Iran lodges hijab case against journalists day after release

Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi were released on bail and cannot travel abroad. (AFP/File)
Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi were released on bail and cannot travel abroad. (AFP/File)
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Updated 16 January 2024
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Iran lodges hijab case against journalists day after release

Iran lodges hijab case against journalists day after release
  • Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi were released Sunday from Tehran’s Evin prison, where they had been held for their coverage of Mahsa Amini’s death
  • A photo depicting the journalists without hijab circulated on social media

TEHRAN: Iran’s judiciary said Monday it had launched new proceedings against two journalists for posing without the mandatory headscarf upon their release after more than a year in prison.
Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi were released Sunday from Tehran’s Evin prison, where they had been held for their coverage of the September 2022 death in custody of a young woman which sparked nationwide protests.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, had been arrested for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women.
Images of the two journalists smiling and holding hands outside the prison circulated on social media following their release.
The judiciary’s Mizan Online website noted the photos showed “the women without hijab,” which has been made obligatory for women in public spaces since shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Mizan said “a new case was filed against the defendants” as a result.
The terms of the journalists’ release on bail bar them from traveling abroad, Mizan said on Sunday.
In October, the judiciary said they had been found guilty of collaboration with Iran’s arch enemy the United States, conspiring against state security and “propaganda” against the Islamic republic.
Mohammadi, 36, was subsequently given six years in prison and Hamedi, 31, was handed a seven-year term for the collaboration offense, said Mizan at the time.
The two also received five-year sentences each for the conspiracy charges and one year for propaganda, said Mizan, adding the sentences would be served concurrently.
The two have since appealed their sentences and Tasnim news agency has said they “will remain out of jail until the appeals court makes a decision.”
Hamedi was arrested less than a week after Amini’s death, when she went to the hospital where Amini was being treated and posted a photo of the grieving family on social media.
Mohammadi was detained after going to Amini’s hometown of Saqez, in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, to cover her funeral which turned into a demonstration.
In August, Iranian media reported that authorities had questioned or arrested more than 90 journalists since the protests triggered by Amini’s death erupted across the country.
Hundreds of people, including dozens of security personnel, were killed in the unrest and thousands of demonstrators were arrested, accused by the authorities of taking part in “riots” fomented by the West.


‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign

‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign
Updated 6 sec ago
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‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign

‘All Eyes on Rafah’ image garners millions of shares in latest social media solidarity campaign
  • Slogan stems from WHO director’s comments urging people to pay attention to Rafah following Netanyahu’s evacuation plan
  • Post is believed to be first example of AI-generated viral activist artwork

LONDON: The image “All Eyes on Rafah” has garnered millions of shares in the latest social media solidarity campaign, drawing widespread attention to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.

The post renewed advocacy efforts following a deadly Israeli airstrike on the city in southern Gaza.

According to Forbes, the slogan appears to have originated from a comment by Rik Peeperkorn, director of the World Health Organization’s Office of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In February, Peeperkorn used the phrase to shift attention toward Rafah after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an evacuation plan for the city ahead of planned attacks targeting what Netanyahu claims are the last remaining strongholds of the militant group Hamas.

By Wednesday morning, the post had surpassed 40 million shares on Instagram, with the hashtag #AllEyesonRafah trending across social media platforms.

The image, believed to be one of the first examples of AI-generated viral activist artwork, depicts tents in a camp arranged to spell out “All Eyes on Rafah.”

The phrase is intended to highlight the plight of Rafah, where local authorities reported the loss of at least 45 civilian lives following an Israeli airstrike on Sunday, which Netanyahu described on Monday as a “tragic mistake.”

Israel has faced international scrutiny for the attack, which is part of a broader offensive by the Israeli army in and around Rafah.

The decision has been widely condemned by world leaders who have urged Israel to halt its invasion in an area where about 1.4 million displaced Palestinians from elsewhere in the Gaza Strip had sought shelter.

Last Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered an immediate halt to the offensive, a position rejected by Israel.

In an opinion piece in The Jewish Chronicle on Wednesday, journalist Josh Kaplan described the post as “another vapid, lazy way to say ‘I care,’” arguing that the slogan “is one in the long canon of feel good posts that achieve very little but make the sharer feel, even just for a second, like they’re doing something to help.”

Kaplan wrote: “I understand that there is outrage at the way Israel is conducting its war. The images coming out of Gaza often feel indefensible. But what does sharing an AI image that looks nothing like Gaza actually do?”

He added: “To learn about the conflict and to formulate an opinion that maintains dignity for all sides is something that cannot be accomplished by sharing an Instagram post. All it does is make Israelis, who will have to be involved in any future peace process, feel, yet again, that the world doesn’t care about their suffering.”


US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts

US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts
Updated 29 May 2024
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US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts

US presses TikTok, Meta and X to crack down on antisemitic posts
  • Bloomberg News reports that US special envoy requested big tech to designate a policy team member to address the issue, publicly report trends
  • Deborah Lipstadt also asked to differentiate between criticism of the Israeli government and hatred directed at Jews

LONDON: The Biden administration is urging big technology companies to ramp up efforts to curb antisemitic content on their platforms, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.
Representatives from companies including Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, TikTok and X met on Thursday with US special envoy Deborah Lipstadt to monitor and combat antisemitism.
Lipstadt requested that each company designate a policy team member to address the issue and conduct training for key personal to identify antisemitism and publicly report trends in anti-Jewish content.
“We welcomed this convening and were pleased to come together to share facts about the ongoing steps TikTok takes on this important issue and to continue to learn from experts in the room,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta and X did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Countries around the world have seen a rise in antisemitism following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel and subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military.
The companies have not yet agreed to voluntary moves, but the administration is hopeful they will act soon, Lipstadt told Bloomberg News.
The administration is also requesting staff training in order to help identify more implicit antisemitic messages on online platforms and to differentiate between criticism of the Israeli government and hatred directed at Jews, Lipstadt added.


Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic

Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic
Updated 29 May 2024
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Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic

Nigel Farage grilled on UK TV following comments denounced as Islamophobic
  • Good Morning Britain presenter Richard Madeley challenges former leader of right-wing parties UKIP and Reform UK over controversial comments about Muslims
  • Farage said on Sunday that the growing number of Muslims in Britain do not subscribe to country’s traditional values

LONDON: Good Morning Britain presenter Richard Madeley clashed with Nigel Farage during a live TV interview with the former politician about comments he made on Sunday that prompted allegations of Islamophobia.

The former leader of the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Reform UK, and honorary president of the latter, sparked controversy when he said there is a “growing number of young people in this country who do not subscribe to British values” and “loathe much of what we stand for.” He specifically referenced the Muslim community.

Madeley challenged Farage by citing a 2018 survey conducted by IPSOS Mori and said: “They found, absolutely conclusively, that Muslims in the UK attach more importance on being British than the general population.

“Eighty-five percent feel they truly belong to Britain, 55 percent feel that their national identity as British is very important to them, and that compares to 44 percent of the general population. So I’m bound to ask, what on earth were you talking about there?”

Farage responded by citing another survey, and argued that his comments on Sunday, during an interview with Sky News, were taken out of context. He claimed 23 percent of 18-to-24-year-old Muslims in Britain believe jihad is a good thing.

“Now that of course is not a British value in any way at all and it’s a very disturbing trend that’s particularly prevalent among the young,” he said, adding that it was “undoubtedly true” that there is an increasing number of young people in Britain who “not only don’t subscribe to our values, they openly support Hamas.”

Madeley and co-presenter Charlotte Hawkins pointed out that the poll Farage referenced was heavily criticized because of its methodology.

“You also said in the interview that you could take someone to a particular street in Oldham and there would be nobody there who speaks English,” Madeley said.

“Well again, that’s just not true; the Office of National Statistics say that only 0.7 percent of people in Oldham don’t speak English. That’s less than one in a hundred.”

Several MPs have condemned Farage’s comments. The minister of state for Northern Ireland, Steve Baker, described the remarks as “ignorant and offensive.”

Meanwhile, BBC News presenter Geeta Guru-Murthy issued an on-air apology on Tuesday after saying earlier in the day that Farage was using his “customary inflammatory language.”

Guru-Murthy, who was speaking after the broadcast of a clip of Farage speaking at a Reform UK event in Dover, said she acknowledged that her comment “didn’t meet the BBC’s editorial standards on impartiality.”


RedBird boss describes failed Telegraph takeover as ‘a shame’ in first comments since deal collapsed

RedBird boss describes failed Telegraph takeover as ‘a shame’ in first comments since deal collapsed
Updated 28 May 2024
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RedBird boss describes failed Telegraph takeover as ‘a shame’ in first comments since deal collapsed

RedBird boss describes failed Telegraph takeover as ‘a shame’ in first comments since deal collapsed
  • Rani Raad says failure of bid, blocked by UK legislation banning foreign governments from owning national newspapers, would weaken the publication’s brand
  • His Abu-Dhabi-backed investment group is now focusing on selling the titles at a premium and looking at other opportunities

DUBAI: Rani Raad, the CEO of RedBird International Media Investments, described the collapse of the Abu Dhabi-backed company’s takeover bid for British newspaper The Telegraph as “a shame” and said it will ultimately weaken the publication’s brand.

In first public remarks since the deal floundered in April, he told Al Arabiya’s Hadley Gamble, during a conversation at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai on Tuesday, that RedBird had effectively taken charge of The Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator magazine in December after repaying a $753 million debt owed by owners the Barclay family to Lloyds Bank.

However, finalization of the deal collapsed as a result of UK legislation prohibiting foreign governments from owning British national newspapers.

“In an ideal world I would be sitting in front of you all saying, ‘We own The Telegraph,’” Raad said. “Not only would that be good for us and our portfolio but also good for the people working in paper.

“My fear is what happened in The Telegraph ultimately is something that would cost the paper and its employees more, and the UK government more, than any of us over here.”

Raad said that while it was not his place to comment on UK politics, policymakers had changed the rules when the deal was almost complete, with negative effects on the promotion of inward investments.

“Last year alone, the UK lost 1,200 journalists,” Raad said. “For whatever reason, whether xenophobia or party politics, it was a shame the way it played out.”

He added that the group is now focusing on the sale of The Telegraph and The Spectator for a premium, and he remains optimistic about a successful outcome.

“We will make our money back, and then some, and move on to other markets and focus on other opportunities,” Raad said. “Our only regret, in hindsight, is the timing could have been better crafted.”

He also shared his views on the decline of CNN, and the wider American network television industry, which recently hit a 30-year low in primetime ratings. He spent 25 years at CNN International Commercial, including serving as its president, and believes the news brand should not be counted out just yet.

“RedBird IMI was established in partnership with former CNN CEO Jeff Zucker, alongside partners in Abu Dhabi and Gerry Cardinale in New York. We wanted to focus on news and a new transition,” Raad said.

“What they (CNN) are dealing with is just a situation whereby the sector is going through drastic transformation. They are learning how to serve a new audience and demographic. There is potential for reinvention and growth.

“CNN is a very, very powerful news brand globally. Ultimately, if they find a way to make that transition, to talk to a broader demographic, it’ll be here for a long, long time.”


‘Path to peace is clear but accord is still distant, media must fix its narrative,’ Yemeni PM tells Arab Media Forum

‘Path to peace is clear but accord is still distant, media must fix its narrative,’ Yemeni PM tells Arab Media Forum
Updated 28 May 2024
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‘Path to peace is clear but accord is still distant, media must fix its narrative,’ Yemeni PM tells Arab Media Forum

‘Path to peace is clear but accord is still distant, media must fix its narrative,’ Yemeni PM tells Arab Media Forum
  • Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak says that years of war have had catastrophic effect on ordinary citizens
  • Media should spread awareness and start dialogue about Yemen’s situation, PM urges

DUBAI: Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak has said that while the peace process with the Houthis is “clear,” a formal accord remains out of reach, as he emphasized the crucial role the media must play in shaping the narrative.

Speaking on the sidelines of the three-day Arab Media Forum in Dubai, the prime minister addressed the ongoing challenges faced by his country and the importance of accurate media representation about unfolding events.

In an interview with Syrian news anchor Zeina Yazigi, Mubarak highlighted the daily hardships faced by both himself and ordinary Yemeni citizens due to the ongoing conflict.

“What we are going through is the accumulation of the years of war Yemen has gone through,” Mubarak said.

“We continue to face a dire humanitarian disaster brought upon by the lack of security, by natural disasters, and by the tense situation in the Red Sea. The standard of living remains lacking. If we build a school today, a rocket might destroy it the following morning.”

The prime minister said the main priority for the country was to find a lasting solution and to provide essential services to uplift citizens’ standard of living.

He said: “Our oil refineries stopped operating in October 2022 and that has stripped the government of over 70 percent of its resources. You therefore have a hard time to even provide electricity to citizens.

“The road map to peace is clear. Many negotiations and initiatives have been brought forth by our brothers in Saudi Arabia and Oman. Long negotiations have also taken place in Stockholm and Kuwait but in order for a full ceasefire to happen, you need two willing partners and the Houthis are not yet willing.”

Yemen has been engaged in a bloody civil war between the internationally recognized government and the Iran-backed Houthi group since 2014.

Mubarak, who was kidnapped by the Houthis in 2015 and has publicly shared his experience of fearing for his life, described the war as “ideological,” but expressed hope for peace and stability.

He said: “Yemen is at an important strategic geographical location, with 34 million citizens and very rich natural resources.

“To neglect it is to neglect (a good chunk) of the world’s resources. We are at war, an ideological battle with the Houthis. What morals does a party have when it bombs schoolchildren? When it strips its country of its resources?”

Mubarak stressed the media’s vital role in remedying false narratives.

He added: “The Houthis’ actions in the Red Sea predate the events of Oct. 7. The two are not directly related and it is important that the media is able to distinguish this fact, to spread awareness and start a dialogue.

“It was also previously thought that the Houthis had nothing to do with Iran, and that was simply untrue, proven in time by correct media coverage and analysis. Having the full picture is important.”

In a meeting with Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, second deputy ruler of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Media Council, Mubarak discussed the need for a “unified Arab voice.”

Both sides stressed the important and influential role of the media in supporting stability and enhancing opportunities for peace, promising to work together to develop a framework for preparing a new generation of media professionals.

Mubarak said: “I am proud of my country; it is the cradle of civilization. Despite the hardships, it deserves our sacrifices for a better future.

“We have a strong backbone behind us, the Emiratis, the Saudis and the rest of our brothers. We have a just cause and are keen to maintain our Arab identity and hope for a better future.”