Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India

Special Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India
Indian journalist Mohammed Zubair, wearing cap, sits in a police vehicle after a court appearance in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Updated 28 June 2022

Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India

Arrest of Muslim journalist sparks widespread outrage in India
  • Mohammed Zubair is one of the co-founders of fact-checking website Alt News
  • Reporters in the Asian nation have been increasingly targeted in recent years

NEW DELHI: The arrest of a Muslim reporter who was one of the first to highlight controversial comments on Islam by an official from India’s ruling party, sparked nationwide outrage among media workers on Tuesday, with journalists calling for his immediate release.

One of the co-founders of fact-checking website Alt News, Mohammed Zubair drew attention to controversial comments made by the now-suspended spokesperson of India’s ruling party on the Prophet Muhammad that earlier this month created a diplomatic row for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.

He was arrested by New Delhi police on Monday evening on charges of posting pictures on social media “against a particular religious community.” The arrest followed a complaint by a Twitter user over Zubair’s post from 2018, in which he commented on the renaming of a hotel after the Hindu monkey deity Hanuman. The arrest coincided with Modi signing, with leaders of the G7 in Germany, the 2022 Resilient Democracies Statement on protecting freedom of expression and opinion.

“(The) foundation of democracy is in danger today. We are concerned about the state of freedom of (the) press in India. Any attack on the press is an attack on democracy,” Umakant Lakhera, president of the Press Club of India, told Arab News, after the top association of Indian journalists demanded Zubair’s immediate release.

“Democracy cannot survive without the freedom of (the) press,” Lakhera said. The Editors Guild of India also issued a statement condemning the arrest.

“I don’t know whether this arrest should be seen as an attempt to control dissenting voices. The people who run the government have a different view of news — they want stenographers who unquestioningly write what’s told to them,” the guild’s secretary general, Sanjay Kapoor, said.

“Fact checking hurts the ecosystem that uses disinformation to undermine the credibility of the media and those who disagree with the state.”

Journalists in India have been increasingly targeted for their work in recent years. Some have been arrested under stringent criminal charges over posts on social media. The Twitter accounts of some of them have also been suspended on government orders.

The country’s position on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders has been consistently declining since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014.

In 2022, it has fallen to 150 out of 180 countries.

Indian journalist, television anchor, and senior political commentator Urmilesh told Arab News that Zubair’s arrest is a “continuation of the government’s assault on media that has been going on for the last eight years.”

“This was not the trend earlier in India,” he said. “It has become quite risky in India to be critical. You are not safe if you are the critic of the government. You can be arrested any time. True journalists who practice their journalism honestly, are under threat in India today.”


Snapchat launches Family Center parental-control feature in Saudi Arabia

Snapchat launches Family Center parental-control feature in Saudi Arabia
Updated 52 sec ago

Snapchat launches Family Center parental-control feature in Saudi Arabia

Snapchat launches Family Center parental-control feature in Saudi Arabia
  • It allows parents to monitor the online safety of their children by providing details about people with whom youngsters are communicating through the app

DUBAI: Instant messaging service Snapchat, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia’s General Commission for Audiovisual Media, has launched in the Kingdom its Family Center parental-control feature.

The new feature was introduced to the app in August in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It was launched last month in the UAE at an event attended by Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and other government officials.

Family Center is designed to give parents and guardians more control over children’s Snapchat habits. It allows them to view details of the people with whom a child is communicating without seeing the content of the conversations, to protect the privacy of the young person. Any suspicious accounts can be easily reported to Snapchat.

Family Center is designed to be used both by parents and children. Parents and guardians are required to install Snapchat on their own devices and then link their accounts to those of their children to access the feature. They can also invite other family members, age 25 or over, to use the feature.

According to a study by data analytics and brand consulting company Kantar, 71 percent of parents in the Kingdom use Snapchat.


Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services

Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services
Updated 03 October 2022

Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services

Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services
  • BBC Arabic radio, others face ax as broadcaster moves to digital-first
  • 382 jobs also set to go in $31m cost-cutting exercise

DUBAI: The BBC’s announcement that it is set to end several of its foreign-language services, including BBC Arabic radio station, has been met with disappointment around the world.

Channel 4 News’ international editor Lindsey Hilsum said on Twitter that “people rely on these radio language services for fair and balanced news they can’t get elsewhere.”

This was especially critical in countries where governments restricted internet services, she added.

Yaser Atrash, a journalist at Syria TV, said on Twitter that “the memory of generations is extinguished.”

The reactions follow an announcement from the corporation last week that it is planning to close its BBC Arabic station after 84 years as part of a cost-cutting exercise and move to digital-first broadcasting that will also see the demise of several other foreign-language services.

A total of 382 workers at the BBC World Service are set to lose their jobs amid rising costs, a freeze in license fees and the move to digital platforms, the company said.

The corporation’s international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million, it added.

Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi political affairs expert and founder and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, said on Twitter: “In May 2000 I visited #BBCArabicRadio for the 1st time & told its manager then Gamon McLellan to plan to shutter radio service & focus on TV.”

Liliane Landor, director of BBC World Service, said the cuts and closures would not mean a reduction in the quality of service.

“We will continue to bring the best journalism to audiences in English and more than 40 languages, as well as increasing the impact and influence of our journalism by making our stories go further,” she said.

The World Service currently operates in over 40 languages around the world and has a weekly audience of about 364 million people. But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online.

The company said it was proposing to stop its radio services in Arabic, Persian, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil and Urdu.

The language services it is proposing to move to digital-only are: Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu and Yoruba.

Eleven language services — Azerbaijani, Brazil, Marathi, Mundo, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese — are already digital-only.


Russian TV protester listed as wanted fugitive

Russian TV protester listed as wanted fugitive
Updated 03 October 2022

Russian TV protester listed as wanted fugitive

Russian TV protester listed as wanted fugitive
  • Journalist Marina Ovsyannikova is accused of spreading fake news about Russia’s armed forces

LONDON: Russian TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, famous for staging an on-air protest against Russia’s war in Ukraine, has been put on Moscow’s wanted list after her ex-husband reported she had escaped from pre-trial house arrest.
Ovsyannikova, 44, was given two months’ house arrest in August, and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of spreading fake news about Russia’s armed forces.
The case relates to a protest in July when she stood on a river embankment opposite the Kremlin and held up a poster calling President Vladimir Putin a murderer and his soldiers fascists.
The term of her house arrest was due to last until Oct. 9.
However, the state-run news outlet Russia Today reported on Saturday that she had fled along with her daughter, and that her whereabouts were unknown.
“Last night, my ex-wife left the place that the court assigned her for house arrest and, together with my 11-year-old daughter, fled in an unknown direction,” it quoted her ex-husband as saying.
On Monday, her name could be seen on the interior ministry’s online list of fugitives from justice, accompanied by a photo.
The circumstances of where she went or how she left are not clear.
Russia passed new laws against discrediting or distributing “deliberately false information” about the armed forces on March 4, eight days after invading Ukraine.
Ovsyannikova, who was born in Ukraine, came to international prominence in March by walking out in front of studio cameras during an evening news broadcast on the flagship Channel One with a placard that read “Stop the war” and “They’re lying to you.”
She has already been fined for two previous protests against the war.


Supreme Court to scrutinize US protections for social media

Supreme Court to scrutinize US protections for social media
Updated 03 October 2022

Supreme Court to scrutinize US protections for social media

Supreme Court to scrutinize US protections for social media
  • The hearing could challenge federal protections for Internet and social media companies freeing them of responsibility for content posted by users

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to federal protections for Internet and social media companies freeing them of responsibility for content posted by users in a case involving an American student fatally shot in a 2015 rampage by Islamist militants in Paris.
The justices took up an appeal by the parents and other relatives of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old woman from California who was studying in Paris, of a lower court’s ruling that cleared Google LLC-owned YouTube of wrongdoing in a lawsuit seeking monetary damages that the family brought under a US anti-terrorism law. Google and YouTube are part of Alphabet Inc. .
The Supreme Court also agreed to hear a separate appeal by Twitter Inc. of the lower court’s decision to revive a similar lawsuit against that company, though not on the basis of Section 230.
The lawsuit against Google accused it of materially supporting terrorism in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act, a federal law that allows Americans to recover damages related to “an act of international terrorism.” The lawsuit alleged that YouTube, through computer algorithms, recommended videos by the Islamic State militant group, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, to certain users.
The San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021 dismissed the lawsuit in a ruling relying largely on another law, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Section 230, enacted before the rise of today’s major social media companies, protects “interactive computer services” by ensuring they cannot be treated as the “publisher or speaker” of any information provided by other users.
The lawsuit argued that such immunity should not apply when the company’s platform recommends certain content via algorithms that identify and display content most likely to interest users, based on how people use the service.
Section 230 has drawn criticism from across the political spectrum. Democrats have faulted it for giving social media companies a pass for spreading hate speech and misinformation. Republicans painted it as a tool for censorship of voices on the right, especially after Twitter and other platforms banned then-President Donald Trump from after a mob of his supporters attacked the US Capitol in a deadly riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump as president unsuccessfully sought its repeal.
Gonzalez was among 130 people killed in Paris during the 2015 attacks that included suicide bombings and mass shootings. She was at a bistro called La Belle Equipe when militants fired on the crowd of diners.
The plaintiffs said that YouTube’s algorithm helped Islamic State spread its militant message by recommending to users the group’s videos including those aimed at recruiting jihadist fighters, and that the company’s “assistance” was a cause of the 2015 attacks.
Gonzalez’s family appealed the 9th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court, noting that while algorithms may suggest benign dance videos to some, “other recommendations suggest that users look at materials inciting dangerous, criminal or self-destructive behavior.”
The family added that removing Section 230 protections would prompt websites to stop recommending harmful materials, while saying that allowing the immunity “denies redress to victims who could have shown that those recommendations had caused their injuries, or the deaths of their loved ones.”
In the case against Twitter, American family members of Nawras Alassaf, a Jordanian citizen who died in a nightclub mass shooting in 2017 in Istanbul also claimed by Islamic State, accused that social media company of violating the anti-terrorism law by failing to police the platform for Islamic State accounts or posts.
The 9th Circuit in the same ruling reversed a federal judge’s decision to throw out the case against Twitter, but did not assess Twitter’s claim of immunity under Section 230.


TikTok to partner with TalkShopLive for US live shopping

TikTok to partner with TalkShopLive for US live shopping
Updated 03 October 2022

TikTok to partner with TalkShopLive for US live shopping

TikTok to partner with TalkShopLive for US live shopping
  • TalkShopLive's “live streaming, social buying and selling platform” will allow users to buy products through links on the app during live broadcasts

LONDON: TikTok is due to enter a partnership with Los Angeles-based TalkShopLive to launch its live shopping platform in North America by outsourcing its operation, the Financial Times reported on Saturday citing two people familiar with the operations.
The companies are still finalizing the arrangements, the FT report said, adding that no contracts have been signed so far.
TikTok did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment while a representative for TalkShopLive declined to comment.
Bytedance-owned TikTok’s live shopping platform TikTok Shop is available in Asian markets including Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. It was launched in the UK last year, according to the report.
TikTok Shop allows users to buy products through links on the app during live broadcasts, and the Los Angeles based TalkShopLive app works on a similar concept. TalkShopLive describes itself as a “live streaming, social buying and selling platform,” on its website.
TalkShopLive signed an agreement with US retailer Walmart last year to provide shoppable content through embeddable videos across Walmart.com.
The reported partnership comes at a time when TikTok, which counts the United States as its largest market, is facing scrutiny from US lawmakers questioning the Chinese-owned app’s safeguards of user data.