Prince Harry’s battle with British tabloids heads for courtroom showdown

Update Prince Harry’s battle with British tabloids heads for courtroom showdown
Britain's Prince Harry leaves the Royal Courts Of Justice in London, Thursday, March 30, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 05 June 2023

Prince Harry’s battle with British tabloids heads for courtroom showdown

Prince Harry’s battle with British tabloids heads for courtroom showdown

LONDON: Prince Harry failed to appear on Monday at the High Court in London where he is suing a British tabloid publisher, with the judge saying he was surprised by his absence and a lawyer for the papers calling his no-show “extraordinary.”
Harry, King Charles’ younger son, will face hours of questioning in the witness box on Tuesday, becoming the first senior British royal to give evidence in court for 130 years.
He is one of more than 100 other high-profile figures suing the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, for alleged phone-hacking and other unlawful behavior between 1991 and 2011.
The trial began last month, as lawyers representing Harry and three other test claimants attempted to prove that unlawful information gathering was carried out with the knowledge and approval of senior editors and executives.
Harry’s allegations are the focus of the trial this week, and the prince had been expected to attend on Monday.
His lawyer David Sherborne told the judge, Timothy Fancourt, that Harry had flown from his home in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, after attending his daughter Lilibet’s second birthday, but was not available to give evidence on Monday.
“His travel arrangements are such and his security arrangements are such that it is a little bit tricky,” Sherborne told the packed courtroom.
Fancourt said he was “surprised” after he had asked that the first witness in each of the four test cases appear in court on the first day of their individual case.
MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green said it was “absolutely extraordinary” that the prince would not be there on Monday, and accused his legal team of wasting the court’s time, saying he had expected to start cross-examining the royal.
Green is seeking to question Harry for more than a day over 33 articles which the prince says were based on material which was unlawfully obtained. It means Harry could be returning to give further evidence on Wednesday.
MGN, now owned by Reach, apologized at the start of the trial for one admitted occasion that the Sunday People had unlawfully sought information about Harry, accepting he was entitled to compensation.
The publisher has previously admitted its titles were involved in phone-hacking and has settled more than 600 claims at a cost of more than 100 million pounds ($120 million) in damages and costs.
But it has rejected all Harry’s other allegations, saying he had no evidence for his claims. Buckingham Palace is likely to feature prominently in Harry’s cross-examination, with MGN arguing that some information had come from royal aides.

In court documents, Harry says the impact of the alleged unlawful activities was to cause him “huge distress” and paranoia, blaming it for the breakdown of his relationship with ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy.
“Prince Harry was one of the most written-about individuals in these three newspapers,” said Sherborne, saying some 2,500 articles had appeared about Harry’s private life in the MGN titles.
“Stories about him were some of the most likely to drive sales and the suggestion that there was just one instance of unlawful information gathering at one of these newspapers, we say is plainly implausible.”
This week’s appearance will be the second time this year Harry has attended the High Court, after joining singer Elton John and others for hearings in March over their lawsuit against the publisher of the Daily and Sunday Mail tabloids.
Harry, the fifth-in-line to the throne, has barely been out of the headlines in the last six months.
He is in engaged in several legal battles with the British press, including a similar phone-hacking case against Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper arm.
The prince has also accused his family and their aides in his memoir and Netflix documentary series of colluding with tabloids. The palace has not commented on those accusations.

Social media platform X tests game streaming and live shopping features

Social media platform X tests game streaming and live shopping features
Updated 03 October 2023

Social media platform X tests game streaming and live shopping features

Social media platform X tests game streaming and live shopping features
  • Elon Musk posts video of himself playing Diablo IV
  • Move may be attempt to lure streamers to the platform

LONDON: Social media platform X has started to test game streaming and live shopping features.

Elon Musk, X’s owner, posted a video of himself playing Diablo IV on the platform, demonstrating the new features of the X video game streamer system.

Musk wrote: “Tested the X video game streamer system last night. It works! Will try to complete a Tier 100 Nightmare Dungeon tonight live on this platform.”

Musk streamed his gameplay of Nightmare Dungeon, and wrote: “Testing video game streaming on X.”

The X broadcast lasted 52 minutes, of which the first dozen were spent setting up the stream.

The event, which was not advertised by Musk, was watched by a total of 20,000 people, with a peak of 1,300 concurrent viewers.


Separately, X has announced a new partnership with Paris Hilton to experiment with live shopping features.

X’s Broadcast feature, which allows users to stream live video, is part of the company’s plan to transform from a short-message website into a more comprehensive social media platform that includes long-form video and other features.

Musk’s testing of the new game-streaming feature suggests that he is trying to compete with Twitch, the leading game-streaming platform owned by Amazon.

Musk is also offering paying subscribers a share of the advertising revenue from their posts, which could lure Twitch streamers who are unhappy with Twitch’s monetization policies.

The gaming and esports industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years, with the Middle East and North Africa region being the fastest-growing area due to demographic and consumption trends.

According to data and analytics streaming platform Streams Charts, Arabic streamers were watched for 120 million hours in 2022 on Twitch, the most popular streaming platform in the region.

Given X’s strong regional presence in MENA, its move to launch game streaming and live shopping features could be a game-changer for the industry and a significant boost for the $38 billion investment strategy unveiled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2022.

However, the full-scale rollout of these features has not yet been announced, and experts have raised concerns about whether X’s infrastructure can handle the new live video features.

Musk last week attempted to stream from the US border with Mexico, but the video feed abruptly cut out after about four minutes due to technical issues.

Barajoun Studios partners with ORI Animation

Barajoun Studios partners with ORI Animation
Updated 03 October 2023

Barajoun Studios partners with ORI Animation

Barajoun Studios partners with ORI Animation
  • The alliance aims to enhance the quality of animation in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Barajoun Studios has announced a partnership with China’s ORI Animation at the Saudi Film Confex being held at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Convention Center.

The co-production alliance aims to enhance the quality of animation in Saudi Arabia while also bolstering the growth of local talent.

Barajoun Studios, which specializes in animation and visual effects, covers all aspects of animation and CGI production, from concept design to final render output with a focus on storytelling.

The company is known for the animated feature film “Bilal: A New Breed of Hero,” with upcoming projects including “Little Heroes” and “Star Chaser.”

Last year, MBC Group’s streaming platform Shahid signed a partnership deal with Barajoun to produce five original, Arabic-language animations. These will stream exclusively under the Shahid Originals banner on Shahid VIP over the next three years.

“Aligning with ORI Animation is not just a business decision; it’s a melding of visions,” Ayman Jamal, CEO of Barajoun Studios, said. “Together, we aim to create narratives that are universal in appeal yet unique in delivery.”

China-based ORI Animation was founded in 2006 and has produced five animated feature films and 11 shows including “One Day,” “Sky Wings,” and “Franco Rabbit.”

In 2013, it launched its expansion strategy, which has seen the company form partnerships with 600 media and animation groups from 70 countries.

“Our collaboration with Barajoun Studios is a testament to the limitless possibilities when creativity and technology meet. We are set on a journey to explore and create stories that will be cherished for generations,” said Feng Qian, president of ORI Animation.

The Saudi Film Confex, hosted by the Saudi Film Commission, seeks to promote the social, cultural and economic value of cinema. Running until Oct. 4 after having started on Sunday, the event brings together industry experts, executives and investors from around the world.

Live Nation Middle East makes global push to promote Arabic music

Live Nation Middle East makes global push to promote Arabic music
Updated 03 October 2023

Live Nation Middle East makes global push to promote Arabic music

Live Nation Middle East makes global push to promote Arabic music
  • Newly appointed Amin T. Kabban to lead team promoting international tours for Arabic artists
  • Company is committed to growing regional talents, exporting Arabic music worldwide, Live Nation Middle East president said

LONDON: Live Nation Middle East, the regional arm of the entertainment giant, is making a global push to promote Arabic music.

The company has appointed Amin T. Kabbani to lead a newly formed team that will focus on booking and promoting international tours for Arabic artists.

“Expanding our operations to include international touring for Arabic talent is a natural progression for Live Nation Middle East,” said James Craven, president of Live Nation Middle East.

“While focusing on established names, Live Nation Middle East is equally dedicated to nurturing up-and-coming regional talent.”

As part of its initiative, the entertainment powerhouse will host events at some of the region’s iconic venues, such as Etihad Arena.

Craven said Live Nation is committed to nurturing up-and-coming Arabic talent and raising the profile of Arabic music around the world.

Kabbani, an industry leader with 15 years of experience, said that he is “truly honored and excited to join the Live Nation Middle East team on this incredible journey of transforming the Arabic touring market.”

He added that this is a “remarkable opportunity to not only shape the future of live entertainment but also to celebrate the rich Arabic culture through unforgettable performances.”

Live Nation Middle East will kick off its global touring business in early 2024 with an 18-stop tour headlined by an iconic Arab artist.

Arab Cinema Week returns for second year

Arab Cinema Week returns for second year
Updated 03 October 2023

Arab Cinema Week returns for second year

Arab Cinema Week returns for second year
  • Held under the theme ‘Human Bonds,’ the festival will feature films reflecting key events that have affected the Arab world

DUBAI: The second Arab Cinema Week is returning this month to Dubai, UAE.

The inaugural event last year screened nine feature films and six short films — with 11 Arab countries and nine female directors represented.

This year the festival is being held under the theme ‘Human Bonds’ and aims to explore an individual’s connection to a particular society and the effect customs and traditions have on a person’s upbringing, identity and relationships.

The featured films reflect key events that have affected the Arab world — such as the unrest in Lebanon, the earthquake in Morocco and the upheaval in Sudan.

For example, the documentary “Heroic Bodies” explores the position women hold in Sudanese society, and in “My Lost Country,” filmmaker Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez retraces her father’s roots in Iraq, 20 years after the invasion of the country.

Beirut holds a special place in the selection, said Rabih El-Khoury, curator of this year’s festival.

The lineup includes three Beirut-based films: Wissam Charaf’s “Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous,” which tells the story of a Syrian refugee and an Ethiopian domestic worker falling in love in Beirut; Mohamed Soueid’s documentary “The Insomnia of a Serial Dreamer” and Borhane Alaouie’s celebrated feature “Beirut the Encounter,” which was shot during the Lebanese civil war.

Other films this year include “Under the Fig Trees,” “Life Suits Me Well” and “Alam.”

El-Khoury said: “Arab Cinema Week is both an exploration and a celebration of Arab cinema. In a program that invites the spectators to investigate human bonds, Cinema Akil is also fortifying its ties with its tremendous audience and filmgoers, a human bond that remains invaluable.”

The 10-day event will be held at Cinema Akil in collaboration with the UK’s Safar Film Festival from Oct. 6 to Oct. 15.

India police search journalists’ homes and offices in the country’s latest raids on media

India police search journalists’ homes and offices in the country’s latest raids on media
Updated 03 October 2023

India police search journalists’ homes and offices in the country’s latest raids on media

India police search journalists’ homes and offices in the country’s latest raids on media
  • Indian authorities raid NewsClick over allegations of illicit funding
  • India’s crackdown on journalists and media outlets has raised international concerns

NEW DELHI: Indian police raided the offices of a news website that’s under investigation for allegedly receiving funds from China, as well as the homes of several of its journalists, in what critics described as an attack on one of India’s few remaining independent news outlets.
The raids came months after Indian authorities searched the BBC’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices over accusations of tax evasion in February.
NewsClick, founded in 2009, is known as a rare Indian news outlets that is willing to criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A number of other news organizations have been investigated for financial impropriety under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, as international monitors warn that press freedom is eroding in India.
Indian authorities registered a case against the site and its journalists on Aug. 17, weeks after a New York Times report alleged that the website had received funds from an American millionaire who, the Times wrote, has funded the spread of “Chinese propaganda.” NewsClick has denied the charges.
The case was filed under a wide-ranging anti-terrorism law that allows charges for “anti-national activities” and has been used against activists, journalists and critics of Modi, some of whom have spent years in jail before going to trial. No one has been arrested in connection with NewsClick so far.
The Press Trust of India news agency cited unidentified officials as saying that investigators took data from the laptops and mobile phones of journalists, and that two journalists were detained.
At least two journalists whose houses were raided by Delhi police confirmed their devices were seized.
“Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and phone,” journalist Abhisar Sharma wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Delhi police did not immediately respond for a comment, but India’s junior minister for information and broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, told reporters that “if anyone has committed anything wrong, search agencies are free to carry out investigations against them.”
In August, Thakur accused NewsClick of spreading an “anti-India agenda,” citing the New York Times, and of working with the opposition Indian National Congress party. Both NewsClick and the Congress party denied the accusations.
Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, ranked the country 161st in its press freedom rankings this year, writing that the situation in the country has deteriorated from “problematic” to “very bad.”
The Press Club of India said it was “deeply concerned about the multiple raids conducted on the houses of journalists and writers associated with NewsClick.”
“The PCI stand in solidarity with the journalists and demands the government to come out with details,” it wrote in a statement on X.
Ties between India and China have been strained since 2020, when clashes between the two militaries in a disputed border area killed at least 20 Indian troops and four Chinese soldiers. Since then, New Delhi has banned many Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, and launched tax probes into some Chinese mobile phone companies.
The Modi administration has also introduced rules that require government approval for investments by companies from China and other countries that neighbor India.