Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet

Saad Hariri described the move as suspending work until the Future TV network could be re-launched after a financial restructuring. (Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2019

Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet

  • Hariri said the decision to close the ailing TV network “is not easy for me or for the audience of the Future Movement”

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Wednesday that he will temporarily close a TV network owned by his family to allow for major financial restructuring.

The suspension of the Future TV network follows financial struggles stretching back years and recent strikes by employees over unpaid wages. Future TV was launched in 1993 by Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

Earlier this year, Hariri halted the print edition of Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, also owned by his family, turning it into a digital newspaper.

The Lebanese leader, who heads the Future Movement political party, said that the decision to close the ailing TV network “is not easy for me or for the audience of the Future Movement, the generation of founders, workers and millions of Lebanese and Arab viewers, who have accompanied the station for more than a quarter of a century.”

The decision to suspend the TV station took Lebanon’s media and political sector by surprise. The station has struggled since the beginning of August when employees in the news and programs departments halted work in protest against nonpayment of wages. Since then it has broadcast only rerun programs.

FASTFACT

The Lebanese prime minister suspended the Future TV network following financial struggles stretching back years and recent strikes by employees over unpaid wages.

Imad Assi, the station’s editor-in-chief, told Arab News that a meeting on Thursday will determine “the shape of the next stage, whether the station will continue to broadcast ‘reruns’ or turn off its lights completely while waiting for restructuring and restarting.”

Hariri said that his father “wanted Future TV to highlight Lebanon’s diversity, coexistence and passion for culture, freedom, openness and joy.”

The station’s suspension “will allow it to address accumulated financial burdens and prepare for a new phase in the coming months, with a face that shines on Lebanon and the Arabs and with a new look that fits the taste of Lebanese men and women and their national, economic, social, and developmental interests,” he said.

Hariri apologized to workers at Future TV and Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, saying that “harsh conditions have forced us to take a difficult decision to suspend work,”and guaranteed that employee rights will be protected. The station has more than 300 employees and freelancers.

Aref Al-Abed, Future TV’s director of news and political programs in 1997 and 1998, said: “What has happened is a pity. A political media establishment has fallen. The station was a bastion of mutual coexistence, unlike other TV stations.”

The loss of the station will leave a major vacuum in Lebanon that will not be easy to fill, Al-Abed said.

“Future TV was more comprehensive (than other networks) since it employed people of all confessions and political affiliations,” he said.

Al-Abed said that the most difficult part of Hariri’s decision was the dismissal of hundreds of employees, some of whom had spent 26 years at the station, at a time when the media sector in Lebanon is in crisis.

The Lebanese leader’s announcement sparked a wave of reaction on social media. TV presenter Marcel Ghanem tweeted: “I salute Saad Hariri who was forced to take this action, hoping to see the TV station one more time with a new look.” 

Another presenter tweeted: “Hariri is ending a whole epoch
in history.”


Social media app TikTok removes Daesh propaganda videos

Updated 22 October 2019

Social media app TikTok removes Daesh propaganda videos

  • An employee at TikTok told AFP that about 10 accounts were removed for posting the videos
  • The videos featured corpses being paraded through streets and Daesh fighters with guns
BEIJING: Social media app TikTok has taken down accounts that were posting propaganda videos for the Daesh group, a company employee said Tuesday, in the latest scandal to hit the popular platform.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, claimed some 500 million users globally last year, making it one of the most popular social apps.

An employee at TikTok told AFP that about 10 accounts were removed for posting the videos.

“Only one of those videos even had views that reached into double digits before being taken down,” said the staffer, who declined to be named.

The videos featured corpses being paraded through streets and Daesh fighters with guns, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story on Monday.

The Journal said the posts were from about two dozen accounts, which were identified by social media intelligence company Storyful.

“Content promoting terrorist organizations have absolutely no place on TikTok,” the company said in a statement emailed to AFP.

“We permanently ban any such accounts and associated devices as soon as identified, and we continuously develop ever-stronger controls to proactively detect suspicious activity,” it said.

Daesh's self-declared “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria fell in March, but the group remains active in several countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as still inspiring jihadists through an online presence.

The TikTok platform, which allows users to create and share videos of 15 seconds, is particularly popular with teenagers.

“Unlike other platforms, which are centered around users’ friends or communities, TikTok is based on engaging with a never-ending stream of new content,” said Darren Davidson, the editor-in-chief of Storyful.

“The Daesh postings violate TikTok’s policies, but the sheer volume of content makes it difficult for TikTok to police their platform and root out these videos,” he said.

The app has been marred by controversy in recent months. In April, TikTok was briefly banned by an Indian court over claims it was promoting pornography among children.

The app is banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.

The company has refuted the allegations, saying they abide by local privacy laws.

ByteDance has a version of TikTok in China called Douyin.