Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza joins Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people

His photographs, shared with over 18 million followers on Instagram, served as a crucial source of information, despite the risks involved. (AFP/File)
His photographs, shared with over 18 million followers on Instagram, served as a crucial source of information, despite the risks involved. (AFP/File)
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Updated 18 April 2024
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Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza joins Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people

Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza joins Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people
  • Azaiza honored in “Icons” category for his work documenting the conflict in Gaza

LONDON: Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza has been named one of the “100 Most Influential People of 2024” by Time Magazine.

Azaiza was recognized in the “Icons” category for his work documenting the conflict in Gaza, with his photographs offering a rare insight into the realities faced by those living in the enclave.

“For 108 days, Motaz Azaiza acted as the world’s eyes and ears in his native Gaza. Armed with a camera and a flak jacket marked ‘Press,’ the 25-year-old Palestinian photographer spent nearly four months documenting life under Israeli bombardment,” the magazine’s entry description said.

Azaiza’s images offer a perspective rarely seen in international media, given Israel’s ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.

The photographer took to social media after the announcement, saying the honor symbolizes more than just his individual achievements.

“I am really blessed to share my country name with me wherever I go or whatever I achieve,” he wrote on X.

During his time in Gaza, Azaiza captured images showing the destruction wrought by the conflict, and the resilience of its people.

His photographs, shared with over 18 million followers on Instagram, served as a crucial source of information, despite the risks involved.

Since leaving Gaza in January and relocating to Doha, Azaiza has continued to call for greater awareness of the crisis, and international intervention to halt the conflict.

“What is happening in Gaza is not content for you,” he was quoted as saying by the magazine. “We are not telling you what is happening … for your likes or views or shares. No, we are waiting for you to act. We need to stop this war.”

Since 1999, Time Magazine has published its annual Time 100 list, recognizing influential individuals in various fields.

Others who made this year’s list include singer Dua Lipa, Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, American footballer Patrick Mahomes, Formula One driver Max Verstappen and Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

In November 2023, GQ Middle East named Azaiza as its Man of the Year, underscoring his role in inspiring positive change.

Azaiza’s nomination for the Time 100 list was submitted by Yasmeen Serhan, a staff writer at Time Magazine.


Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds

Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds
Updated 21 May 2024
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Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds

Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds
  • Patients are kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded, naked, forced to wear diapers
  • Probe recalls report alleging violation of detainees’ health rights as act of revenge

LONDON: A BBC investigation has revealed that Palestinian detainees from Gaza are “routinely tortured” in Israeli hospitals.

According to medical workers and whistleblowers interviewed by the broadcaster, detainees are kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded, sometimes naked, and forced to wear diapers.

Some in need of surgery and other medical procedures are denied painkillers, causing “an unacceptable amount of pain.”

Testimonies indicated that critically-ill patients held in makeshift military facilities are denied proper treatment due to public hospitals’ reluctance to transfer and treat them.

The Israeli army has denied the allegations, asserting that detainees at the facility in question were treated “appropriately and carefully.”

Yossi Walfisch, the head of the country’s Medical Ethics Board, said in a letter: “Terrorists are given proper medical treatment with the aim of keeping restraints to a minimum, and while maintaining the safety of the treating staff.”

The investigation detailed various episodes of mistreatment, which were described in some testimonies as “a deliberate act of revenge.”

In one instance, a detainee had his leg amputated after being denied treatment for an infected wound.

In another, a doctor refused to administer painkillers to an elderly patient while treating an infected amputation wound.

Senior anesthesiologist Yoel Donchin confirmed that patients at Sde Teiman hospital were kept blindfolded and permanently shackled to their beds, while forced to wear diapers instead of being allowed to use toilets.

Donchin argued that the practice could cause long-term nerve damage and admitted to performing surgical procedures on handcuffed patients due to a lack of alternatives.

Despite complaints from medical staff, only minor changes have been implemented.

An army spokesperson said that violence against detainees was “absolutely prohibited” and promised to investigate the allegations.

The revelations recall a report in February by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which described Israel’s civilian and military prisons as “an apparatus of retribution and revenge,” violating detainees’ human rights, particularly their right to health.

In March, following a similar BBC investigation into alleged abuse and torture by the Israeli army at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the UK government called for an “investigation and explanation” into the allegations.

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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Israeli communications minister orders return of seized camera equipment to AP

In this image from video, Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, Tuesday
In this image from video, Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, Tuesday
Updated 44 min 3 sec ago
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Israeli communications minister orders return of seized camera equipment to AP

In this image from video, Israeli officials seize AP video equipment from an apartment block in Sderot, Southern Israel, Tuesday
  • Israeli officials seized the equipment after accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera
  • The Biden administration, journalism organizations and an Israeli opposition leader put pressure on Netanyahu

JERUSALEM: Israel’s communications minister ordered the government to return seized camera equipment to The Associated Press after blocking its live video of Gaza earlier Tuesday.
Israeli officials seized the equipment after accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera.
Israeli officials used the new law on May 5 to close down the offices of Qatar-based Al Jazeera, confiscating its equipment, banning its broadcasts and blocking its websites.
The Biden administration, journalism organizations and an Israeli opposition leader put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after officials seizing the AP equipment.
Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, is one of thousands of AP customers, and it receives live video from AP and other news organizations.
“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms the actions of the Israeli government to shut down our longstanding live feed showing a view into Gaza and seize AP equipment,” said Lauren Easton, vice president of corporate communications at the news organization. “The shutdown was not based on the content of the feed but rather an abusive use by the Israeli government of the country’s new foreign broadcaster law.”
Officials from the Communications Ministry arrived at the AP location in the southern town of Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment. They handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, alleging it was violating the country’s foreign broadcaster law.
Karhi is the minister who later ordered the equipment to be returned.
Shortly before its equipment was seized on Tuesday, AP was broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza. The AP complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troop movements that could endanger soldiers. The live video has generally shown smoke rising over the territory.
The AP had been ordered verbally last Thursday to cease the live transmission, which it refused to do.
Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid called the move against AP “an act of madness.”
“This is not Al Jazeera. This is an American news outlet,” he said. “This government acts as if it has decided to make sure at any cost that Israel will be shunned all over the world.”
Karhi responded to Lapid that the law passed unanimously by the government states that any device used to deliver Al Jazeera content could be seized.
“We will continue to act decisively against anyone who tries to harm our soldiers and the security of the state, even if you don’t like it,” he wrote to Lapid on X.
When Israel closed down Al Jazeera’s offices earlier this month, media groups warned of the serious implications for press freedom in the country. The law gives Karhi, part of the hard-right flank of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, wide leeway to enforce it against other media.
“Israel’s move today is a slippery slope,” the Foreign Press Association said in a statement, warning that the law “could allow Israel to block media coverage of virtually any news event on vague security grounds.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US was “looking into” what happened and that it was “essential” for journalists to be allowed to do their jobs.
Israel has long had a rocky relationship with Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias against the country, and Netanyahu has called it a “terror channel” that spreads incitement.
Al Jazeera is one of the few international news outlets that has remained in Gaza throughout the war, broadcasting scenes of airstrikes and overcrowded hospitals and accusing Israel of massacres. AP is also in Gaza.
During the previous Israel-Hamas war in 2021, the army destroyed the building housing AP’s Gaza office, claiming Hamas had used the building for military purposes. The AP denied any knowledge of a Hamas presence, and the army never provided any evidence to back up its claim.
The war in Gaza began with a Hamas attack in Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.


Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders

Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders
Updated 21 May 2024
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Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders

Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders
  • ICC’s action is a promise to end impunity for the deaths of journalists, says Committee to Protect Journalists

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the International Criminal Court’s announcement on Monday that it was seeking arrest warrants for leaders of both Hamas and Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh might face prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The ICC’s application for arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in Israel and Palestine recognizes atrocities committed against civilians,” said CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg.

“The civilian deaths include an unprecedented number of journalists killed since Oct. 7. The ICC’s action is a promise for an end to the impunity that has historically plagued the killing and persecution of those who write the first draft of history.”

Over 100 journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of the conflict last October, the vast majority of them in Gaza by Israeli forces.

CPJ reported that the conflict has claimed the lives of more journalists in three months than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year since record-keeping began, underscoring the tragic toll this war has had on journalists.

The watchdog, along with corroborating investigations by Reuters, AFP, and Human Rights Watch, has documented at least three instances of journalists killed by Israeli forces that involved deliberate targeting.

An additional 10 cases may also involve deliberate targeting, which, according to international law, could constitute war crimes.

CPJ has urged the ICC to investigate these killings and called on Israel to grant investigators unrestricted access to Gaza, highlighting a disturbing pattern of systematic killings of Palestinian journalists that have consistently gone unpunished.

The announcement of potential arrest warrants for Netanyahu was met with strong reactions.

Netanyahu called the decision “a moral outrage of historic proportions,” while US President Joe Biden rejected the ICC’s application altogether, adding that “there’s no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”


Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others

Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others
Updated 21 May 2024
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Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others

Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others
  • Meta submitted cases as part of goal to create policy on criminal allegations based on nationality
  • Decision to help Meta better navigate critical questions at a crucial time, board spokesperson told Arab News

LONDON: The Meta Oversight Board announced on Tuesday that it is reviewing three cases, including one involving a user accusing Israel of committing “genocide” and another concerning a Facebook comment in Arabic.

Meta, which submitted the cases as part of its review system aimed at creating a policy on criminal allegations based on nationality, said it removed the posts for breaching its Hate Speech Community Standards.

The first case involves a user’s reply on Threads, featuring a video that includes accusations of “genocide” and claims that “Israelis are criminals.”

The other two cases involve a December speech in which a user called all Russians and Americans “criminals” and a recent post in which a user stated that “all Indians are rapists.”

An Oversight Board spokesperson told Arab News: “Tensions in the region, and increasingly around the world, are dominating the discussion online.

“It’s vitally important that when looking at these issues, Meta gets the balance right and works to protect safety, without unduly limiting the ability of people to speak out about the abuses they see or the frustration they experience.”

The spokesperson added that while the board cannot review every appeal, it selects those of critical importance to public discourse “to help Meta better navigate these critical questions at a crucial time.”

Meta said the three posts were removed after human review for “targeting people with criminal allegations based on nationality.”

Despite its decision, Meta referred the cases to the Oversight Board to address the challenge of handling criminal allegations directed at people based on their nationality, as they might be interpreted as attacks on a nation’s policies.

The board’s decision to review these cases comes as social media platforms have seen an uptick in violent, hateful, and misleading content since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza last October.

The Oversight Board reported a nearly 2,000 percent increase in appeals from the region in the first three weeks after Oct. 7, with many complaints about content inciting violence and promoting hate speech.

The moderators have called for public comments addressing the platform’s hate speech policy in relation to users’ ability to speak out against state actions during times of conflict and Meta’s human rights responsibilities in relation to content targeting users based on nationality.

They also requested insights into potential criteria for determining whether a user is targeting a concept or institution rather than people based on nationality.

In the coming weeks, the board members will deliberate on the cases.

Facebook and its parent company Meta have previously been accused of deliberately censoring pro-Palestine content. Human Rights Watch stated last December that Meta routinely engages in “six key patterns of undue censorship” of pro-Palestine posts.

Recently, the board introduced a new 30-day expedited review mechanism and will rule on whether the pro-Palestinian phrase “from the river to the sea” is considered “acceptable” speech.

In April, the board overturned Meta’s decision to leave up a Facebook post claiming that Hamas originated from the population of Gaza, comparing them to a “savage horde,” leading Meta to take the post down.


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.