Terry Anderson, US journalist held hostage nearly 7 years in Lebanon, dead at 76

During captivity, both his father and brother would die of cancer and he would not see his daughter Sulome until she was six years old. (AFP/File)
During captivity, both his father and brother would die of cancer and he would not see his daughter Sulome until she was six years old. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 April 2024
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Terry Anderson, US journalist held hostage nearly 7 years in Lebanon, dead at 76

Terry Anderson, US journalist held hostage nearly 7 years in Lebanon, dead at 76
  • Former AP correspondent was abuducted by pro-Iran Shiite Muslim group as part of “continuing operations against Americans”

LONDON: Terry Anderson, a US journalist who was held captive by Islamist militants for almost seven years in Lebanon and came to symbolize the plight of Western hostages during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, died on Sunday at age 76, his daughter said in a statement.
The former chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press, who was the longest held hostage of the scores of Westerners abducted in Lebanon, died at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York, said his daughter Sulome Anderson, who was born three months after he was seized. No cause of death was given.
Kept in barely-lit cells by mostly Shiite Muslim groups in what was known as The Hostage Crisis, and chained by his hands and feet and blindfolded much of the time, the former Marine later recalled that he “almost went insane” and that only his Roman Catholic faith prevented him from taking his life before he was freed in December 1991.
“Though my father’s life was marked by extreme suffering during his time as a hostage in captivity, he found a quiet, comfortable peace in recent years. I know he would choose to be remembered not by his very worst experience, but through his humanitarian work with the Vietnam Children’s Fund, the Committee to Protect Journalists, homeless veterans and many other incredible causes,” Sulome Anderson said.
The family will take some time to organize a memorial, she said.
Anderson’s ordeal began in Beirut on the morning of March 16, 1985, after he played a round of tennis. A green Mercedes sedan with curtains over the rear window pulled up, three gunmen jumped out and dragged Anderson, still dressed in shorts, into the car.
The pro-Iran Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, saying it was part of “continuing operations against Americans.” The abductors demanded freedom for Shiite Muslims jailed in Kuwait for bomb attacks against the US and French embassies there.
It was the start of a nightmare for Anderson that would last six years and nine months during which he was stuck in cells under the rubble-strewn streets of Beirut and elsewhere, often badly fed and sleeping on a thin, dirty mattress on a concrete floor.
During captivity, both his father and brother would die of cancer and he would not see his daughter Sulome until she was six years old.
“What kept me going?” he asked aloud shortly after release. “My companions. I was lucky to have people with me most of the time. My faith, stubbornness. You do what you have to. You wake up every day, summon up the energy from somewhere. You think you haven’t got it and you get through the day and you do it. Day after day after day.”
Other hostages described Anderson as tough and active in captivity, learning French and Arabic and exercising regularly.
However, they also told of him banging his head against a wall until he bled in frustration at beatings, isolation, false hopes and the feeling of being neglected by the outside world.
“There is a limit of how long we can last and some of us are approaching the limit very badly,” Anderson said in a videotape released by his captors in December 1987.
Marcel Fontaine, a French diplomat who was released in May 1988 after three years of captivity, recalled the time cell mate Anderson thought freedom was near because he was allowed to see the sun and eat a hamburger.
In April 1987 Anderson was given a suit of clothes that his captors had made for him. “He wore it every day,” Fontaine said.
A week later, however, Anderson’s captors took the suit back, leaving him in despair and certain he was forgotten, Fontaine said.
Scores of journalist groups, governments and individuals over the years called for Anderson’s release and his Oct. 27 birthday became an unofficial US memorial day for hostages.
Anderson said he considered killing himself several times but rejected it. He relied heavily on his faith, which he said he had renewed six months before being kidnapped.
“I must have read the Bible 50 times from start to finish,” he said. “It was an enormous help to me.”
His sister, Peggy Say, who died in 2015, was his fiercest advocate during captivity.
She worked tirelessly for her brother’s freedom. She visited Arab and European capitals, lobbied the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and every US official and politician available.
Under pressure from the media and the US hostages’ families, the Reagan administration negotiated a secret and illegal deal in the mid-1980s to facilitate arms sales to Iran in return for the release of American hostages. But the deal, known as the Iran–Contra affair, failed to gain freedom for any of the hostages.
Born Oct. 27, 1947, in Lorain, Ohio, Anderson grew up in Batavia, New York. He graduated from Iowa State University and spent six years in the Marine Corps, mostly as a journalist.
He worked for the AP in Detroit, Louisville, New York, Tokyo, Johannesburg and then Beirut, where he first went to cover the Israeli invasion in 1982.
In that war-torn city, he fell in love with Lebanese woman Madeleine Bassil, who was his fiance and pregnant with their daughter Sulome when he was snatched.
He is survived by his daughters Sulome and Gabrielle, his sister Judy and brother Jack, and by Bassil, whom Sulome Anderson called “his ex-wife and best friend.”
Anderson and fellow hostages developed a system of communication by tapping on walls between their cells. Always the journalist, Anderson passed on news of the outside world he had picked up during captivity to Church of England envoy Terry Waite, being held hostage in an adjacent room in September 1990 after years of solitary confinement.
“Then the world news: the Berlin Wall’s falling, communism’s demise in eastern Europe, free elections in the Soviet Union, work toward multiracial government in South Africa. All the incredible things that have happened since he was taken nearly three years ago. He thought I was crazy,” Anderson wrote in his 1993 book “Den of Lions.”
After his release, Anderson taught journalism at Columbia University in New York, Ohio University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Florida until he retired in 2015.
Among businesses he invested in were a horse ranch in Ohio, and a restaurant. He unsuccessfully ran for the Ohio state Senate as a Democrat in 2004 and sued Iran in federal court for his abduction, winning a multimillion-dollar settlement in 2002.


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.


Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet

Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet
Updated 17 May 2024
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Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet

Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet
  • Authorities said outlet tries to destabilize the socio-political situation in Russia
  • Move could criminalize SOTA content and puts its reporters at risk of arrest

LONDON: Russia declared opposition media outlet SOTA “undesirable” on Thursday, a move that could criminalize the sharing of its content and put its reporters at risk of arrest.
Authorities in Russia have declared dozens of news outlets, think tanks and non-profit organizations “undesirable” since 2015, a label rights groups say is designed to deter dissent.
In a statement, Russia’s Prosecutor General accused SOTA of “frank attempts to destabilize the socio-political situation in Russia” and “create tension and irritation in society.”
“Such activities, obviously encouraged by so-called Western inspirers, have the goal of undermining the spiritual and moral foundations of Russian society,” it said.
It also accused SOTA of co-operating with TV Rain and The Insider, two other independent Russian-language outlets based outside of the country that are linked to the opposition.
SOTA Project, which covers opposition protests and has been fiercely critical of the Kremlin, denied it had anything to do with TV Rain and The Insider and rejected the claims.
But it advised its followers in Russia to “remove reposts and links” to its materials to avoid the risk of prosecution. SOTA’s Telegram channel has around 137,000 subscribers.
“Law enforcement and courts consider publishing online to be a continuing offense. This means that you can be prosecuted for reposts from 2023, 2022, 2021,” it said.
SOTA Project was born out of a split with a separate news outlet called SOTAvision, which still covers the opposition but distanced itself from the prosecutors’ ruling on Thursday.
Since launching its offensive in Ukraine, Moscow has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent that rights groups have likened to Soviet-era mass repression.
Among other organizations labelled as “undesirable” in Russia are the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Transparency International and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.


OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT

OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT
Updated 17 May 2024
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OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT

OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT
  • Deal underscores Reddit’s attempt to diversify beyond its advertising business
  • Content will be used to train AI models

LONDON: Reddit has partnered with OpenAI to bring its content to popular chatbot ChatGPT, the companies said on Thursday, sending the social media platform’s shares up 12 percent in extended trade.
The deal underscores Reddit’s attempt to diversify beyond its advertising business, and follows its recent partnership with Alphabet to make its content available for training Google’s AI models.
ChatGPT and other OpenAI products will use Reddit’s application programming interface, the means by which Reddit distributes its content, following the new partnership.
OpenAI will also become a Reddit advertising partner, the company said.
Ahead of Reddit’s March IPO, Reuters reported that Reddit struck its deal with Alphabet, worth about $60 million per year.
Investors view selling its data to train AI models as a key source of revenue beyond Reddit’s advertising business.
The social media company earlier this month reported strong revenue growth and improving profitability in the first earnings since its market debut, indicating that its Google deal and its push to grow its ads business were paying off.
Reddit’s shares rose 10.5 percent to $62.31 after the bell. As of Wednesday’s close, the stock is up nearly 12 percent since its market debut in March.