Media watchdog condemns arrest of 11 journalists by Turkish authorities

Media watchdog condemns arrest of 11 journalists by Turkish authorities
Journalists hold placards outside an Istanbul court in 2017, calling for the release of jailed colleagues. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned on Tuesday the arrest of 11 Kurdish journalists by Turkish authorities. (AP/File)
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Updated 26 October 2022

Media watchdog condemns arrest of 11 journalists by Turkish authorities

Media watchdog condemns arrest of 11 journalists by Turkish authorities
  • Raids are part of secret investigation that has been conducted across 6 cities
  • “Turkish authorities once again deprived several journalists of their freedoms under a court-ordered secret investigation,” said Gulnoza Said, of CPJ

LONDON: Media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists condemned on Tuesday the arrest of 11 Kurdish journalists and called on Turkish authorities to stop all prosecution of them.
As part of a secret investigation by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office, Turkish police raided six residences and one newsroom in the cities of Ankara, Diyarbakır, Istanbul, Mardin, Urfa and Van early Tuesday morning.
At least 11 journalists were held in police custody, several media sources reported.
“Turkish authorities once again deprived several journalists of their freedoms under a court-ordered secret investigation,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
“These journalists behind bars are unaware of what they are accused of, just like the journalists who were arrested in Diyarbakır in June who remain detained and uninformed.
“Turkish authorities must immediately release the journalists in custody, return their confiscated property, and stop harassing the Kurdish media in Turkey with baseless charges that typically end up being related to their journalism,” she added.
Police stormed the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Ajansı’s newsroom in Ankara in the early hours of the morning when no staff was present. Authorities entered the workplace with a lock pick early and searched the office for six hours, according to MA.
During the raids, police arrested MA’s news editor Diren Yurtsever and MA reporters Emrullah Acar, Zemo Ağgöz, Berivan Altan, Selman Güzelyüz, Deniz Nazlım, Ceylan Şahinli and Hakan Yalçın.
Multiple news outlets also reported the arrest of pro-Kurdish website Jin News journalists Öznur Değer and Habibe Erenare.
According to MA, the Criminal Court of Peace decided to restrict journalists from meeting with their lawyers for 24 hours. The reason for the decision was “the nature of the crime.”
As part of the investigation, the police also raided the house of another Jin News reporter Derya Ren in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır. According to her employer, she has been taken to the nearby Diyarbakır women’s prison.
In recent months, Turkish authorities have intensified their prosecution of pro-Kurdish media.
In June, a court in Diyarbakır ordered the detention of 15 journalists and a media staffer from pro-Kurdish publications as part of another secret probe. The journalists are still imprisoned without being indicted.


BBC Arabic stops broadcasting after 85 years

BBC Arabic stops broadcasting after 85 years
Updated 27 January 2023

BBC Arabic stops broadcasting after 85 years

BBC Arabic stops broadcasting after 85 years
  • The move comes as part of the World Service's cost cuts

LONDON: BBC Arabic went off-air on Friday, bringing an end to its 85 years of radio broadcasts.

However, the BBC online service will continue.

BBC Arabic, the BBC Empire Service’s first foreign language radio broadcast, aired for the first time on Jan. 3, 1938.

The Arabic-speaking network announced earlier this month that it would gradually reduce its service before finally closing.

The network covered the Second World War, the Suez crisis of 1956, Arab-Israeli wars, Palestinian uprisings and the invasion of Iraq among other major events in the Arab world.

“The broadcast will end at 1 p.m. London time,” BBC Arabic radio’s editor, Adel Soliman, told Middle East Eye.

“But we have prepared special content since Monday, with key interviews and contributions from our audience about how the BBC played a role in their lives, and talks with ex-BBC staff, highlighting their career,” he added.

In September 2022, the World Service announced the suspension of several of its foreign language stations, including Arabic and Persian, as part of a plan to cut costs, saying it was obliged to take this action by the UK government’s license fee freeze.

Under the cost-cutting plan, 382 people across all BBC offices will lose their jobs, saving the broadcaster £28.5 million (about $35.3 million) annually.


Russia bans largest independent news website Meduza

Russia bans largest independent news website Meduza
Updated 27 January 2023

Russia bans largest independent news website Meduza

Russia bans largest independent news website Meduza
  • The ruling prohibits anyone from sharing links to Meduza's website

LONDON: Russia on Thursday declared Meduza, its most prominent independent news website, an “undesirable organization,” banning the outlet’s operation on Russian territory under the threat of felony prosecution.

Russia’s prosecutor-general said in an official statement that Meduza, which was founded by Russian journalists in Latvia, “threatens the foundations of constitutional order and the security of the Russian Federation.”

The ruling prohibits the outlet’s activities in Russia as well as any reference to it, even by posting a hyperlink on social media. Anyone who fails to cooperate may face a prison sentence of up to six years, according to The Guardian.

Russian officials previously labeled Meduza a “foreign agent,” hindering the news website’s ability to raise funds through advertising and forcing it to shift to a crowdfunding model.

“We believe in what we do. We believe in freedom of speech. We believe in a democratic Russia. The bigger the pressure, the harder we will stand up to it,” Meduza said in a statement.

With the onset of the Ukraine war in February 2022, the Russian government banned several outlets, including Echo of Moscow and TV Rain, the country’s only independent news channel.

Russian lawmakers introduced a bill in May 2022 outlawing “discrediting the armed forces,” with a prison sentence of up to 15 years for criticizing the Russian military.

Russia has been cracking down on “undesirable organizations” since 2015, according to Meduza, granting the prosecutor-general the power to label as such any organization that purportedly imperils the country’s “constitutional-order foundations” or national security.


Starzplay to launch first Arabic original series ‘Kaboos’

Starzplay to launch first Arabic original series ‘Kaboos’
Updated 27 January 2023

Starzplay to launch first Arabic original series ‘Kaboos’

Starzplay to launch first Arabic original series ‘Kaboos’
  • TV series described as modern-day retelling of Arab folklore is set to stream in February

LONDON: Video-streaming platform Starzplay announced on Thursday the launch of its first Arabic-language original series created in collaboration with Academy Award-winning Emirati production company Image Nation Abu Dhabi.

The new show, “Kaboos,” features five standalone episodes and has been described as a modern-day retelling of Arab folklore.

Nadim Dada, VP of programming and content acquisition at Starzplay, said the show is “our biggest content asset this year, our very first Arabic language original, and we are very excited to roll out the production across the Middle East.”

Filmed across Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and the UAE, the series takes viewers on a journey through urban legends of the region, with spine-chilling modern takes on stories inspired by local mythology.

The series, which spans a variety of genres from classic horror stories to noir psychological thrillers, features leading directors from across the region.

Emirati filmmakers Hana Kazim and Majid Al-Ansari, Iraqi director Yasir Al-Yasiri, Egyptian filmmaker and visual artist Ahmed Khaled, and Los Angeles-based Bahraini director Hala Matar each directed an episode.

“Image Nation Abu Dhabi constantly looks for challenging new projects that enable regional filmmakers to share the region’s contemporary heritage and culture with the world through Arabic-language content,” Ben Ross, chief content officer, said.

“Kaboos” balances terrifying horror scenes with storylines that explore human nature, offering nostalgic tales to Arab audiences, while introducing global viewers to the eerie world of Arab folklore, he added.

The series, which has been produced by Al-Yasiri’s and Mansoor Al Feeli’s media company, Abu Dhabi-based Starship Entertainment, is set to stream on Starzplay from Feb. 9.
 


Saudi Ministry of Economy launches ‘The Story’ short film on WEF 2023 closing day

Saudi Ministry of Economy launches ‘The Story’ short film on WEF 2023 closing day
Updated 26 January 2023

Saudi Ministry of Economy launches ‘The Story’ short film on WEF 2023 closing day

Saudi Ministry of Economy launches ‘The Story’ short film on WEF 2023 closing day
  • The film's director, Owen Harris, was hired by MBC Studios

LONDON: The Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning launched on Jan. 20 the short film “The Story,” which was featured at Expo 2020 Dubai, showcasing the Kingdom's transformation and growth.

The film’s debut to a global audience, supported by the Ministry of Culture, came on the closing day of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023, following the film’s positive reception at Expo 2020.

The production company, MBC Studios, hired world-renowned director Owen Harris to bring “The Story” to life, showcasing Saudi Arabia’s transformation to global audiences.

“With one year to go until the launch of Expo 2020 Dubai, the working team from the Ministry of Economy and Planning were tasked in delivering a short film for the Saudi Pavilion cinema,” said Saud Altobaishi, general manager of the ministry’s strategic communications.

He added: “Back then, the Executive Committee leading the design, operations, and delivery of the Saudi Pavilion was led by the Minister of Economy and Planning, Faisal F. Alibrahim, when he was the vice minister of economy and planning, and he assigned me to lead and manage the delivery of the short film stream.

“With the clock ticking toward the Saudi Pavilion’s opening day and budgets uncertain, we had to improvise.”

The ministry’s team sought to highlight the Kingdom’s transformation, particularly social and economic growth, and diversity.

“We wanted to show the impact that our evolving economy is having on the quality of life in Saudi Arabia, not by using numbers, but by using raw and real emotions,” Altobaishi said.

The script for “The Story” was developed by Alibrahim and Altobaishi over a single weekend, a few weeks after the creation of the Saudi Pavilion “Cloud Walker” campaign.

“Our partners at the Ministry of Culture and the vice minister of culture, Hamed M. Fayez, provided invaluable technical support at this stage,” Altobaishi added.

Partners in the film creation include the Saudi Tourism Authority and Princess Noura Bint Abdulmohsen of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, both of whom facilitated the filming and production process.

Altobaishi said: “When this film was done, I was an adviser to the Minister of Economy and Planning and Head of Marketing and Communications as well as Head of the film stream for the Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai from early 2020 to October 2021, just before the opening of Expo Dubai.”

“It was no surprise that ‘The Story’ was a hit among Expo 2020 visitors, an immersive journey that captured the essence of our rich cultural heritage and the cutting-edge, innovation-driven future our leadership is shaping through Saudi Vision 2030,” he said.

“Visitors were so captivated by the film that they requested a public version to share with their friends and family, which further solidified its success and resonance among audiences.”


Twitter sued over failure to remove antisemitic post

Twitter sued over failure to remove antisemitic post
Updated 26 January 2023

Twitter sued over failure to remove antisemitic post

Twitter sued over failure to remove antisemitic post
  • Anti-hate speech organizations say Twitter failure to delete content represents breach of its own terms and conditions
  • Case could indicate whether users can sue social media platforms for the removal of violating content in the future

LONDON: Twitter is being sued in Germany for failing to remove antisemitic content from its platform.

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by an anti-hate speech organization, HateAid, and the European Union of Jewish Students, who accuse the social network of not deleting six posts attacking Jewish people and denying the Holocaust, after they were reported.

“What starts online does not end online,” said Avital Grinberg, president of the EUJS.

“Twitter broke our trust. By allowing the distribution of hateful content, the company fails to protect users and especially young Jews.”

According to the two organizations, Twitter’s refusal to remove the content represents a violation of the platform’s terms and conditions.

In Germany antisemitism and Holocaust denial are criminal offenses.

The lawsuit is set to establish whether Twitter’s decision violates a contract between the platform and its users and whether the latter has the authority to enforce the site’s terms and conditions.

HateAid and EUJS also argue that the case’s outcome may indicate whether users can sue for the removal of violating content in the future, even if they are not personally impacted by it.

“We have put the control over the public discourse on the internet into the hands of private companies and investors. Twitter assures it will not tolerate violence on its platform. Users have to be able to rely on that,” said Josephine Ballon, HateAid’s head of legal. 

“But in practice, we see the opposite happening: Illegal content is at best removed in arbitrary and untransparent ways. This must finally change. Twitter owes us a communication platform where we can move freely and without fear of hatred and agitation.”

On Tuesday,  the white supremacist and far-right provocateur Nick Fuentes was reinstated to Twitter and returned to the social media platform with a volley of antisemitic posts and comments, including praise for Adolf Hitler.

Since Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, hate speech on the platform has significantly increased.

According to reports by hate monitor groups the Anti-Defamation League and the Center for Countering Digital Hate, antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent since October.

In an earlier analysis, CCDH found that the majority of the time, social media companies failed to act on antisemitism, anti-black racism, sexist abuse, and vaccine disinformation, with anti-muslim content not being deleted in 89 percent of cases.

According to some experts, Musk’s restructuring of Twitter, which resulted in the layoff of more than 60 percent of the company’s workforce, has had a significant influence on the increase.