Afghan journalists detail threat from Taliban after UK abandonment

Afghan journalists detail threat from Taliban after UK abandonment
A member of the Taliban special forces pushes a journalist, covering a demonstration by women protesters, Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 30, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2022

Afghan journalists detail threat from Taliban after UK abandonment

Afghan journalists detail threat from Taliban after UK abandonment
  • Eight Afghan journalists are launching a legal challenge against the UK government
  • The journalists had worked with UK media companies; producing programs on the Taliban and efforts to rebuild Afghanistan

LONDON: A group of Afghan journalists has described the threats they face from the Taliban after working with UK media for years, accusing the British government of abandoning them during last year’s withdrawal.

Eight journalists are launching a legal challenge against the government after fighting since last year’s withdrawal for support they feel they are owed after helping UK interests in Afghanistan.

After waiting months for support for relocation to Britain, they allege that the government has only sent them the standard response emails from the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) program. 

The Foreign Affairs Committee this week issued a report on the British withdrawal from Afghanistan, alleging that the chaos was worsened by the Foreign Office not having a sufficient plan to support Afghans who aided British efforts in the country through their roles in civic society. Workers such as judges, journalists and activists were all abandoned when the rescue operation stirred into action, it claimed.

The members of the eight-person journalistic group appear to belong to that section of Afghan society. They told the Observer that they had worked with British media by producing programs on work against the Taliban and efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure. They also contributed to work on women’s rights and the fight against illegal narcotics. 

Now that the Taliban is in charge, they told the Observer that they have received warnings that they were being targeted.

The government offered special visas to journalists who had worked with British media, with former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stating at the time: “We must protect those brave Afghan journalists who have worked so courageously to shine a light on what is really going on in Afghanistan.” Any cases of relocation were expected to be expedited if there was an “imminent threat to life.”

But after nine months and regular death threats, some of the group have seen no progress.

One member, who wished to remain anonymous, reported regular kidnap and assassination attempts, telling the Observer that he now regularly moves location and lives away from his family so they do not get caught up in his targeting.

“I’m in a kind of trauma,” he told the Observer. “There is a group of us that the UK government must help. I haven’t had a single night without concern at home with my family.”

He said that he was once shot at while sitting in a garden and that men jumped him from a car to beat him. “They beat me around the head — my body was full of blood,” he said. “I don’t know how they didn’t drag me in the car — I think others helped me.”

Others have messaged him threats: “They said, ‘we already have a decree to kill you’. I think I’m on the target list of those people and maybe one day they will find me.”

He told the Observer: “Unfortunately, we already are under very serious threats. We don’t want to wait until 2024 to get out. I have no sleep. Day by day, my sleep is reducing. Nowadays, it’s two hours, three hours — nothing else.”

Another journalist in the group told the newspaper that he also believes he is on a Taliban hit list, adding that he feels like he has essentially become a refugee, living a life of fear in his own country.

“The Taliban and other extremists are openly talking against those who are affiliated to the UK media,” he said. “They say we are spies. The Taliban have sent me warnings. That’s why I tried many times to convince UK officials to help me relocate. The UK government promised that those who were affiliated with the UK media would be eligible. What happened that they forgot us and don’t hear our voices?”

Erin Alcock, the Leigh Day lawyer representing the group, said: “A promise was made in August that Afghan journalists who worked for British media organizations, facing imminent threat, would be relocated to the UK. Not only has that promise not yet been fulfilled, but nine months on, our clients have had no indication of when they will even receive a response.”

A British government spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on individual ARAP applications . . . However, since the scheme began, we have relocated over 9,200 applicants and their dependents to the UK. This scheme remains open and . . . we are progressing applications as quickly as possible.”


Judge orders Twitter to give Elon Musk former executive's documents

Judge orders Twitter to give Elon Musk former executive's documents
Updated 16 August 2022

Judge orders Twitter to give Elon Musk former executive's documents

Judge orders Twitter to give Elon Musk former executive's documents
  • Kayvon Beykpour is considered one of the executives “most intimately involved with” determining the amount of spam accounts, which have become a central issue in the legal fight

LONDON: Twitter Inc needs to give Elon Musk documents from a former Twitter executive who Musk said was a key figure in calculating the amount of fake accounts on the platform, according to a Monday court order.

Bot and spam accounts on Twitter have become a central issue in the legal fight over whether Musk, who is Tesla Inc's chief executive, must complete his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company.

Twitter was ordered to collect, review and produce documents from former General Manager of Consumer Product Kayvon Beykpour, according to the order from Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick of the Delaware Court of Chancery.

Twitter and lawyers for Musk, the world's richest person, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Beykpour, who left Twitter after the social media company agreed in April to be acquired by Musk, was described in Musk's court filings as one of the executives “most intimately involved with” determining the amount of spam accounts.

Beykpour did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through LinkedIn.

McCormick said in her order on Monday that she was denying Musk's request for access to 21 other people with control over relevant information.

Musk's legal team had written to McCormick last week asking her to order Twitter to hand over employee names so they could be questioned. read more

Musk accused Twitter earlier this month of fraud for misrepresenting the number of real active users on its platform, which Twitter has denied. The company has accused him of breaching his agreement to acquire the company and wants McCormick to order him to complete the deal at $54.20 a share.


OSN+ to stage 1,000-drone airborne light show in celebration of ‘House of the Dragon’ premiere

OSN+ to stage 1,000-drone airborne light show in celebration of ‘House of the Dragon’ premiere
Updated 15 August 2022

OSN+ to stage 1,000-drone airborne light show in celebration of ‘House of the Dragon’ premiere

OSN+ to stage 1,000-drone airborne light show in celebration of ‘House of the Dragon’ premiere
  • As well as the display over Riyadh Boulevard as part of Gamers8, the streaming service announced a screen takeover and fireworks display to herald debut of ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel

DUBAI: Middle East streaming platform OSN+ is celebrating the upcoming premiere of new HBO series “House of the Dragon,” a prequel to the international hit “Game of Thrones,” by staging an immersive drone show at Riyadh Boulevard on Aug. 18, as part of the ongoing Gamers8 festival.

In addition to the airborne light show, featuring 1,000 drones, the special celebration will include a complete screen takeover at Gamers8 and a fireworks display.

“OSN+ is excited to launch a spectacular drone show, as part of the Gamers8 festival, ahead of the highly anticipated release of ‘House of the Dragon’ on Aug. 22 in the Middle East,” said Ashley Rite, vice-president of marketing and growth with the streamer.

“Alongside an expansive screen takeover and firework display, the gaming festival will provide an engaging and immersive platform to celebrate the premiere of the first episode of the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel with fans, both within the Saudi Arabian capital and across the Kingdom.”

The first season of the 10-episode HBO Original drama will air exclusively in the region on OSN+ from Aug. 22, with the first episode available at the same time as its US premiere and subsequent episodes released weekly.


Mastercard partners with Gamers8 to promote the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia

Mastercard partners with Gamers8 to promote the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia
Updated 15 August 2022

Mastercard partners with Gamers8 to promote the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia

Mastercard partners with Gamers8 to promote the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia
  • Mastercard will sponsor the event, hosting a selection of daily tournaments and experiences for gaming enthusiasts

LONDON: Mastercard announced on Monday a three-year partnership with the Saudi Esports Federation, which will see the US company becoming an official sponsor of Gamers8, the largest gaming and esports event worldwide.

Under the new deal, Mastercard will curate and deliver a diverse range of activities, highlighting the company’s “commitment to delivering meaningful, one-of-a-kind experiences for consumers, gamers and gaming enthusiasts across the Kingdom” and strengthening its presence in the country.

“Gamers8 is shaping up as a truly unique and history-making event — one that showcases the Kingdom’s growth as a leading digital hub and provides people access to a wholly immersive experience,” said Adam Jones, country general manager for the Middle East and North Africa at Mastercard. “We are delighted to be working with the Saudi Esports Federation and our network to deliver the greatest esports and gaming event ever.

“Our goal is to fully realize the potential of Gamers8 as a unique event — one that invites people to embark on a journey of discovery, fuel their passions, build memories for a lifetime and start something priceless.” 

Organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, Gamers8 is a global gaming and esports festival running daily until Sept. 8 at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The event, which has a rich program that includes music concerts, tournaments and esports forums, is expected to attract over 2 million visitors and aims to create an immersive experience that appeals to people from all over the world.

“The Saudi Esports Federation was established to nurture the Kingdom’s elite gaming athletes and develop its gaming community and industry,” Ahmed Al-Bishri, chief operating officer at the Saudi Esports Federation, said in a statement.

“Our partnership with Mastercard represents a significant and timely step forward, one that will not only help us keep pace with the rest of the world but propel us to the leading edge of gaming.

“Together with Mastercard, we look forward to delivering truly rewarding experiences and creating lasting memories for people across the country to revel in. This promises to be a game-changer for all players,” Al-Bishri continued.

As part of the agreement, Mastercard will sponsor the event, hosting a selection of daily tournaments and experiences for gaming enthusiasts to participate in over the course of the esports showpiece.

The partnership comes at a very significant moment for the gaming community in Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom seeks to bolster the digital infrastructure and marks the latest step taken by local authorities to accelerate the country’s digital transformation.


Twitter partners with beIN SPORTS ahead of 2022 FIFA World Cup

Twitter partners with beIN SPORTS ahead of 2022 FIFA World Cup
Updated 15 August 2022

Twitter partners with beIN SPORTS ahead of 2022 FIFA World Cup

Twitter partners with beIN SPORTS ahead of 2022 FIFA World Cup
  • Channel will offer exclusive content on Twitter to MENA audiences during tournament

LONDON: beIN SPORTS launched a new partnership with Twitter on Monday to share tailored content throughout the world’s biggest football event, the FIFA World Cup, scheduled to kick off in Qatar in November.

beIN SPORTS will distribute content exclusively for regional audiences on Twitter by spotlighting the most significant moments throughout the competition. It will also offer brands and marketers association opportunities through Twitter Amplify sponsorships.

The official broadcaster of the FIFA World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa region will highlight each match with content clips, including one match recap and an in-studio analysis, aired through the beIN SPORTS official handle, @beINSPORTS, for a total of 320 videos.

“As one of the leading official broadcasters of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in the 24-country MENA region, our talented teams will be working night and day to deliver the best content and insight — using the latest cutting-edge technology, so that every fan’s experience is incredible,” said Faisal Mahmoud Al-Raisi, director of digital at beIN MENA.

“We are delighted to partner with Twitter for this historic event to do everything we can for our millions of followers across MENA to make memories for a lifetime.”

The move comes after studies by beIN SPORTS that showed 78 percent of World Cup fans on Twitter believe that the social media platform offers exclusive content.

The partnership aims to ensure that Twitter continues to be the home of football and a point of reference for fans across the region.

“Football is one of the biggest conversations in this region. We’ve witnessed a 74 percent spike in average monthly football conversations in comparison to the previous 12 months,” said Kinda Ibrahim, Twitter director of global partnerships, MEA and Turkey. “From Saudi Arabia alone, we’ve seen more than 53 million tweets about football so far this year.

“When Twitter talks sports, the world listens. From firing up fan excitement to meeting fans on their home turf, Twitter is the best place to connect to the moments that get the world talking — right where it’s happening,” Ibrahim added.

“By working with the region’s biggest sports broadcaster, we are excited to provide near real time match highlights to die hard fans who drive the intensity and build community around one of the most watched global sporting events.”


YouTube plans to launch streaming video service

YouTube plans to launch streaming video service
Updated 15 August 2022

YouTube plans to launch streaming video service

YouTube plans to launch streaming video service
  • The platform has been in the works for at least 18 months and could be available as early as this fall.

LONDON: Alphabet Inc’s YouTube is planning to launch an online store for streaming video services, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The company has renewed talks with entertainment companies about participating in the platform, which it is referring to internally as a “channel store,” the report said, citing people close to the recent discussions.
The platform has been in the works for at least 18 months and could be available as early as this fall, the report added.
Alphabet did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
With more consumers cutting the cord on cable or satellite TV and shifting to subscription-based streaming services, the planned launch will allow YouTube to join companies like Roku Inc. and Apple in a bid to gain a portion of the already crowded streaming market.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Walmart Inc. has held talks with media companies about including streaming entertainment in its membership service.