NGO: Israel has arrested 66 journalists in West Bank since the start of the conflict

PPS said that most detained journalists had been subjected to severe beatings and torture, especially those detained since Oct. 7. (AFP/File)
PPS said that most detained journalists had been subjected to severe beatings and torture, especially those detained since Oct. 7. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 April 2024
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NGO: Israel has arrested 66 journalists in West Bank since the start of the conflict

NGO: Israel has arrested 66 journalists in West Bank since the start of the conflict
  • Palestinian Prisoners Society says 45 writers remain detained, rise in arrest of female media workers
  • Arrests, violation of rights form part of strategy to control narrative, body says

LONDON: The Palestinian Prisoners Society reported on Wednesday that Israeli authorities had detained 66 journalists since the start of the country’s conflict with Hamas.

The West Bank-based body, which supports Palestinians in Israeli prisons, said that 45 journalists were still being held in jails.

The PPS added in a press release that the number of detained female journalists had risen to four, marking a significant increase since record-keeping began.

The most recent detainee is 32-year-old journalist Asma Noah Harish, whose home in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah was raided shortly after dawn on Wednesday. Her father and brother Ahmed have been detained for some time.

The PPS explained that this “escalation comes within the framework of the widespread arrest campaigns” carried out by the Israeli army after Oct. 7, which includes the arrest of women.

The organization said: “During the month of March until today, the occupation (Israeli forces) has arrested three female journalists.”

Included in this list are: “Bushra Al-Taweel, who was transferred to administrative detention, and Rula Hassanein, a married mother of a 9-month-old daughter, in addition to Harish.”

According to Middle East Eye, which cited her family, an Israeli court has refused to release Hassanein, whose prematurely born baby is solely reliant on her mother’s breast milk for nutrition.

The PPS reported that most journalists were charged with offenses related to incitement on social media, or as media workers. It noted that many of them had been arrested multiple times.

The society confirmed that 23 journalists were placed under administrative detention under the pretext of “secret files,” including journalists Ikhlas Sawalha and Al-Taweel.

It added that most detained journalists had been subjected to severe beatings and torture, especially those detained since Oct. 7, highlighting that the tally of media workers killed since the conflict began had risen to 138.

Abdullah Al-Zaghari, the head of the PPS, said in an interview in February that there had been an escalation in the violation of human rights and international standards in the treatment of prisoners over recent months.

The organization said: “The occupation state arrests journalists and violates their rights in its ongoing efforts to silence them and stop the Palestinian narrative being shared.”

The PPS has renewed its call for international human rights bodies to “fulfill their responsibilities in light of the genocide against our people in Gaza and the targeting of all sectors of Palestinian society through wide and systematic arrest campaigns.”

According to the PPS, the total number of Palestinian prisoners held at Israeli prisons at the end of March was at least 9,400, including 3,661 administrative detainees.

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities

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Snap launches AI tools for advanced augmented reality

Snap launches AI tools for advanced augmented reality
Updated 18 June 2024
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Snap launches AI tools for advanced augmented reality

Snap launches AI tools for advanced augmented reality
  • Snap hopes special lenses will attract new users and advertisers
  • AI-led Lens Studio reduces filter creation time and enhances realism

LONDON: Snapchat owner Snap on Tuesday launched its latest iteration of generative AI technology that will allow users to see more realistic special effects when using phone cameras to film themselves, as it seeks to stay ahead of social media rivals.
Snap has been a pioneer in the field of augmented reality (AR), which overlays computerized effects onto photos or videos of the real world. While the company remains much smaller than rival platforms like Meta, it is betting that making more advanced and whimsical special effects, called lenses, will attract new users and advertisers to Snapchat.
AR developers are now able to create AI-powered lenses, and Snapchat users will be able to use them in their content, the company said.
Santa Monica, California-based Snap also announced an upgraded version of its developer program called Lens Studio, which artists and developers can use to create AR features for Snapchat or other websites and apps.
Bobby Murphy, Snap’s chief technology officer, said the enhanced Lens Studio would reduce the time it takes to create AR effects from weeks to hours and produce more complex work.
“What’s fun for us is that these tools both stretch the creative space in which people can work, but they’re also easy to use, so newcomers can build something unique very quickly,” Murphy said in an interview.
Lens Studio now includes a new suite of generative AI tools, such as an AI assistant that can answer questions if a developer needs help. Another tool will allow artists to type a prompt and automatically generate a three-dimensional image that they can use for their AR lens, removing the need to develop a 3D model from scratch.
Earlier versions of AR technology have been capable only of simple effects, like placing a hat on a person’s head in a video. Snap’s advancements will now allow AR developers to create more realistic lenses, such as having the hat move seamlessly along with a person’s head and match the lighting in the video, Murphy said.
Snap also has plans to create full body, rather than just facial, AR experiences such as generating a new outfit, which is currently very difficult to create, Murphy added.


YouTube tests context ‘notes’ feature for videos

YouTube tests context ‘notes’ feature for videos
Updated 18 June 2024
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YouTube tests context ‘notes’ feature for videos

YouTube tests context ‘notes’ feature for videos
  • Notes will allow users to provide additional context on videos

LONDON: Alphabet’s YouTube will soon allow users to add ‘notes’ that will provide context on some of its videos as part of a new feature that will be initially rolled out in the United States, it said on Monday.
YouTube will invite certain users and creators, as part of the initial test phase, to write notes that are meant to provide “relevant, timely, and easy-to-understand context” on videos.
The notes, for instance could clarify when a song is meant to be a parody, point out when a new version of a product being reviewed is available, or let viewers know when older footage is mistakenly portrayed as a current event.
Social media platform X has a similar feature called Community Notes through which it allows select contributors to add context to posts including tags such as “misleading” and “out of context.”
The notes feature on YouTube will be available initially on mobile to users in the US and in English. In this phase, third-party evaluators will rate the helpfulness of notes, which will help train the systems, before a potential broader rollout, YouTube said.
Viewers in the US will start to see notes on videos in the coming weeks and months.


Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard

Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard
Updated 18 June 2024
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Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard

Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard
  • BBC investigation alleges that the Greek coastguard caused dozens of migrant deaths between 2020 and 2023
  • Survivors have filed a criminal complaint against the Greek coast guard, accusing it of a slow response despite multiple warnings

ATHENS: Greece rejected Monday a BBC investigation that alleged its coast guard caused the deaths of dozens of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe, denying accusations it had broken international law.
In an investigation published on its website on Monday, the BBC counted 43 migrants it said had died in the Aegean Sea after being turned back by Greek coast guards between May 2020 and May 2023.
Nine of the dead were deliberately thrown overboard, the publicly funded British broadcaster added.
Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis denied the claims.
“We monitor every publication, every investigation, but I repeat: what has been reported is in no way proven,” he said, adding the coast guard “saves dozens of human lives each day.”
Greece has long been accused of carrying out illegal operations to force back migrants braving the perilous crossing from Turkiye’s western coast in the hope of reaching the European Union.
Though Athens has always denied the practice, numerous investigations by international media and rights groups have documented its existence, often with video evidence.
The BBC said its investigation examined 15 such pushback operations over a three-year period.
As well as basing its reporting on local media, NGOs and the Turkish coast guard, the BBC was able to interview eyewitnesses.
They include a Cameroonian national who said he and two other migrants were arrested after landing on the island of Samos in September 2021.
He said the police forced them onto a Greek coast guard boat, beating them as they went, before throwing them out into the water.
He was the only one to survive, with the bodies of his two companions — an Ivorian and another Cameroonian — washing up on the Turkish coast.
The eyewitness’s lawyers are calling for the Greek authorities to open a double murder case into the incident.
The EU said it was aware of the “terrible allegations.”
“Greek authorities, as in all EU member states, must fully respect obligations under the asylum and international law,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told journalists in Brussels.
Tens of thousands of migrants, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have entered Greece in recent years from the sea and land borders with Turkiye.
The International Organization for Migration has declared the Mediterranean passage the world’s most perilous migration route.
In 2023, a migrant trawler with hundreds of people on board sank off the Greek coast, killing more than 600 people in one of Europe’s deadliest shipwrecks.
The survivors have filed a criminal complaint against the Greek coast guard.
They allege that the coast guard took hours to mount a response to the sinking ship, despite warnings from EU border agency Frontex and the NGO Alarm Phone.


The Washington Post’s leaders are taking heat for journalism in Britain that wouldn’t fly in the US

The Washington Post’s leaders are taking heat for journalism in Britain that wouldn’t fly in the US
Updated 18 June 2024
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The Washington Post’s leaders are taking heat for journalism in Britain that wouldn’t fly in the US

The Washington Post’s leaders are taking heat for journalism in Britain that wouldn’t fly in the US
  • The coverage revealed Lewis’ sensitivity about questions involving his role in a phone hacking scandal in the UK

NEW YORK: New leaders of The Washington Post are being haunted by their pasts, with ethical questions raised about their actions as journalists in London that illustrate very different press traditions in the United States and England.
An extraordinary trio of stories over the weekend by The New York Times, NPR and the Post itself outline alleged involvement by Post publisher Will Lewis and Robert Winnett, his choice as a new editor, in wrongdoing involving London publications as much as two decades ago.
The Post said on Monday that it had brought back its former senior managing editor to oversee the newspaper’s coverage of the matter.
Lewis took over as publisher earlier this year, with a mandate to turn around the financially-troubled newspaper. He announced a reorganization earlier this month where the Post’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, stepped down rather than accept a demotion.
The coverage revealed Lewis’ sensitivity about questions involving his role in a phone hacking scandal that rocked the British press while he was working there. Lewis has maintained that he was brought in by Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers to cooperate with authorities to clean up after the scandal. Plaintiffs in a civil case have charged him with destroying evidence, which he has denied.
Differences between US and British journalism — some of them big
The public revelation of phone hacking in 2011 led to the closure of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid and sparked a public inquiry into press practices that curbed some of the worst excesses.
The British press has long been considered freewheeling in its pursuit of scoops, willing to tolerate behavior frowned upon by its American counterparts. For example, when Lewis and Winnett worked at The Daily Telegraph in 2009, they cooperated on stories about politicians’ extravagant expense-account spending. They paid for data that revealed the spending, a reporting practice that would be considered a substantial ethical breach in the US
The Times reported on Saturday that both Lewis and Winnett worked on stories in the 2000s that appeared to be based on fraudulently obtained phone and business records.
Both the Times and Post reported on a 2002 story article about British politicians who had sought to buy a Mercedes-Benz vehicle described as the “Nazi’s favorite limousine,” based on information obtained by an actor who had faked a German accent to call a manufacturer who gave it to him.
The Post story delved into Winnett’s relationship with John Ford, the actor whose “clandestine efforts” helped uncover stories that included private financial dealings by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. He was allegedly adept in “blagging,” in which a person misrepresents themselves to persuade others to reveal confidential information. That’s illegal under British law unless it can be shown the actions benefit the public.
Headlined “Incoming Post editor tied to self-described ‘thief’ who claimed role in his reporting,” it was among the newspaper’s most popular stories on Monday. Winnett was chosen by Lewis to take over the Post’s main newsroom after the presidential election.
It was an unusually harsh story for a news organization to write about its own leadership. In announcing that Cameron Barr, who left his position last year, would supervise the reporting, the Post said that “the publisher has no involvement or influence on our reporting.” Other editors, including Buzbee’s temporary replacement Matt Murray, will also look over stories produced by the media team.
NPR’s story details several of these issues, along with Winnett’s supervision — when he worked at the Sunday Times in London — of a reporter, Claire Newell, who was hired as a temporary secretary in the UK Cabinet office, giving her access to sensitive documents that made their way back to the newspaper.
Is this an ‘unrecoverable’ situation for Post leadership?
The Post said Lewis declined comment on the stories. Winnett, a deputy editor at the Telegraph in London, did not comment on the three most recent stories, and a message to the newspaper by The Associated Press was not immediately returned on Monday.
Similarly silent: Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of the Post, who will ultimately decide whether this is a public relations and internal morale storm that he and the institution can weather.
Not everyone is sure that he can, or should.
“The Washington Post is a great, great, great paper, and its greatness pushes the rest of us in the media world to do a better job,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on X Monday. “Yet its leadership is now tainted in ways that are unrecoverable; time won’t heal the injury but let it fester.”
Lewis, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal who is also vice chairman of the board at The Associated Press, has spent the past week trying to assure Post staff members that he understands and will live up to the ethical standards of American journalism.


Saudi Tourism Authority makes Cannes Lions debut to promote new spirit of creativity in country

Saudi Tourism Authority makes Cannes Lions debut to promote new spirit of creativity in country
Updated 17 June 2024
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Saudi Tourism Authority makes Cannes Lions debut to promote new spirit of creativity in country

Saudi Tourism Authority makes Cannes Lions debut to promote new spirit of creativity in country
  • Organization’s CEO, Fahd Hamidaddin highlights potential for the creative sector to be a key driver of tourism in the Kingdom
  • He issues open invitation for international collaborators to work with authorities to create award-worthy work

LONDON: The Saudi Tourism Authority on Monday made its debut at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where it is promoting the Kingdom’s burgeoning creative sector as a key driver of tourism.

Fahd Hamidaddin, the organization’s CEO, said authorities in the country are committed to placing creativity and innovation at the forefront of their plans for diversification of the national economy. He also emphasized the role the industry can play in shaping global perceptions of Saudi Arabia and promoting recent dramatic changes in the Kingdom.

“Storytelling is something that Arabia has always cherished and creativity is the beacon of our future; it’s the beauty of imagination meeting innovation,” Hamidaddin said during his keynote speech on the opening day of the five-day event in France.

“We are experiencing a transformation which takes Saudi (Arabia) from being oil-dependent to becoming a fully diversified, hyper-growth economy that sits at the center of the world, economically, socially and creatively as well.”

He highlighted various cultural developments and advances that have taken place in the Kingdom over the past few years as testaments to the country’s growing ambitions on the world stage, including art exhibitions and a burgeoning entertainment scene, with the country submitting entries to the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival.

Hamidaddin noted the growing number of creators, home-grown and from other countries, who are contributing to the development of the sector in the Kingdom and extended an open invitation for more collaborators to explore opportunities to work with Saudi authorities and create award-winning work worthy of recognition by the Cannes Lions festival.

“If you think you know Saudi, think again,” he said. “Even Saudis don’t recognize it amid the changes and transformations happening every day.”

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity began on June 17 and continues until June 21.