Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum
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Updated 27 September 2023

Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

Saudi-Iran rapprochement right move but still long way to go: Experts tell Arab Media Forum

DUBAI: The recent Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran was the right move, but there is still a long way to go, experts told the Arab Media Forum on Tuesday. 

“Iran continues to support armed groups that Saudi opposes,” Afshin Molavi senior fellow at Foreign Policy Institute in John Hopkins University, pointed out. 

Molavi’s comments came during session titled “The Middle East – A Region of Opportunities or Conflicts” alongside Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News.

Wondering if whether or not the deal will succeed, Abbas pointed out that the Kingdom, due to its continuous leadership, has over 40 years of experience in dealing with Iran.

“The best case scenario will be both countries putting in the leverage and work to cooperate and try to solve conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, of course with involvement of the local players. 

The worst case scenario will be a missed opportunity to make that happen and relations remain the same.”  Abbas said.

Abbas also explained why China was a better suited broker for the rapprochement deal detailing how it has leverage over Iran by investing billions of dollars in projects and there is no risk of the negotiations restarting under a different ideology every 4 years due to elections as could be the case in America. 

In his view, Molavi said China brokering the deal “comes with a grain of salt” as Washington believes China is its enemy but he believes the rapprochement is the right move for the region.  

The Arab view on China differs from the west, however. 

A recent YouGov study done by Arab News on Palestine shows how Palestinians see China as a more honest broker to handle their issue rather than the US.

Abbas said colonial powers such as France, the UK and the wars US were involved in are viewed negatively in comparison to China where its political and economical involvement in the region has been mostly positive “the Chinese do not come with that baggage.” 

On the issue of America, Molavi notes there is a shift in power and while Washington remains a powerful country, the world is witnessing a rise in other powers such as China and India.  

“Today, countries are proving that we now live in the world of multi strategic alignment, and I think Washington is beginning to understand that; it is no longer you’re either with us or against us.” 

Molavi continues: “this can also be seen in the Abraham Accords where on one hand the UAE has this historical relationship and alliance with Israel but then joins BRICS.  

Abbas described how exciting the dynamics are and spoke of the Saudi position on the matter where he mentions how the Saudi hand has been extended for 20 years provided that there will be a solution for Palestinians.  

“Biden needs a foreign policy legacy and this will be a winning ticket for him for the upcoming election.”  



Both speakers also discussed and highlighted the positive changes that Saudi and UAE have been making.   

Abbas noted Saudi Arabia’s remarkable achievements and how these stories should be celebrated and shared such as the launching of the female Saudi astronaut among other things. 

“Actions speak louder than words, Facts are stubborn things. No amount of negative stories can take those achievements away, Saudi is the fastest growing G20 economy in the world.”

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger
Updated 07 December 2023

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger

Meta to start fully encrypting messages on Facebook and Messenger
  • End-to-end encryption will help keeping user safe from hackers, fraudsters
  • Meta also announced plan do add invisible watermark to AI-generated product

LONDON: Meta Platforms said on Wednesday it has started to roll out end-to-end encryption for all personal chats and calls on Messenger and Facebook.

The end-to-end encryption feature will be available for use immediately, the social media giant said, but it may take some time for all Messenger accounts to be updated with default end-to-end encryption.

Messenger previously had the option to turn on end-to-end encryption, allowing a message to be read only by the sender and its recipients, but with this change messages would be encrypted by default, Meta said.

Meta, whose WhatsApp platform already encrypts messages, has said encryption can help keep users safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.

End-to-end encryption has been a bone of contention between companies and governments. The British government had urged Meta in September not to roll out encryption on Instagram and Facebook Messenger without safety measures to protect children from sexual abuse.

Meta is also adding two new features. Users can now edit a Facebook Messenger message within 15 minutes of sending it. Additionally, the app is integrating “Disappearing Messages,” a mode where messages automatically vanish after 24 hours, This mode is only available for conversations with end-to-end encryption turned on.

On Wednesday, the tech giant also revealed its its plan to incorporate invisible watermarking to its text-to-image generation product imagine with Meta AI chatbot in the coming weeks.

The watermark, embedded in its code, is designed to withstand common image manipulations such as cropping and screenshots.

This initiative aligns with broader efforts by major tech companies to improve transparency and curb the proliferation of fake AI-generated products.

With Reuters

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content
Updated 07 December 2023

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content

Meta oversight board to examine Israel-Hamas war content
  • Oversight board to review two specific cases
  • New expedited review mechanism ensures that the decision’s outcome will be announced within 30 days

NEW YORK: Meta’s independent Oversight Board said on Thursday it will review how the company has handled violent content on its social media platforms in two cases involving hostage-taking and bombing in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The cases will be the first to use a new expedited review mechanism announced earlier this year that requires the board to make decisions within 30 days. The board usually deliberates for several months on its cases. The board’s decision to take on the cases comes as social media platforms have been flooded with violent, hateful and misleading content in the two-month-old war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement in Gaza which carried out the Oct. 7 attack on Israeli towns that set off the conflict.
After that attack, Meta temporarily lowered its threshold for removing potentially harmful content, including posts that clearly identified hostages taken by Hamas. The company has also faced accusations that it was suppressing expressions of support for Palestinians living under Israel’s military response in Gaza.
In one case to be reviewed by the board, Meta took down a video on Instagram showing the aftermath of an explosion at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, including injured and dead children, the board said.
A caption on the video claimed the hospital had been targeted by the “usurping occupation,” an apparent reference to the Israeli army, it said. The hospital, the biggest medical facility in the Palestinian Territories, has been at the center of accusations of war crimes on both sides of the conflict. Human Rights Watch last month said its investigation found the explosion at the hospital was likely caused by a rocket commonly used by Palestinian armed groups.
Meta restored the content with a warning screen after the board selected the case for review.
The other case involves a video on Facebook showing a woman begging her kidnappers not to kill her as she is driven away on a motorbike. A caption urges people to raise awareness of what happened on Oct. 7, the board said.
Meta initially took down the video, but reversed its decision weeks later in response to trends around how hostage kidnapping videos were being shared, according to the board.
As with the video in the first case, it was restored with a warning screen, the board said.
In a statement, Meta said it welcomed the Oversight Board’s review and pledged to implement its decision in each case.

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28
Updated 07 December 2023

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28

TikTok launches $1M campaign to tackle climate misinformation at COP28
  • The platform revealed its commitment to sustainability and climate literacy

LONDON: TikTok launched the 2023 #ClimateAction campaign with new initiatives and programming, as part of the ongoing commitment to tackling misinformation and coinciding with the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference.

The platform announced a new $1 million initiative to tackle climate misinformation in support of “Verified for Climate,” a collaborative initiative between the UN and Purpose.

The campaign will bring together a group of “Verified Champions” who will assist TikTok creators in creating educational content to combat false and misleading information about climate change, while also promoting climate action within the TikTok community.

In a statement, Helena Lersch, vice president of public policy for emerging markets and global head of corporate social responsibility, said: “At TikTok, we are continuously finding ways to empower our community with authoritative information on topics that matter to them, including climate literacy.

“Through this new initiative, we’re looking forward to partnering with a team of experts to further inform and inspire our global community, bound by our shared goal of raising awareness around important climate topics and finding sustainable solutions.”

Echoing Lersch’s words, Melissa Fleming, UN under-secretary-general for global communications, highlighted the importance of having accurate, science- based information, especially given the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

“With creative content that focuses on solutions and inspires action, the ‘Verified Champions’ will help turn the tide on denialism, doomism and delay,” she argued.

As part of the global #ClimateAction campaign this year, TikTok launched “Nature Diaries,” an exclusive video series aimed at promoting climate action and enhancing climate literacy.

Additionally, TikTok LIVE is extending its partnership with Emirates Nature-WWF to spearhead impactful environmental initiatives.

Creators and participants will take part in a “plant a tree” event, dedicated to restoring the terrestrial ecosystem Masfout Village in Ajman, as part of a collaboration between TikTok LIVE and Emirates Nature-WWF.

Coinciding with the COP28 conference, six creators joined non-profit partners to discuss and explore best practices of using authentic sustainability content to drive positive impact.

In April, TikTok collaborated with the UN to introduce a search tool that provides credible information to users searching for climate-related subjects.

TikTok has emerged as a hub for communities worldwide that are affected by climate change, providing them with valuable information and facilitating discussions on crucial climate-related matters and potential solutions.

Similarly, earlier this year, TikTok has launched a mental-health awareness campaign called #aGoodCollective.

The initiative provides themed hashtags, specialized tools, and access to an array of resources to help address common misconceptions about mental well-being and extend support to those seeking help.

BBC anchor gives middle finger in private joke gone wrong

BBC anchor gives middle finger in private joke gone wrong
Updated 07 December 2023

BBC anchor gives middle finger in private joke gone wrong

BBC anchor gives middle finger in private joke gone wrong
  • Maryam Moshiri issued an apology and explained she was having a private joke with the team in the gallery

LONDON: BBC anchor Maryam Moshiri was caught on camera giving the middle finger in what appeared to be a private joke gone wrong.

A video capturing the incident quickly went viral on the internet, showing Moshiri raising her eyebrows and making the gesture as she appeared on screen at the beginning of Wednesday’s midday news bulletin.

Realizing she was live on air, Moshiri swiftly retracted her hand, transitioning into reading the headlines with composure. “Live from London, this is BBC News,” she stated, reverting to a traditional news anchor stance.

The incident garnered widespread attention on social media, prompting Moshiri to address the matter and issue an apology.

In an explanatory post, she revealed that she was “having a private joke” with her friends in the gallery, involving a countdown with her fingers culminating in the potentially offensive gesture.

“Hey, I’m so sorry about this. I was having a private joke with the team in the gallery and pretending to count down as the director was counting me down from 10-0 … including the fingers to show the number,” the presenter said in a post on X.

“When we got to 1 I turned finger [sic] around as a joke and did not realise that this would be caught on camera.

“It was not my intention for this to happen and I’m sorry if I offended or upset anyone. I wasn’t ‘flipping the bird’ at viewers or even a person really,” she said.

The Tehran-born journalist has been one of the BBC News channel’s chief anchors since she was promoted in February. She has worked for the British broadcaster for more than 20 years.

The incident also comes as the UK government confirmed “woke warrior” veteran TV executive Samir Shah was their preferred candidate to take over as BBC chair.

Strike on journalists in Lebanon: Why AFP probe points to an Israeli tank shell

Strike on journalists in Lebanon: Why AFP probe points to an Israeli tank shell
Updated 07 December 2023

Strike on journalists in Lebanon: Why AFP probe points to an Israeli tank shell

Strike on journalists in Lebanon: Why AFP probe points to an Israeli tank shell
  • Two strikes hit the group of journalists in quick succession as they were working near the border village of Alma Al-Shaab

PARIS: An investigation by Agence France-Presse into the strike in southern Lebanon on October 13 that killed a Reuters journalist and injured six others, including two from AFP, points to a tank shell only used by the Israeli army in this high-tension border region.
Two strikes hit the group of journalists in quick succession as they were working near the border village of Alma Al-Shaab in an area that sees the Israeli army and armed Lebanese and Palestinian groups engaged in near-daily clashes.
Issam Abdallah, 37, was killed instantly. The other journalists present — two other Reuters journalists, two from Al Jazeera, and two from AFP — were all injured. AFP photographer Christina Assi, 28, was seriously wounded, later had a leg amputated and is still in hospital.
AFP jointly conducted a seven-week investigation with Airwars, an NGO that investigates attacks on civilians in conflict situations, based on evidence gathered from expert munitions analysis, satellite images, witness testimonies and video recordings filmed before and during the attack.
Its evidence points to an 120-mm fin-stabilized Israeli-made tank round, which is only used by the Israeli army in the high-tension border region.
The probe indicates that the strikes came from the southeast near the Israeli village of Jordeikh where Israeli tanks were operating. The nature of the strikes and lack of military activity in the vicinity of the journalists, combined with Israeli aerial surveillance resources, indicate it was a deliberate and targeted attack.
These findings are supported by separate investigations conducted by rights groups Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International.
HRW concluded that the strikes were “apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, which is a war crime” and which “should be prosecuted or may be prosecuted for war crimes.” Amnesty said the incident was “likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime.”
An Israeli military spokesman said after the strike: “We are very sorry for the journalist’s death,” adding that Israel was “looking into” the incident, without taking responsibility.
“AFP has been very clear that we will take all judicial avenues that we deem relevant and possible to ensure that we can get justice for Christina and Issam,” said AFP Global News Director Phil Chetwynd.

Two successive strikes hit the group of journalists at 18:02 as they were positioned above Alma Al-Shaab, a village located around a kilometer from the “Blue Line,” the UN-monitored demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah and local branches of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had been exchanging fire with Israel on a near-daily basis across the border since Gaza-based Hamas fighters carried out their attacks on October 7.
More than 110 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, mostly Hezbollah fighters, as well as more than a dozen civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says six of its soldiers have been killed.
The seven journalists were at the scene for around an hour before they were hit, positioned on the top of a small hill which offered a wide vantage point to film the Israeli bombardments that had intensified that afternoon.
The Israeli army has confirmed that it was carrying out artillery attacks in response to an infiltration attempt.
Al Jazeera journalists Carmen Joukhadar and Elie Brakhya were first on the scene, followed by AFP’s Dylan Collins and Christina Assi, and Reuters correspondents Issam Abdallah, Thaer Al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh.
All were equipped with helmets and bulletproof vests marked “Press” and were standing behind cameras placed prominently on tripods, as shown in a video shot by AFP’s Assi on her phone and posted to her Instagram shortly after 17:00.
“I was live to report the Israeli bombardment, and I had just said that there was no rocket fire from the Lebanese side. We were all on a hill in an open-air area, without any rockets or military sites near us. There was nothing near us,” Al Jazeera’s Joukhadar said.

The first strike hit at 18:02. It killed Abdallah instantly and seriously wounded Assi. On the video footage, she is heard screaming: “What happened? What happened? I can’t feel my legs.”
“We had spent about an hour filming a distant pillar of smoke to our south, and some limited Israeli shelling along hilltops to our southeast. Just before 6 p.m. we turned our cameras toward the west and suddenly we were hit. It came out of nowhere,” said Collins.
“We were in an exposed area, all of us wearing our helmets, our vests, just doing our job... and we were maintaining a safe distance from the front line,” said Assi. “Suddenly, everything became white... and I lost sensation in my legs, and I started crying for help.”
Collins attempted to provide her with first aid, but 37 seconds later, a second explosion occurred, hitting the Al Jazeera car located a few meters away. Collins, who had been attempting to place tourniquets on Assi’s legs, was wounded.
All the witnesses at the scene insist there was no military activity or artillery fire in their immediate proximity.
The Al Jazeera vehicle hit by the second strike was destroyed by fire. The body of Abdallah, who was directly hit by the first strike, was thrown into a field on the other side of a stone wall near which he had been standing.
A large munition fragment was filmed close to Abdallah’s body immediately after the strike. The day after, a local resident, who did not wish to be named, recovered the fragment and took photos of the scene.
AFP and Airwars had them analyzed by six weapons experts, including former British army officers and experienced conflict zone investigators.
All agree that it was part of a 120-mm fin-stabilized tank shell, typically used by the Israeli army on its Merkava tanks. No other military group or organization in the region uses this type of munition, the analysts said.
“This is the remnants of a tank round, clearly from a Merkava tank,” said one of the experts, Chris Cobb-Smith, a security consultant and former British army artillery officer.
“It’s quite obvious to me because you can see the grooves on the round itself, which indicates it comes from the fin-stabilized family of munitions. When fired, some fins spring out of the back of the round [to] stabilize it in flight, which makes it much more accurate and increases its range,” added Cobb-Smith, who has experience with this type of munition, including with fragments found during the 2008 and 2012 wars in Gaza.

Independent investigations by HRW and Amnesty International also pointed to the use of a 120-mm tank shell of Israeli origin.
The Lebanese judiciary is in possession of other fragments from the scene and has opened an investigation to determine the exact circumstances of the strike.
It has yet to release its conclusions. However, a judicial source and two Lebanese military sources told AFP they had established that Israeli tank fire was responsible for the first strike, without giving further details.
The investigation identified at least two Israeli positions from which shells were being fired that afternoon. According to experts who spoke to AFP and Airwars, the most likely source of the strike that hit the journalists was a position to the southeast, near the Israeli village of Jordeikh.
At the time of the strikes, the journalists had their cameras pointed southwest, toward a base near the Israeli town of Hanita and their footage does not capture the projectile that struck them.
They were hit from the side — not from the front — as indicated by the orientation of the debris from the wall near Abdallah, which spread from east to west over around 10 meters.
Earlier footage indicates an Israeli position near Jordeikh. Around 45 minutes earlier, the AFP camera was pointing in this direction and caught the sound of at least one shot, followed by a plume of smoke rising from this location.
Satellite images from that morning and the following day, seen by AFP, show the presence of vehicles with the same dimensions as a Merkava tank very close to Jordeikh.

The experts agree that the two strikes occurred 37 seconds apart, landing only four or five meters from each other, excluding the possibility of an accidental attack. The experts believe the strikes were deliberately aimed at the same target.
“Anyone who suggests this was an accident or mistake would have a lot of convincing to do,” said a former European military officer who has worked for decades on munitions analysis.
“One round clearly hit the cameraman directly, and the second round hit their vehicle... So I think we can discard the [idea] that this is in any way a random shot, or an unlucky shot,” added Cobb-Smith. “In my assessment those individuals were targeted.”
The investigation sought to establish whether the journalists could have been mistaken for fighters belonging to one of the armed groups active in the region.
Expert Cobb-Smith said this was unlikely given “the sophistication and the capabilities of the surveillance assets of the Israeli army.”
The journalists “were not operating in a military style,” he added. “They were standing out in the open, they had cameras on tripods, they were operating overtly, so one has to question why they were engaged by an armament of this capability.”
Amnesty’s investigation found the journalists had taken all necessary precautions to identify themselves.
“The Israeli military either knew or should have known that the seven individuals were journalists, and yet they still targeted them not once but twice, and therefore Amnesty is saying this is likely a direct attack on civilians and must be investigated as a war crime,” Aya Majzoub, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East, told AFP.

The AFP investigation was unable to determine which military unit was involved or what level of command gave the order to shoot. The investigation did not speculate on any possible motivations which could have led the Israeli army to deliberately target a group of journalists.
Several similar incidents have taken place in the region in recent weeks as journalists broadcast live footage of clashes with Israel.
On October 9, a strike fell a few meters from an Al Jazeera team in Marwahin, another border town in southern Lebanon.
A journalist from the Qatari channel was injured on November 13 by Israeli fire while he and other correspondents were covering the bombardments in southern Lebanon, near cars marked “Press,” according to Lebanese state media, a local mayor and the journalists themselves.
And on November 21, two journalists from the pro-Iranian channel Al Mayadeen were killed along with a civilian in Israeli strikes on southern Lebanon, according to official Lebanese media.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati expressed his “strong condemnation” of the incident, saying Israel’s “aim is to silence the media who expose its crimes and its attacks.”
Al Jazeera said it “strongly condemns” what it called the “deliberate targeting of journalists in southern Lebanon by Israeli forces.”
The channel urged the International Criminal Court to “hold Israel and its military accountable for these heinous crimes.”
A spokesperson for Reuters said it was “shocking that a group of clearly identified journalists could be hit by fire in this way.”
The news agency reiterated its appeal to the Israelis to conduct their own probe. “It has been nearly two months since we called for them to investigate, and we have heard nothing since.”
“About as many journalists have died in the past two months as were killed in the entire 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan,” said AFP’s Chetwynd.
“We cannot allow such a culture of impunity to develop and it is absolutely essential that we rally as an industry to ensure that something is done about this.”
As of December 6, the Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 63 journalists and media workers had been killed since the start of the war on October 7.