Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange
Gabriel Shipton (C), brother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, demonstrates at the Reichstag building in Berlin, on October 19, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 November 2022

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange
  • Guardian, NYT, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel editors and publishers said the indictment threatens freedom of the press.

WASHINGTON: The United States should end its prosecution of Julian Assange, leading media outlets from the United States and Europe that had collaborated with the WikiLeaks founder said on Monday, citing press freedom concerns.
“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” editors and publishers of the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País said in an open letter.
Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 counts, including a spying charge, related to WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables. His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed US wrongdoing, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Monday marked 12 years since those media outlets collaborated to release excerpts from over 250,000 documents obtained by Assange in the so-called “Cablegate” leak.
The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by the then-American soldier Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of US diplomacy around the globe. The documents exposed “corruption, diplomatic scandals, and spy affairs on an international scale,” the letter said.
In August, a group of journalists and lawyers sued the CIA and its former director, Mike Pompeo, over allegations the intelligence agency spied on them when they visited Assange during his stay in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
Assange spent seven years in the embassy before being dragged out and jailed in 2019 for breaching bail conditions. He has remained in prison in London while his extradition case is decided. If extradited to the United States, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum security prison.
His legal team has appealed to the High Court in London to block his extradition in a legal battle that has dragged on for more than a decade.
“Publishing is not a crime,” the media outlets said in their letter on Monday.


How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market

How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market
Updated 4 sec ago

How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market

How Salient is committed to nurturing Saudi talents in booming communications market
  • Andrew Borne, Sean Trainor highlight challenges of retaining talents and opportunities for the industry

LONDON: Newly formed communications advisory firm Salient, which launched in Riyadh earlier in the week, is committed to forming the next generation of Saudi industry leaders looking to pursue a career in the communications industry.

“Our fresh, innovative approach to communications is the perfect learning environment for nurturing Saudi talents to become global communications consultants,” Salient General Manager Osamah Al-Qusayer told Arab News.

The company, which was founded by industry veterans Andrew Borne and Sean Trainor, specializes in corporate reputation and organizational culture management and offers a range of services including mentoring, coaching, training and consultations.

Recent years have seen a surge in the growth of the communications sector in Saudi Arabia, with many international and boutique agencies, as well as local communications companies, entering the market.

But with this growth comes the challenge of a shortage of local Saudi talents, who often lack the experience and knowledge required for communications work.

The biggest challenge facing the communications market in Saudi Arabia is the search for talent, the pair explained.

“This is where our new agency comes in, with a unique approach to tackling this challenge and creating opportunities for local talents,” Trainor said.

Borne and Trainor, two former employees of public relations firm Hill and Knowlton Strategies, decided to start their own agency with the goal of empowering young Saudis with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the communications field.

However, after several years of working in the Kingdom, the pair realized that, while the Saudi market provided a large pool of young communications professionals to invest in, maintaining those talents presented a number of obstacles.

“After years of investment, many of these young talents often leave for higher paying jobs or are attracted by the idea of working for big international agencies like Hill and Knowlton, creating a vicious cycle,” Trainor explained.

Seeking to address the issue and turn challenges into opportunities, Salient aims to attract young Saudis by offering employees shares of the firm and a progressive company culture that values talents and allows them to tell their own stories.

“We see an opportunity to create a talent pool that would stay in the game, have skin in the game,” Trainor continued.

“We believe we can establish our own agency with a vision that Saudis can own and build and that focuses primarily on Saudi, and in the long term create a great brand that can stand on its own and service the local market, potentially exporting to the rest of the world.”

Borne and Trainor explained that Salient’s approach is guided by the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision. The country’s transformative moment provides an exciting chance for the industry to construct a narrative and enable Saudi organizations to tell their own stories and take the lead on the world stage, they said.

“Good, bad or indifferent, everybody has an opinion about the nation. And for a person in communications, that is a gift because there is nothing we like better than a good, honest discussion to really help people understand what is going on,” Borne explained.

“If you do not tell your story, somebody else will, and they will invariably get it wrong.”

The pair agreed that much international criticism of Saudi Arabia is generated by a lack of “true understanding” of the country, often caused by “big headlines and bad PR campaigns,” and stressed the importance of tackling the gap between perception and reality when it comes to the international reputation.

Borne and Trainor explained that Salient recognizes the importance of communications in bridging this gap and promoting a better understanding of the country and its people.

“By having locals tell their own story, they can help change the perceptions and attitudes toward Saudi Arabia,” Borne said.

 


Iraqis outraged after father kills YouTube star daughter

Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
Updated 04 February 2023

Iraqis outraged after father kills YouTube star daughter

Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
  • Ali had gained a following on YouTube, where she posted videos of her daily life and in which her fiance often appeared

BAGHDAD: The death of a young YouTube star at the hands of her father has sparked outrage in Iraq, where so-called “honor killings” continue to take place in the conservative country.
Tiba Al-Ali, 22, was killed by her father on January 31 in the southern province of Diwaniya, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said on Twitter on Friday.
Police had attempted to mediate between Ali — who resided in Turkiye and was visiting Iraq — and her relatives to “resolve the family dispute in a definitive manner,” Maan said.
Unverified recordings of conversations between Ali and her father appeared to indicate that he was unhappy about her decision to live alone in Turkiye.
Maan said that after the police’s initial encounter with the family “we were surprised the next day... with the news of her killing at the hands of her father, as he admitted in his initial confessions.”
He did not give further details on the nature of the dispute.
Ali had gained a following on YouTube, where she posted videos of her daily life and in which her fiance often appeared.
A police source speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity meanwhile confirmed that the “family dispute” dated back to 2015.
She had traveled to Turkiye with her family in 2017, but upon their return, she refused to join them, choosing instead to stay in Turkiye where she resided since, the police source said.
Her death has sparked uproar among Iraqis on social media, who have called for protests in Baghdad on Sunday to demand justice in response to her death.
“Women in our societies are hostage to backward customs due to the absence of legal deterrents and government measures — which currently are not commensurate with the size of domestic violence crimes,” wrote veteran politician Ala Talabani on Twitter.
Human rights defender Hanaa Edwar told AFP that, according to voice recordings attributed to the young woman, “she left her family... because she was sexually assaulted by her brother.”
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights too reported the allegation. AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the voice recordings.
Amnesty International condemned the “horrific” killing, saying “the Iraqi penal code still treats leniently so called ‘honor crimes’ comprising violent acts such as assault and even murder.”
“Until the Iraqi authorities adopt robust legislation to protect women and girls... we will inevitably continue to witness horrific murders,” Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Aya Majzoub, said.

 


MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm
Updated 03 February 2023

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm
  • She replaces Peter Smith, who stepped down last week
  • Wayne brings ‘wealth of international expertise,’ group CEO Sam Barnett says

LONDON: MBC Group on Friday announced the appointment of Christina Wayne as the new managing director of its production arm, MBC Studios.

Group CEO Sam Barnett said the company was “incredibly excited” by the appointment.

“Christina brings with her a wealth of international expertise in content development and production where she has worked across a multitude of territories and languages, and led on the development of Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning series,” he said.

“We look forward to her building on the team’s successes as we continue to expand our horizons in international content even further.”

Wayne is a seasoned executive and producer with more than 25 years of international experience writing, directing and producing TV shows and films.

Before joining MBC Studios, she was principal creative executive and head of Canada and Australia at Amazon Studios, a position she had held since 2019.

A member of the Writers Guild of America since 1997, Wayne has also held positions with Assembly Entertainment, Cineflix Studios and AMC, and worked on a host of award-winning productions, including “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Broken Trail.”

“I am absolutely delighted to join MBC Group and MBC Studios and have heard great things about the incredible team Peter and the rest of MBC have built,” she said.

“This is a very exciting venture for me, and I cannot wait to get fully involved in one of the world’s most exciting territories for content production.”

Wayne takes over from Peter Smith, who stepped down last week after four years at the helm of MBC Studios. During that time he helped launch the production arm of the free-to-air network MBC and led numerous flagship Arabic-language productions.

Building on Smith’s legacy, Wayne will continue to push into premium non-English-language TV programming and broaden the reach of MBC Group’s content to consumers worldwide.


TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations

TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations
Updated 03 February 2023

TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations

TikTok rolls out new account enforcement system to address repeated policy violations
  • The new update allows TikTok to remove harmful accounts more efficiently
  • TikTik will notify its community members when the new system is available

DUBAI: TikTok announced an updated system for account enforcement for a smoother content creation experience on the entertainment platform.

The move aims to better act against those who repeatedly violate the policies, helping TikTok to remove harmful accounts more efficiently, while promoting a clearer and more consistent experience for most creators who want to follow policies, the company said in a statement.

The updated account enforcement system is currently rolling out globally, and TikTok said it would notify all community members as the new system becomes available to them.

The existing account enforcement system leverages different types of restrictions, like temporary bans from posting or commenting, to prevent abuse of product features while teaching people about the policies detailed in TikTok’s community guidelines to reduce future violations.

While this approach has been effective in reducing harmful content overall, TikTok heard from creators that it can be confusing to navigate. It can disproportionately impact creators who rarely and unknowingly violate a policy, while potentially being less efficient at deterring those who repeatedly violate them.

Repeat violators, according to TikTok, tend to follow a pattern. Analysis has found that almost 90 percent violate using the same feature consistently, and over 75 percent violate the same policy category repeatedly.

To better address this, TikTok is updating the account enforcement system to support the creator community and remove repeat offenders from the platform.

Under the new system, if someone posts content that violates one of TikTok’s community guidelines, the account will accrue a strike as the content is removed. If an account meets the threshold of strikes within either a product feature (i.e. comments, LIVE) or policy (i.e. bullying and harassment), it will be permanently banned.

Those policy thresholds can vary depending on a violation’s potential to cause harm to community members. For example, there may be a stricter threshold for violating TikTok policy against promoting hateful ideologies, than for sharing low-harm spam.

TikTok will continue to issue permanent bans on the first strike for severe violations, including promoting or threatening violence, showing or facilitating child sexual abuse material, or showing real-world violence or torture.

As an additional safeguard, accounts that accrue a high number of cumulative strikes across policies and features will also be permanently banned. Strikes will expire from an account’s record after 90 days.

The company said in its statement that these changes are intended to drive more transparency around TikTok’s enforcement decisions and help the community better understand how to follow the community guidelines.

To further support creators, TikTok will roll out new features in the Safety Center provided to creators in-app in the coming weeks. These include an “account status” page where creators can easily view the standing of their account, and a “report records” page where creators can see the status of reports they have made on other content or accounts.

These new tools add to the notifications creators already receive if they have violated policies, and support creators’ ability to appeal enforcements and have strikes removed if valid. TikTok will also begin notifying creators if they are on the verge of having their account permanently removed.

As a separate step toward improving transparency about moderation practices at the content level, TikTok is beginning to test a new feature in some markets that would provide creators with information about which of their videos have been marked as ineligible for recommendation to the “For You” feed, let them know why, and give them the opportunity to appeal.


Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods

Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods
Updated 03 February 2023

Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods

Big Tech earnings show digital ads market not out of the woods
  • Mood among advertisers remains ‘cautiously optimistic’ for the year ahead as economic slowdown looms

LONDON: After a challenging 2022 in which advertising-dependent companies faced shrinking budgets and cratering stock prices, fourth-quarter results this week from Alphabet, Meta Platforms and Snap showed they were not yet in the clear.
The health of the advertising industry closely mirrors the economy, and many advertisers have pared back their marketing budgets in response to record-high inflation rates and continued uncertainty about a recession.
Google-owner Alphabet Inc. on Thursday reported a slight fall in quarterly ad revenue, missing Wall Street expectations and surprising investors as the world’s largest digital ad platform has traditionally been resilient compared to smaller rivals. Shares of Alphabet were down 5 percent in trading after the closing bell.
“For a company the size of Google and as influential as Google to have such disappointing results, (that means the ad industry) won’t turn around in one quarter,” said Evelyn Mitchell, an analyst at Insider Intelligence.
Snap Inc, owner of photo messaging app Snapchat, said Tuesday it expects current-quarter revenue to decline as much as 10 percent due to competition for ad dollars and a challenging economy.
“(Advertisers) are managing their spend very cautiously so they can react quickly to any changes in the environment,” Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said during an earnings call.
Meta Platforms Inc, the second-largest digital ad platform, lifted Wall Street on Wednesday with its cost cuts and big share buyback, though it posted its third consecutive quarter of year-over-year revenue decline.
Lower ad spending from brands in the financial services and technology sector was one reason for the revenue decline, the company said.
Meta Chief Financial Officer Susan Li said the broader economy continues to be “pretty volatile” and it was too early to tell what the year would look like.
The mood among advertisers broadly is one of “cautious optimism” for the year ahead, said Nicola Mendelsohn, Meta’s vice president of global business group, in an interview on Thursday.
By region, advertisers have been bullish about the US market, while sentiment in Europe has struggled comparatively and China has shown signs of improvement, though the future remains uncertain amid the country’s reopening, Mendelsohn said.