Houthis torturing four abducted journalists, say families

The four Yemeni journalists abducted and imprisoned by the Houthi militia are shown in this combination images posted on Twitter on February 23 by Moammar Al-Eryani, Yemen's minister of Information, culture and tourism.
The four Yemeni journalists abducted and imprisoned by the Houthi militia are shown in this combination images posted on Twitter on February 23 by Moammar Al-Eryani, Yemen's minister of Information, culture and tourism.
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Updated 10 September 2021

Houthis torturing four abducted journalists, say families

Houthis torturing four abducted journalists, say families
  • Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Harith Hamid, and Akram Al-Walidi were among a group of 10 journalists abducted in 2015
  • Families learned from the former abductee that the Iran-backed rebels have intensified their mistreatment of the journalists over the past two months

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The Iran-backed Houthis tortured abducted Yemeni journalists, threw them into solitary confinement, denied them life-saving medical treatment, and banned them from contacting their families for the past two months, families said on Thursday.

Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Harith Hamid, and Akram Al-Walidi were among a group of 10 journalists abducted by the Houthis during a raid in the capital Sanaa in 2015.

The journalists were sentenced to death for their alleged collaboration with the Arab coalition and the internationally recognized government.

Six journalists were released during the latest major successful prisoner swap between the Houthis and the Yemeni government last year.

During the past few months, relatives told Arab News the Houthis’ treatment of the remaining journalists has worsened.

Abdullah Al-Mansouri said his brother —  journalist Tawfiq Al-Mansouri — has not contacted the family for the past two months and his captors refused to allow the family to give him medicine and money. 

“He has not contacted us since before Eid (July 20),” Abdullah Al-Mansouri said.

The families later learned from a former abductee that the Houthis have been brutally mistreated their siblings for the past two months.

“They imprisoned, tortured, and put them in solitary confinement. They took away their clothes and all their belongings and deprived them of everything,” said Al-Mansouri, who added that the family had no clue as to why the Houthis are torturing the journalists.

“The Houthis should be asked why they decided to resume abusing the journalists.”

The six freed journalists previously reported being subjected to the same level of torture by the Houthi captors inside different prisons in Sanaa. They urged the international community to pressure the Iran-backed rebels to release the four journalists who face the death penalty.

Relatives said Abu Shehab Al-Murtada, a brother of Abdulkader Al-Murtada, who is the head of the Houthi prisoner affairs committee, personally tortured the journalists or incited other captors to mistreat them.

Abdullah Al-Mansouri said his brother is suffering from heart problems, diabetes, kidney problems, and recent backbone pains due to torture.

“We bribe the Houthis to allow us to send him an injection every 20 days,” he said. “We do not know if he received them or not.”

The Houthis alleged prosecution and mistreatment of the journalists have sparked local and international outrage as rights groups called upon the militia to release them and stop harassing critics.

Also in Sanaa, relatives of Younis Abdul Sallam, a young Yemeni journalist who was abducted by the Houthis last month, said they have not been allowed to visit him or have been given an explanation as to why he was abducted.

“The Houthis obstinately refuse to allow us to visit him,” a relative told Arab News on condition of anonymity for fear of Houthi reprisal.

Meanwhile, Yemen's Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani condemned the Houthi abduction of singer Youssef Al-Badji in Sanaa and the militia’s escalating crackdown on music.

“The Iran-backed Houthi militia abducted singer Youssef Al-Badji from his house in Sanaa in a systematic campaign to target art, pursue and attack artists, push dozens of them to flee outside the country, and prevent singing at weddings and public events and classify it as a taboo,” the minister said in a tweet.


Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
Updated 06 December 2021

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE

Local agency ThinkSmart launches creative content hub in Dubai, UAE
  • Located in Al Quoz Creative Zone, the hub will support social media content creators

DUBAI: Dubai-based production and public relations company ThinkSmart has launched a creative content hub called the ThinkSmart Hub in Dubai’s Al Quoz Creative Zone.

Featuring a first-of-its-kind infrastructure, the hub aims to support and boost content creation for social media users on platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcast platforms.

The launch of the hub comes after Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum announced that residents of the zone renovating their properties would be exempt from rent for up to two years.

“We endeavor to provide a thriving space that optimizes the creative bent of content creators,” said Lina Nihad Husri, CEO, ThinkSmart Hub.

The hub provides “novel ideas and support” to anyone in the social media space — from brands to individual creators — and houses “diverse themes and decorations under one roof to suit content needs,” she explained. The decor will change every quarter based on occasions and festivals to ensure that creators have enough diversity in their shoots.

Commenting on the location of the hub, Husri said: “We chose to be at the Al Quoz Creative Zone following its announcement and launch in April 2021 by Sheikh Hamdan…because it is an incubator for everyone in the field of content and art creation, and we want to be an integral part of this ecosystem and will offer complete support to all content creators and artists.”


Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia
Updated 06 December 2021

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia

Shahid VIP Mobile strikes exclusive partnership with Orange Morocco and Tunisia
  • Shahid VIP Mobile will offer the best of the platform’s shows and movies

DUBAI: Shahid VIP, the premium subscription-based service of Shahid, is launching via a new mobile-only package in Morocco and Tunisia.

The service will be available through telecom operator Orange for approximately $2 in both countries. Users who sign up before the end of December will also receive a free two-month introductory offer with Orange Telecom.

Shahid VIP Mobile, which can be accessed either via a single smartphone or tablet device, will offer the best of the platform’s shows and movies, including the new hit Moroccan TV series “Hayat,” as well “Salmat Abou El Banat,” “Masha’aer,” “Stalk,” and “Inside.”

“Given that we are more connected than ever on mobile, it is only natural for the way we consume content to change and evolve,” said Natasha Matos-Hemingway, group chief commercial officer, video on demand, at MBC Group.

“We have found that many individuals and households now prefer to watch their favorite shows on their smartphone instead of the television, for example, which is why we are teaming up with key partners to provide more ways of accessing Shahid VIP,” she added.

The high smartphone penetration and data usage in the region have resulted in more and more viewers streaming content on their mobile devices. Subsequently, streaming services are optimizing the mobile experience be it through app development or partnerships with telecom partners.

Matos-Hemingway said: “There’s no doubt that there are more partnerships of this kind to come.”


Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
Updated 06 December 2021

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
  • New episodes on Arabic food network will go live on Dec. 20

DUBAI: Middle Eastern food and lifestyle TV channel Fatafeat is to launch its first-ever podcast series in an exclusive collaboration with global audio streaming service Deezer.

Through the partnership deal, Fatafeat — which is part of Discovery Inc. — and Deezer aim to provide a high-quality food-related podcast in the region celebrating the best of Arabic cuisine.

Mazen Abdallah, director of international brand partnerships, Deezer. (Supplied)

Mazen Abdallah, Deezer’s director of international brand partnerships, said: “Our promise to our users has always been offering the largest and most diverse library in the region. We want to make sure our listeners can find all interesting content on Deezer, from music to self-help, history, business, or cooking.”

The podcast series, which will be available for streaming across the Middle East and North Africa region, will see new episodes dropping weekly featuring recipes, talk shows, songs, and comedy news.

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships MENA, Discovery Inc. (Supplied)

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships for the MENA region at Discovery Inc., said: “We are driven to help spur people’s passions. With food being such an integral part of Middle East life, we are extremely excited to announce our latest partnership between Fatafeat and Deezer.”

The first episode will go live on Dec. 20.


TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub
Updated 06 December 2021

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub
  • Initiative aims to bolster social networking firm’s efforts to be more open, accountable to audiences

DUBAI: Social networking service TikTok has launched a dedicated transparency center to bolster its efforts to be more open and accountable to audiences.

The new hub will house the platform’s annual and quarterly transparency reports, in addition to upcoming interactive reports. The launch accompanies the latest H1 2021 content removal requests reports.

The company began releasing transparency reports in 2019 in a bid to build trust, which is becoming increasingly important as more instances of social media platforms’ negligent use of user data come to light.

Most recently, the platform released the findings of a report specially commissioned to help better understand young people’s engagement with potentially harmful challenges and hoaxes — pranks or scams created to frighten someone — in an attempt to strengthen safety on the platform.

TikTok is also incorporating feedback from civil society organizations and experts to further develop refreshed report formats, offering downloadable data in machine-readable formats. The reports aim to be visually appealing and reader-friendly with interactive charts and graphs to better illustrate data and actions taken.

The reports will be published in 26 languages, including Arabic, English, French, German, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Russian, and Urdu.


CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother
Updated 05 December 2021

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

WASHINGTON: CNN fired veteran anchor and correspondent Chris Cuomo, the cable news channel said Saturday, during an investigation into his involvement with helping defend his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, against sexual misconduct allegations.
Chris Cuomo had been suspended from CNN over the matter just days before his termination.
“We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately,” a statement posted to CNN’s official communications Twitter account said.
“While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light.”
The termination comes after documents surfaced showing that Cuomo, who anchored the 9:00 p.m. news slot, offered advice to his politician brother that was deemed too close for comfort by his employer.
“The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions,” a CNN spokesperson said Tuesday, adding they “point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew.”
“He’s my brother. And if I can help my brother, I do. If he wants me to hear something, I will. If he wants me to weigh in on something, I’ll try,” Chris Cuomo, 51, told investigators in July when asked about the counsel he had offered.
“He’s my brother, and I love him to death no matter what.”
Democrat Andrew Cuomo was elected governor three times before resigning in August after New York’s attorney general said an investigation concluded he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
In October, the former governor — whose father Mario Cuomo had also been governor of New York — was charged with a misdemeanor sex crime for forcible touching.
At the start of the pandemic, the Cuomo brothers soared to new heights of popularity: Andrew, 63, earned praise for his frank daily briefings as the coronavirus ravaged New York, and his live exchanges with Chris on CNN were peppered with banter.
The investigation into Chris Cuomo’s conduct remains ongoing, CNN said.