Russia frees captive medic who filmed Mariupol’s horror

Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, a celebrated Ukrainian medic who used a body camera to record her work in Mariupol while the port city was under Russian siege. (AP)
Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, a celebrated Ukrainian medic who used a body camera to record her work in Mariupol while the port city was under Russian siege. (AP)
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Updated 20 June 2022

Russia frees captive medic who filmed Mariupol’s horror

Yuliia Paievska who used a body camera to record her work in Mariupol while the port city was under Russian siege. (AP)
  • Puzanov expressed gratitude for the coverage, which showed Taira was trying to save Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians

TALLINN, Estonia: A celebrated Ukrainian medic whose footage was smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol by an Associated Press team was freed by Russian forces on Friday, three months after she was taken captive on the streets of the city.
Yuliia Paievska is known in Ukraine as Taira, a nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s efforts over two weeks to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.
She transferred the clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom fled with it embedded in a tampon on March 15. Taira and a colleague were taken prisoner by Russian forces on March 16, the same day a Russian airstrike hit a theater in the city center, killing around 600 people, according to an Associated Press investigation.
“It was such a great sense of relief. Those sound like such ordinary words, and I don’t even know what to say,” her husband, Vadim Puzanov, told The Associated Press late Friday, breathing deeply to contain his emotion. Puzanov said he spoke by phone with Taira, who was en route to a Kyiv hospital, and feared for her health.
Initially the family had kept quiet, hoping negotiations would take their course. But The Associated Press spoke with him before releasing the smuggled videos, which ultimately had millions of viewers around the world, including on some of the biggest networks in Europe and the United States. Puzanov expressed gratitude for the coverage, which showed Taira was trying to save Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians.
In a short video posted Saturday on Telegram, Taira thanked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for his efforts to get her released. Addressing Ukrainians still held by Russia, with a catch in her voice, she said: “I know that everything will work out and we will all be home as I am now.”
Zelensky had announced Taira’s release in a national address.
“I’m grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Taira is already home. We will keep working to free everyone,” he said.
Hundreds of prominent Ukrainians have been kidnapped or captured, including local officials, journalists, activists and human rights defenders.
Russia portrayed Taira as working for the nationalist Azov Regiment, in line with Moscow’s narrative that it is attempting to “denazify” Ukraine. But the AP found no such evidence, and friends and colleagues said she had no links to Azov, which made a last stand in a Mariupol steel plant before hundreds of its fighters were captured or killed.
The footage itself is a visceral testament to her efforts to save the wounded on both sides.
A clip recorded on March 10 shows two Russian soldiers taken roughly out of an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier. One is in a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, hands bound behind his back, with an obvious leg injury. Their eyes are covered by winter hats, and they wear white armbands.
A Ukrainian soldier curses at one of them. “Calm down, calm down,” Taira tells him.
A woman asks her, “Are you going to treat the Russians?”
“They will not be as kind to us,” she replies. “But I couldn’t do otherwise. They are prisoners of war.”
Taira was a member of the Ukraine Invictus Games for military veterans, where she was set to compete in archery and swimming. Invictus said she was a military medic from 2018 to 2020 but had since been demobilized.
She received the body camera in 2021 to film for a Netflix documentary series on inspirational figures being produced by Britain’s Prince Harry, who founded the Invictus Games. But when Russian forces invaded, she used it to shoot scenes of injured civilians and soldiers instead.


Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off

Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off
Updated 02 December 2022

Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off

Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off
  • Owners said the decision was made “in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”

NEW YORK: Social network Parler announced Thursday that its planned sale to Kanye West has been called off, as the rapper-businessman now known as Ye continues to alienates fans and commercial partners with anti-Semitic comments.
“Parlement Technologies would like to confirm that the company has mutually agreed with Ye to terminate the intent of sale of Parler,” the network — seen as a home for online extremist rhetoric — said in a tweet.
It said the decision was made “in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”
Parler had announced a deal for West to buy the platform popular with conservatives in mid-October — just over a week after the rapper’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were restricted over anti-Semitic posts he made.
But the rapper, who has spoken openly about his struggles with mental illness, has seen his business relationships crumble in recent weeks as his erratic behavior and extreme speech continue to raise concerns.
In perhaps his most provocative outburst to date, West on Thursday declared his “love” of Nazis and admiration for Adolf Hitler during a rambling livestream with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The 45-year-old’s restrictions on Twitter and Instagram last month were not the first time his posts prompted punitive action from major social media platforms.
Earlier this year, West was banned from posting on Instagram for 24 hours after violating the social network’s harassment policy amid his acrimonious divorce from reality star Kim Kardashian.
Launched in 2018, Parler became a haven for Donald Trump supporters and far-right users who say they have been censored on mainstream social media platforms. It has since signed up many more traditional Republican voices.
Parler was temporarily removed from Apple and Google app stores last year for failing to moderate calls for violence after the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of the former president.
It has since been allowed back in the both stores, ostensibly after improving its content moderation systems.


Israel slams Netflix movie scene of 1948 Palestinian family murder

Israel slams Netflix movie scene of 1948 Palestinian family murder
Updated 01 December 2022

Israel slams Netflix movie scene of 1948 Palestinian family murder

Israel slams Netflix movie scene of 1948 Palestinian family murder
  • Israel threatens to withdraw Al-Saraya Theater funding for screeing Farha

LONDON: Officials in Israel have slammed a Netflix film showing the murder of a Palestinian family by Zionist forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war as “creating a false narrative.”

“Farha,” a historical drama by Jordanian filmmaker Darin J. Sallam and Jordan’s Oscars entry for 2023, has premiered at several film festivals globally since its release in 2021 and will begin streaming on Netflix on Thursday.

The movie tells the story of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who, while locked in a storage room by her father during the events of the Nakba, witnesses through a crack in the pantry door Israeli soldiers murdering an entire family, including a baby and two small children.

In a statement reported by The Guardian, Israel’s outgoing finance minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said: “It’s crazy that Netflix decided to stream a movie whose whole purpose is to create a false pretence and incite against Israeli soldiers.”

And he added that he would consider revoking state funding from Al-Saraya Theater in the Arab-majority town of Jaffa for having screened “Farha.”

Israeli Culture Minister Hili Tropper said the movie depicted “lies and libels,” describing its screening in an Israeli cinema as “a disgrace.”

In an email to The Guardian on Thursday, the theater’s manager, Mahmoud Abo Arisheh, said: “We responded to incitement with the fact that we (went ahead with) showing the movie.

“As for the public’s response, Saraya’s supporters once again proved to be many. We are committed to defending our right to exist and to express ourselves … We are committed to freedom of art, all art.”

The Palestinian Nakba of 1948 saw the ethnic cleansing and displacement of some 700,000 Palestinians by pre-Israeli-state Irgun and Stern Gang Zionist militias. On April 9 of the same year, Zionist forces, in one of their most infamous crimes, killed more than 110 men, women, and children in the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Portrayals of genocide committed by Zionist forces during the 1948 war remain a highly sensitive subject in Israel.

In interviews, Sallam said that she made “Farha” because very few narrative films about Palestine explored the root cause of the conflict. She noted that “Farha” told the story of her mother’s friend, who first met Sallam’s mom in Syria.

In a 2021 interview with Arab News, Sallam said: “The story traveled over the years to reach me. It stayed with me. When I was a child, I had this fear of closed, dark places and I kept thinking of this girl and what happened to her.”


MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles

MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles
Updated 01 December 2022

MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles

MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles
  • Group secured rights to various series, including TV Tokyo’s ‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War,’ ‘Bleach’ and ‘One Piece’

LONDON: MBC Group, the Middle East and North Africa region’s leading media company, announced new partnerships on Thursday to expand the number of anime titles available on its streaming platform Shahid.

The Riyadh-based organization said in a statement it had teamed up “with key anime studios and production houses in Japan beyond to bring more anime content to its streaming platform.”

“Anime is extremely popular in the Middle East region — particularly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — so needless to say, we are incredibly excited to be making new additions to our ever-expanding anime catalog on Shahid, bringing new and hit titles that audiences will love exploring,” said Tareq Al-Ibrahim, director of content for subscription video on demand at Shahid.

As part of the new deals, MBC Group said it has secured exclusive rights in MENA to TV Tokyo’s “Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War,” the 52-episode Japanese anime television series based on the “Bleach” manga series by Tite Kubo, and a direct sequel to the “Bleach” anime series.

The title, which returns after an eight-year hiatus, is available to stream on Shahid at the same time as in Japan and the US.

The group also announced the extension of the partnership with TOEI Animation, the Japanese anime studio behind the 25-year global hit manga series “One Piece.” As part of the renewed collaboration, MBC Group will air the new upcoming episodes of the series exclusively on its platform.

Following the success of the anime adaptation of “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai” on Shahid, the media group has also expanded its partnership with its production company, Aniplex.

Under the new collaboration, fans will enjoy more than 200 hours of Aniplex content on Shahid, including “Fate/Stay Night,” “Sword Art Online,” and “Gurren Lagann.”

The move reinforces MBC Group’s commitment to expanding its anime offering, continuing to add to an already rich catalog that includes renowned titles “Hunter x Hunter,” “Legend of the Galactic Heroes,” “Belle,” as well as the Japanese–Saudi Arabian animated action fantasy film, “The Journey.”

The company said the new titles will be available to stream on Shahid by the end of the year.

The news comes at an exciting moment for the MBC Group. The company was reported last month to be working with HSBC Holdings and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to go public as early as next year.


Netflix to let more subscribers preview content

Netflix to let more subscribers preview content
Updated 01 December 2022

Netflix to let more subscribers preview content

Netflix to let more subscribers preview content
  • Feature allows selected members to preview shows or films

LONDON: Netflix Inc. is planning to let tens of thousands of users around the world to preview content from early next year, expanding beyond its current previewer base of 2,000-plus subscribers, sources reported on Thursday.
Netflix’s Preview Club, which started more than a year ago, allows its members to watch some shows or films before they appear broadly on the platform and review them, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The video streaming giant did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The move underpins Netflix’s efforts to ensure quality content, at a time when investors and analysts focus more on the profitability of streaming firms.


Taliban silence Voice of America broadcasts in Afghanistan

Taliban silence Voice of America broadcasts in Afghanistan
Updated 01 December 2022

Taliban silence Voice of America broadcasts in Afghanistan

Taliban silence Voice of America broadcasts in Afghanistan
  • Voice of America and Radio Free Europe are funded by the US government, though they claim editorial independence
  • Afghanistan has lost 40 percent of its media outlets and 60 percent of its journalists since the Taliban takeover

WASHINGTON: The Voice of America said Wednesday that Taliban authorities have banned FM radio broadcasts from VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Afghanistan, starting Thursday.
VOA said Taliban authorities cited “complaints they have received about programming content” without providing specifics.
VOA and RFE are funded by the US government, though they claim editorial independence.
The Taliban overran Afghanistan in August 2021 as American and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.
Despite initially promising a more moderate rule, they have restricted rights and freedoms and widely implemented their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thursday that Afghanistan has press laws and any network found “repeatedly contravening” these laws will have their privilege of working in the country taken away.
“VOA and Azadi Radio (Radio Liberty) failed to adhere to these laws, were found as repeat offenders, failed to show professionalism and were therefore shut down,” he said.
The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said recently that Afghanistan has lost 40 percent of its media outlets and 60 percent of its journalists since the Taliban takeover.