most Effective Media Agency Office of the Year.

This year’s Most Effective Agency Network title was awarded to FP7 McCann, which bagged the highest number of awards by far across its network of agencies, including McCann Health and Momentum.

“Firstly, it was so good to see the industry come together for the first time since the pandemic started. Secondly, this being the pandemic Effies, every piece of work deserved double the applause as it was made amidst terrific stresses and restrictions,” Tahaab Rais, president of SLC and regional head of strategy and truth central at FP7 McCann MENAT, told Arab News.

He added that the record number of awards at this year’s event, as well as securing Most Effective Advertising Agency and Network of the Year for the 8th consecutive year, is “a testament to how if we, collectively and consistently, outthink, outwork and outcare as brands, agencies, and people, you do end up coming out on top all things being equal.”

Luca Allam, CEO of PHD MENA, said: “Delivering marketing effectiveness for our clients is PHD’s priority. For the last few years, PHD has held a proud track record at the Effies. We are courageous enough to make leaps, we are not afraid to creatively push the boundaries, and this award validates this effort. We are thrilled to be consistently delivering growth for our clients through great and innovative work.”

Other winners on the night included Wunderman Thompson, which bagged 13 awards, TBWA\RAAD shone after picking up 11 trophies, and Havas Middle East and the BBDO network both won five awards each.

The full list of winners can be viewed here.