Russian court bans Facebook, Instagram on ‘extremism’ charges

A Moscow court on March 21, 2022 banned Facebook and Instagram as
A Moscow court on March 21, 2022 banned Facebook and Instagram as "extremist" organisations, after authorities accused US tech giant Meta of tolerating "Russophobia" during the conflict in Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 22 March 2022

Russian court bans Facebook, Instagram on ‘extremism’ charges

A Moscow court on March 21, 2022 banned Facebook and Instagram as "extremist" organisations, after authorities accused US tech giant Meta of tolerating "Russophobia" during the conflict in Ukraine. (AFP)
  • The court’s verdict comes amid multipronged efforts by Russian authorities to control the message about Russia’s military action in Ukraine, which the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” intended to uproot alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists”

MOSCOW: A Moscow court banned Facebook and Instagram on Monday for what it deemed extremist activity in a case against their parent company, Meta.
The Tverskoy District Court fulfilled a request from prosecutors to outlaw Meta Platforms Inc. and banned Facebook and Instagram for what they called “extremist activities.” Russian prosecutors have accused the social media platforms of ignoring government requests to remove what they described as fake news about Russian military actions in Ukraine and calls for anti-war protests in Russia.
The court’s ruling bans Meta from opening offices and doing business in Russia. Meta declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
Prosecutors haven’t requested to ban the Meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp, which is widely popular in Russia. The authorities also emphasized that they do not intend to punish individual Russians who use Facebook or Instagram.
Instagram and Facebook were already blocked in Russia after the country’s communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor said they were being used to call for violence against Russian soldiers. In addition to blocking Facebook and Instagram, Russian authorities also have shut access to foreign media websites, including BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.
Continuing the effort, Roskomnadzor on Monday blocked the website of Euronews, a European news network. The regulator has also cut Euronews broadcasts.
The court’s verdict comes amid multipronged efforts by Russian authorities to control the message about Russia’s military action in Ukraine, which the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” intended to uproot alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists.”
A new law fast-tracked on March 4 by the Kremlin-controlled parliament, a week after Russia launched the attack on Ukraine, envisions prison terms of up to 15 years for posting “fake” information about the military that differs from the official narrative.


ESMAA founder shares thoughts on regional music rights body’s first year in business

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 09 August 2022

ESMAA founder shares thoughts on regional music rights body’s first year in business

Photo/Supplied
  • ‘Nobody can deny that we have been the loudest voice in the region,’ Hussain ‘Spek’ Yoosuf told Arab News as he reflected on effect it has had on the music industry in the Middle East
  • ESMAA, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “listen” and was established in August 2021, works with global rights holders to facilitate the licensing of music in the Gulf

DUBAI: In August 2021, the Abu Dhabi-based independent music company PopArabia announced the launch of ESMAA, a music rights management organization.

ESMAA, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “listen,” works with global rights holders and regional businesses to facilitate the licensing of music in the Gulf. In the year since its launch, it has signed agreements to represent global royalties-collection agencies, including the UK’s Performing Right Society for Music and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.

It has also signed agreements to license music from the library of British record label Chrysalis Music and Global Master Rights, a neighboring rights company that represents more than 300 record labels and 2,500 performers including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Metallica and David Guetta. Neighboring rights royalties are paid to performers who record a song, typically when it is played on the radio or in a public venue.

Hussain Yoosuf

ESMAA also operates as a client rights management entity of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, marking the first and, to date, only time an organization from the Gulf region has been able to benefit from CISAC’s technical tools and solutions for the administration of creators’ rights.

In addition, it was the sole music-licensing partner for the Expo 2020 Dubai and is distributing royalties around the world generated by the event. This year, ESMAA announced a licensing agreement with Saudi entertainment company MDLBEAST that will ensure composers and rights holders are paid any time their work is performed at a MDLBEAST event.

Most recently, ESMAA signed an agreement to represent US-based performing rights organization the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers and its affiliate, Harry Fox Agency, a US mechanical rights organization.

“As ESMAA continues to fulfill its mission to provide a comprehensive music licensing solution in the Gulf, it is crucial that we continue to grow our representation of global music rights,” said Hussain Yoosuf, better known by his stage name “Spek,” the founder of ESMAA and its parent company PopArabia.

ESMAA has achieved a lot in just one year, yet Spek told Arab News that when he began his crusade in the region’s music industry people thought he was “crazy.” Although the UAE and other Gulf countries had laws in place relating to intellectual property rights and licensing “they didn’t really have any infrastructure of enforcement unless you wanted to sue everybody that you met” and piracy levels were at almost 90 percent across the region in the days when music was a physical, CD-based business, he explained.

“People thought I was crazy, because there was no reason to invest in the music industry in the Middle East at the time because you knew that whatever you invested in was going to get pirated,” said Spek.

His biggest challenge, he added, was the inability to “cultivate a healthy and varied ecosystem around music” because “you couldn’t have any monetization around the asset that you created.”

While he was an aspiring artist in Canada, Spek said he would work odd jobs to save up the thousands of dollars he needed to record his music in a studio. Now, with the advent of digital technology and music-streaming companies, old-style recording studios and distribution are almost obsolete. Anyone can record music in their home now and upload it immediately.

“All of the traditional gatekeepers have been eliminated; it’s the best time ever to be an independent music artist,” he said.

Music streaming has not only altered the way music is recorded and distributed but also how people listen to it.

“The way we consume music has changed based on the way we receive the music,” said Spek. “Moreover, it’s about the creation of domestic content.

In the US, old songs now represent 70 percent of the music market, according to research by MRC Data, a music-analytics firm. The Middle East region is bigger geographically than the US, Spek said, and so the audience here is more connected.

“Repression leads to expression, so you have a lot of people with a lot of things to say,” which means there are more independent artists coming out of the region, he explained.

Even before the launch of ESMAA, PopArabia was already supervising music licensing. Over the past 10 years it has represented all of the major music publishers, Spek said, and currently represents about 60 percent of all global music.

“When people are looking for a broad license, we’re often the first conversation because so much of the rights sit in one place,” he added.

“We ended up doing things that a traditional publisher doesn’t generally do, which is trying to solve industry problems. And I’m all for that — but how do you keep the lights on as a business if all your time is spent trying to fix the industry?”

And so, ESMAA was born. Despite initial challenges and difficulties, Spek said he has not really faced much “pushback.” Saudi Arabia, for instance, has made a “conscious decision to invest heavily in entertainment and make a lot of progressive moves that change the social fabric of the Kingdom.”

A few years ago, Saudi Arabia was not even “in the conversation” when it came to music and entertainment but now “there is so much excitement and they are looking at these issues at the very highest levels of the government in Saudi and are very committed to opening it up,” he said.

Through its work with governments and artists, ESMAA is committed to making a difference in the industry.

“Nobody can deny that we have been the loudest voice in the region with respect to these (licensing) issues and moving the market forward,” Spek said.

“When the history books are written, we have got some section in there for having begun a process to open up royalties and distribute royalties when music is put in public, which I think is an essential step to developing a healthy ecosystem.”


Arab News & Misk Foundation conclude 3rd cohort of journalism internship

Ghadeer Hamati, consultant at the Misk Foundation meets young Saudi graduates. (Photo/Meshaal Suliman Al Qadeer)
Ghadeer Hamati, consultant at the Misk Foundation meets young Saudi graduates. (Photo/Meshaal Suliman Al Qadeer)
Updated 09 August 2022

Arab News & Misk Foundation conclude 3rd cohort of journalism internship

Ghadeer Hamati, consultant at the Misk Foundation meets young Saudi graduates. (Photo/Meshaal Suliman Al Qadeer)
  • The next generation of the Kingdom’s top media minds learned from the newspaper’s reporters and editors during an intensive course

RIYADH: Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English-language daily, and the Misk Foundation, a non-profit organization that empowers Saudi youth in bringing to life a three-week intensive internship program, partnered to provide a unique hands-on training and mentorship program for young Saudi graduates pursuing journalism.

“It was a pleasure welcoming some of the Kingdom’s most promising media practitioners of tomorrow, and working closely with the Misk Foundation on this important partnership and training program,” said Faisal J.Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News.

Eight interns were shortlisted by Arab News editors for the journalism internship program through the foundation.

“Misk Skills is thrilled to collaborate with Arab News to provide Saudi youth with a great time of change, challenge, and excitement,” said Ghadeer Hamati, a consultant at the Misk Foundation.

Faisal J. Abbas, Arab News editor-in-Chief, with the interns at the Arab News headquarters in Riyadh. (Photo/Abdulrahman Shalhoub)

Hanin Alblwi, an enrolled intern in the program and law graduate, highlighted her experience: “This internship paved the way for me to understand the journalism industry and how it works. I really love writing and I want to be a freelance writer.”

FASTFACT

Participants were personally coached by Arab News’ team of experienced and award-winning senior editors and department heads from the Arab News headquarters in Riyadh and its bureaus in Dubai, London, France and Pakistan.

She shared in the first week that she didn’t know how to create a story from a news idea. She explained how amazed she was at how easily she was able to compete for a story in the second week of the program.

“The next week I just wrote the news easily, when you know the principles you can easily take it and apply it,” she explained.

“I highly recommend this program to everyone who wants to be a journalist,” she said.

Participants were personally coached by Arab News’ team of experienced and award-winning senior editors and department heads from the Arab News headquarters in Riyadh and its bureaus in Dubai, London, France and Pakistan.

“This internship was a great opportunity for an aspiring writer who wants to learn about this growing field. My experience with Arab News allowed me to learn about journalism from very passionate journalists and leaders at Arab News,” said Amal Alshehry, an intern and a master’s degree holder in English language.

The interns were also able to sit down with the Arab News editor-in-chief to gain insight into the world of journalism.

“The meeting with the editor-in-chief was a life lesson for me. He has inspired us to work and succeed in journalism, and to find passion in whatever we choose to do in life,” said Alshehry.

“I encourage fresh graduates to join this internship because the community here is amazing. I have learned a lot from other colleagues and the instructors,” said Thekra Altamimi, another intern.

The enrolled interns also went on the ground and conducted interviews with attendees of the JAX Art Festival in Riyadh while being guided by some of the newspaper’s most seasoned reporters.

“With no exaggeration, it was one of the best experiences in my life. I enjoyed interviewing people and experiencing it all as a journalist,” said Altamimi.

The partnership was initially struck in 2019 with the first group of students entering the training program. The program was put on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic, but picked right back up in 2021 through a virtual internship program. This year’s installment, the third cohort, was conducted in a hybrid format.

Interns learned about the methods of covering a wide range of topics from regional and global issues through some of the most experienced correspondents at Arab News across the business, lifestyle, politics, local and regional news desks.

“I learned the fundamentals and elements of journalism, and communication, teamwork, and how to write about daily things in our life but to see them from a different perspective,” said Mohammed Almarri, an intern.

Students gained a wider understanding of the basics of news writing, editing, media ethics, fact-checking and ways to strengthen their reporting skills through the power of observation and new story structures.

“I studied journalism and it’s my passion. I love to write and I am so happy to be a part of this program. I hope to pursue journalism as a career, it’s been my dream job forever,” said Alya Allam, an intern in the program.

The internship ran for three weeks through a hybrid teaching program of in-person and online courses. The internship began on July 17 and continued until Aug. 7 in the Arab News headquarters in Riyadh.


Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani signed by beIN Sports as analyst

Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani signed by beIN Sports as analyst
Updated 08 August 2022

Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani signed by beIN Sports as analyst

Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani signed by beIN Sports as analyst
  • He joins the broadcaster in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and will work with its media team in the Middle East and North Africa on flagship channel beIN Sports

LONDON: Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani is joining global sports, media and entertainment group beIN’s line-up of talent, the broadcaster announced on Monday.

A former captain of the Saudi national team, he played for several Arab clubs including Al-Qadisiyah and Al-Hilal in the Kingdom, and Al-Ain in the UAE.

Al-Qahtani said he is happy to be joining the beIN team, especially in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off Nov. 21. Saudi Arabia will be one of the 32 teams competing as the finals of the competition are held for the first time in the region.

“I hope this step will be a good addition for viewers, especially with beIN’s existing line-up of top sports analysts,” he said.

He will work with the broadcaster’s media team in the Middle East and North Africa as a football analyst on flagship sports channel beIN Sports.

“Al-Qahtani joins our line-up of best-in-class analysts, with many more noteworthy talent announcements, across the board, to be revealed shortly,” said Tareq Zainal, beIN’s chief financial and human resources officer.

“The new appointment comes at a truly exceptional time in our company’s history, as we’re working around the clock to exclusively broadcast the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the world’s greatest and biggest show, across the region later this year.”

The Asian Football Confederation’s Asian Footballer of the Year in 2007, Al-Qahtani scored 172 goals in 354 professional appearances during an 18-year career, the highlights of which included playing at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, during which he scored a goal against Tunisia. He was also the top scorer during the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, and played for the Saudi national team for more than 11 years.


Apple urges Taiwanese suppliers to label products as ‘Made in China’

Apple urges Taiwanese suppliers to label products as ‘Made in China’
Updated 08 August 2022

Apple urges Taiwanese suppliers to label products as ‘Made in China’

Apple urges Taiwanese suppliers to label products as ‘Made in China’
  • China warned of sanctions against companies, individuals found breaching so-called one-China principle, with goods at risk of not being approved for import or export by authorities
  • Apple’s decision has sparked criticisms from around the world, highlighting the company’s dependence on Chinese suppliers

LONDON: Apple has urged its Taiwanese suppliers to change the labeling of products manufactured in the island to “Made in China,” sources reveal.

Apple sent a warning to its suppliers on Friday about China’s increased enforcement of a long-standing import law that requires Taiwanese parts and components to have the labels “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei,” amid rising tensions between the two countries.

“A tightening of the labeling rule may not just affect Apple’s suppliers, but all those that send shipments from Taiwan island to the mainland,” Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, commented.

China’s ongoing dispute over Taiwan has been at the center of political and economic attention in recent months.

Last week, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, sparking Chinese outrage and prompting a four-day military exercise by the Chinese army around the island. Pelosi was the first high-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

China warned of sanctions against companies and individuals found breaching the so-called one-China principle, with goods at risk of not being approved for import or export by the authorities.

“If the mainland authorities tighten the enforcement of the rule, this may increase the probability of shipments from Taiwan island being seized by mainland customs,” Gao said.

Apple’s decision has sparked criticism from around the world. In September 2020, the US giant issued a document titled “Our Commitment to Human Rights,” in which it stated that "at Apple and throughout our supply chain, we prohibit harassment, discrimination, violence, and retaliation of any kind — and we have zero tolerance for violations motivated by any form of prejudice or bigotry.”

Apple has long depended on China for the manufacture of most of its products. Because of its reliance on China for product assembly and sales, however, the company is unwilling to speak out against flagrant violations, despite what it claims.

“Is it a question of time before Apple starts removing apps whose name contains the characters [for] Taiwan without specifying ‘province of China’,” GreatFire, an advocacy group working against Chinese censorship online, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, we suspect that Apple’s ‘red-line’, the moment where it will say: ‘Stop, no longer, we cannot continue to collaborate with the Chinese regime and enforce its requests for censorship,’ is nowhere close,” noted Benjamin Ismail, project director for GreatFire’s associated AppleCensorship.com.

Even though Apple has long sought to diversify its supply chain and manufacturing process, with new factories in India and Brazil, the tech giant’s dependence on Chinese factories for the production of most of its latest products, including the iPhone 14, exposes the instability of an already fragile supply chain and production market.

Given the economic and strategic importance of Taiwan, which accounts for over 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductor manufacturing capacity, China’s aggressive policies represent a significant risk for America and the rest of the world.


Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts

Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts
Updated 08 August 2022

Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts

Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts
  • Twitter on Thursday dismissed Musk’s claim that he was hoodwinked into signing the deal to buy the social media company

LONDON: Elon Musk said that if Twitter Inc. could provide its method of sampling 100 accounts and how it confirmed that the accounts are real, his $44 billion deal to buy the company should proceed on its original terms.
“However, if it turns out that their SEC filings are materially false, then it should not,” Musk tweeted early on Saturday.
In response to a Twitter user asking whether the US SEC was probing “dubious claims” by the company, Musk tweeted “Good question, why aren’t they?.”
Twitter declined to comment on the tweet when contacted by Reuters.
Twitter on Thursday dismissed Musk’s claim that he was hoodwinked into signing the deal to buy the social media company, saying that it was “implausible and contrary to fact.”
“According to Musk, he — the billionaire founder of multiple companies, advised by Wall Street bankers and lawyers — was hoodwinked by Twitter into signing a $44 billion merger agreement. That story is as implausible and contrary to fact as it sounds,” the filing released by Twitter on Thursday said.
Musk filed a countersuit Twitter on July 29, escalating his legal fight against the social media company over his bid to walk away from the $44 billion purchase.