Uproar as Kuwaiti media writer prevented from entering Lebanon

Uproar as Kuwaiti media writer prevented from entering Lebanon
There was uproar in Lebanon on Thursday after Kuwaiti media writer and producer Fajer Al-Saeed was prevented from entering the country. (Twitter/@AlsaeedFajer)
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Updated 08 June 2023
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Uproar as Kuwaiti media writer prevented from entering Lebanon

Uproar as Kuwaiti media writer prevented from entering Lebanon
  • Press Editors’ Syndicate, Progressive Socialist Party hit out at ban on Fajer Al-Saeed after Beirut airport ordeal
  • Lebanese Forces party leader questions if country has become ‘another North Korea’

BEIRUT: There was uproar in Lebanon on Thursday after Kuwaiti media writer and producer Fajer Al-Saeed was prevented from entering the country.
Al-Saeed was stopped at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport on Wednesday evening, with Lebanon’s General Security rejecting a request from Kuwaiti Embassy officials to allow her to spend the night there before leaving on the first flight to Kuwait.
Instead, she was deported back to her country on Thursday morning after spending the night at the airport.
Al-Saeed had flown to Lebanon to shoot an episode for the “We Want the Truth” program on the Sawt Beirut International e-platform.
However, she claimed she was detained at the General Security checkpoint over a “name similarity issue” before being told a permanent deportation order had been issued against her, banning her from entering the country.
In 2021, the Arab League designated Beirut as the Capital of Arab Media for 2023 as a symbol of solidarity with the city following the devastating port explosion.
Joseph Al-Kosseifi, head of the Lebanese Press Editors’ Syndicate, told Arab News: “We are against obstructing the work of any journalist in Lebanon — whether Lebanese or visiting from abroad.
“What happened requires clarification. Some claim that Al-Saeed was prevented from entering Lebanon due to an Israeli stamp on her passport, while others argue that her bold stance against Hezbollah was the reason.
“I will refrain from engaging in political disputes, but our position is clear. We oppose the prevention of any journalist or media professional from carrying out their professional duties.”
In a statement, the Progressive Socialist Party claimed the ban was “based solely on her political positions and opinions.”
It added: “Such condemned behavior strikes at the core of Lebanon, which is built on freedoms, diversity, and respect for the press and journalists, regardless of whether they are Lebanese or foreigners.”
Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces party, described the ban as a “police action without any legal justification.”
He said: “It undermines everything that Lebanon stands for in terms of civilization, culture, and media, and it reflects a complete disregard for Lebanon’s Arab relationships.
“Kuwait has always been a source of support, assistance, and friendship to Lebanon in various fields, particularly in the development projects implemented by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, which have surpassed what the Lebanese state has achieved in some areas.
“Is this how we repay our friends? It seems that the only reason for preventing this independent-minded journalist from entering Lebanon lies in her clear and transparent positions toward the axis of resistance. Has Lebanon transformed into another North Korea?”
Al-Saeed noted that the decision to block her entry may have been based on her stance regarding Hezbollah, expressed during a television interview in Lebanon in November.
She said: “I respect Lebanon’s laws, just as I respect the laws of my own country and any other country. If there is a decision to prevent me from traveling, let me leave.”
Al-Saeed revealed that she could not call the Kuwait Embassy until an officer gave her his phone which she used to send a tweet about what was happening.
She said: “I have been at Beirut airport for five hours, and I don’t know the reason. They told me that I am banned from entering the country. Thank you, Lebanon.”
On hearing the news of her detention, the acting Kuwaiti charge d’affaires headed to the airport with other embassy staff and suggested Al-Saeed wait at the embassy until the matter was clarified. But General Security declined the offer.
“They informed me that I was being detained. I want to emphasize that I respect the laws of every country. If you don’t want me, I won’t impose myself on anyone.
“However, that does not mean I don’t love the Lebanese people. You are aware of Lebanon’s circumstances and the decision-makers there, and this is purely a political matter.
“I have not committed any crimes. These are my political opinions, and perhaps some individuals have become sensitive to them and cannot tolerate differing viewpoints.
“We understand their sensitivity. These people break my heart; the ones who stand for what is right are the strong ones,” Al-Saeed added.
She thanked the General Security officers for treating her with respect and acknowledged the challenging working conditions they faced.
Al-Saeed said: “This is the current situation in this country. But I want to ask those who prevented me from entering Lebanon: Can they prevent my voice from reaching the Lebanese people?”
In a statement, the General Directorate of General Security claimed an examination of Al-Saeed’s documents on her arrival at the airport had revealed there to be an existing order prohibiting her entry.
“The procedures for entry and residence in Lebanon for Arabs and foreigners are solely under the jurisdiction of the directorate, in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations.
“Those with concerns can approach the directorate, either in person or through representation, to request a review of any decision made, provided they present relevant data and documents that warrant reconsideration,” the statement said.
MP Ghayath Yazbeck said, “the state and the colluding system” had “labeled advocates of free speech as enemies.” Apologizing to Al-Saeed over her treatment, he added: “This is not our airport, and this is not how we welcome our people and friends.”
 


Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India
Updated 20 May 2024
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Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India
  • ICWI and Eko found Meta’s system failed to detect prohibited content in most cases
  • Indian election sees surge in anti-Muslim, Hindu supremacist sentiment

LONDON: Tech giant Meta approved political advertisements on its platforms inciting violence and hate speech during India’s general election, a report released on Monday revealed.

The investigation, conducted by non-sectarian diasporic organization India Civil Watch International and corporate watchdog Eko, found that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, allowed AI-manipulated political ads that spread disinformation and incited religious violence, particularly targeting Muslims.

The report found that Meta’s system failed to prohibit a series of inflammatory ads designed to mimic real-life scenarios, uploaded by ICWI and Eko.

The ads, submitted to Meta’s ad library, contained slurs towards Muslims in India, such as “let’s burn this vermin” and “Hindu blood is spilling, these invaders must be burned.”

Another ad featured Hindu supremacist language and false claims about political leaders, including an opposition leader allegedly wanting to “erase Hindus from India” and calling for their execution.

According to the report, all of the adverts “were created based upon real hate speech and disinformation prevalent in India, underscoring the capacity of social media platforms to amplify existing harmful narratives.”

Out of 22 ads submitted in English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Kannada, 14 were approved by Meta, while a further three were approved after minor tweaks that did not alter the overall provocative messaging.

Only five ads were rejected for violating Meta’s community standards on hate speech and violence.

The ads, which largely targeted Muslims, were immediately removed after approval by ICWI and Eko.

The organizations accused Meta of profiting from hate speech and failing to uphold its pledge to prevent AI-generated or manipulated content from spreading on its platforms during the Indian election.

Campaign spending for India’s elections, the largest and longest in the world, is estimated to reach $16 billion.

The report also claims that the approved ads violated India’s election rules, which ban election-related content 48 hours before polling begins and during voting.

Meta, which requires vetting approval for accounts running political ads, had already faced controversy during this year’s Indian elections.

A previous report by ICWI and Eko found that surrogate or “shadow” accounts aligned with political parties paid vast sums of money to disseminate unauthorized political ads on platforms.

Some approved accounts for running political ads were even up for sale in public Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members.

Many of these real ads endorsed Islamophobic tropes and Hindu supremacist narratives.

The tech giant has struggled for years with the spread of Islamophobic content on its platforms, raising concerns about Meta’s ability to enforce its policies and control the situation amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment in India.


Food delivery app HungerStation and Snapchat launch AR treasure hunt in Saudi Arabia

Food delivery app HungerStation and Snapchat launch AR treasure hunt in Saudi Arabia
Updated 20 May 2024
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Food delivery app HungerStation and Snapchat launch AR treasure hunt in Saudi Arabia

Food delivery app HungerStation and Snapchat launch AR treasure hunt in Saudi Arabia
  • Companies say the sponsored treasure hunt is a world first
  • Great AR Hungerhunt is part of HungerStation rebranding campaign

LONDON: Food delivery app HungerStation has partnered with social media provider Snapchat to launch an immersive augmented reality treasure hunt on the platform.

The two companies said on Monday that the Great AR Hungerhunt, using Snapchat’s geofenced AR objects technology, is the first sponsored digital treasure hunt of its kind in Saudi Arabia and the world.

“Celebrating our rebranding with Snapchat marks a significant step in our journey of creativity and innovation,” said Mohammed Jifri, chief marketing officer of HungerStation.

“Through this partnership, we’re not just delivering food, but also delivering unforgettable digital experiences to our users.” 

The initiative is part of HungerStation’s rebranding campaign following its $297 million acquisition by German multinational Delivery Hero in July 2023.

A leading food delivery app in Saudi Arabia, HungerStation unveiled its new brand identity in January.

HungerStation’s director of brand and communication, Ahmad Chatila, said the campaign merges technological innovation with marketing opportunities with the aim to connect the brand with youth by “offering a real-life experience and amazing game challenges.”

To participate, Snapchat users need to search for and collect HungerStation’s new branded boxes hidden around city maps to gain points using the AR map feature on Snapchat.

For users not based in Jeddah or Riyadh, a non-location minigame version is available that allows them to collect points too.


EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation
Updated 18 May 2024
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EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation
  • The EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets since February 2022

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Friday banned four more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the 27-nation bloc for what it calls the spread of propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine and disinformation as the EU heads into parliamentary elections in three weeks.
The latest batch of broadcasters consists of Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, which the EU claims are all under control of the Kremlin. It said in a statement that the four are in particular targeting “European political parties, especially during election periods.”
Belgium already last month opened an investigation into suspected Russian interference in June’s Europe-wide elections, saying its country’s intelligence service has confirmed the existence of a network trying to undermine support for Ukraine.
The Czech government has imposed sanctions on a number of people after a pro-Russian influence operation was uncovered there. They are alleged to have approached members of the European Parliament and offered them money to promote Russian propaganda.
Since the war started in February 2022, the EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets.

 

 


Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis
Updated 17 May 2024
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Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis
  • The BBC analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated

LONDON: Israeli soldiers continue to post videos of abuse against Palestinian detainees despite a military pledge to take action against the perpetrators, analysis by the BBC has found.

The broadcaster said it had analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated. Some were draped in Israeli flags. 

Experts say the footage and images, which showed Palestinians being stripped, beaten and blindfolded, could breach international law and amount to a war crime.

The Israel Defense Forces said some soldiers had been disciplined or suspended for “unacceptable behavior” but did not comment on the individual cases identified by the BBC.

The most recent investigation into social media misconduct by Israeli soldiers follows a previous inquiry in which BBC Verify confirmed Israeli soldiers had filmed Gazan detainees while beating them and then posted the material on social platforms.

The Israeli military has carried out arbitrary arrests across Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. The number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has since risen to more than 7,060 according to the Commission of Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

Ori Givati, spokesperson for Breaking the Silence, a non-governmental organization for Israeli veterans working to expose wrongdoing in the IDF, told the BBC he was “far from shocked” to hear the misconduct was ongoing.

Blaming “current far-right political rhetoric in the country” for further encouraging the abuse, he added: “There are no repercussions. They [Israeli soldiers] get encouraged and supported by the highest ministers of the government.”

He said this played into a mindset already subscribed to by the military: “The culture in the military, when it comes to Palestinians, is that they are only targets. They are not human beings. This is how the military teaches you to behave.”

The BBC’s analysis found that the videos and photos it examined were posted by 11 soldiers of the Kfir Brigade, the largest infantry brigade in the IDF. None of them hid their identity.

The IDF did not respond when the BBC asked about the actions of the individual soldiers and whether they had been disciplined.

The BBC also attempted to contact the soldiers on social media. The organization was blocked by one, while none of the others responded.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, urged an investigation into the incidents shown in the footage and called for the IDF to discipline those involved.

In response to the BBC’s investigation, the IDF said: “The IDF holds its soldiers to a professional standard … and investigates when behavior is not in line with the IDF’s values. In the event of unacceptable behavior, soldiers were disciplined and even suspended from reserve duty.

“Additionally, soldiers are instructed to avoid uploading footage of operational activities to social media networks.”

However, it did not acknowledge its pledge to act on BBC Verify’s earlier findings in Gaza, according to the broadcaster.


4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100
Updated 17 May 2024
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4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100
  • 104 Palestinian media workers reported dead, along with 3 Lebanese and 2 Israelis

LONDON: The Gaza Media Authority on Thursday said that four journalists had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, bringing the total number of journalists killed in the conflict to more than 100.

The victims were identified as Hail Al-Najjar, a video editor at the Al-Aqsa Media Network; Mahmoud Jahjouh, a photojournalist at the Palestine Post website; Moath Mustafa Al-Ghefari, a photojournalist at the Kanaan Land website and Palestinian Media Foundation; and Amina Mahmoud Hameed, a program presenter and editor at several media outlets, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The Gaza Media Office said the four were killed in an Israeli airstrike, but did not provide additional details on the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

A total of 104 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the conflict began on Oct. 7. Two Israeli and three Lebanese media workers also have been killed.

The latest loss adds to the already heavy toll on media workers, with the Committee to Protect Journalists saying the Gaza conflict is the deadliest for journalists and media workers since it began keeping records.

Israel is continuing its offensive on Gaza despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

On Thursday, South Africa, which has brought a case accusing Israel of genocide to the International Court of Justice, urged the court to order Israel to halt its assault on Rafah.

According to Gaza medical authorities, more than 35,200 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and over 79,200 have been injured since early October when Israel launched its offensive following an attack by Hamas.