Hong Kong pro-democracy media executives denied bail under security law

Apple Daily is by far the most outspoken of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy media outlets. (AP)
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Updated 19 June 2021

Hong Kong pro-democracy media executives denied bail under security law

  • The case is the first time political views and opinions published by a Hong Kong media outlet have triggered the security law

HONG KONG: Two executives from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily appeared in court on Saturday on charges of collusion and were denied bail after authorities deployed a sweeping security law to target the newspaper, a scathing critic of Beijing.
Chief editor Ryan Law and CEO Cheung Kim-hung are accused of colluding with foreign forces to undermine China’s national security over a series of articles that police said called for international sanctions.
Chief magistrate Victor So said there were insufficient grounds “for the court to believe that the defendants will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”
The two will remain in custody until their next court appearance on August 13 as prosecutors said police needed time to examine more than 40 computers and 16 servers seized from the newsroom.
The case is the first time political views and opinions published by a Hong Kong media outlet have triggered the security law, which was imposed last year by Beijing to stamp out dissent in the financial hub.
Apple Daily and its jailed owner Jimmy Lai have long been thorns in Beijing’s side, with unapologetic support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and caustic criticism of China’s authoritarian leaders.
More than 500 police officers raided the paper’s newsroom on Thursday. Five executives were arrested. Law and Cheung were charged on Friday while the three others were released on bail pending further investigations.
“We will continue to publish our paper tomorrow,” deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man said outside court. She was released late Friday on bail.
Dozens of supporters were queuing to get seats in court on Saturday morning, including many former and current employees of Apple Daily.
A staff member, who gave her surname as Chang, said she and many other Apple Daily employees treat “every day like it is our last” working for the paper.
“At first, authorities said the national security law would only target a tiny number of people,” she said.
“But what has happened showed us that is nonsense,” she added.
Another staff reporter, who gave her first name as Theresa, said she felt Apple Daily’s legal troubles were a warning shot.
“I think what has happened to Apple Daily today can eventually happen to every other news outlet in the city,” she said.
Multiple international media companies have regional headquarters in Hong Kong, attracted to the business-friendly regulations and free speech provisions written into the city’s mini-constitution.
But many are now questioning whether they have a future there and are drawing up contingency plans as Beijing presses on with a broad crackdown on dissent in the city.
Local media have an even tougher time, with journalist associations saying reporters are increasingly having to self-censor.
Hong Kong has steadily plunged down an annual press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders, from 18th place in 2002 to 80th this year.
Mainland China languishes at 177th out of 180, above only Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials say the arrests were not an attack on the media.
Earlier this week, security secretary John Lee described Apple Daily as a “criminal syndicate.”
Apple Daily is by far the most outspoken of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy media outlets. But it is not clear how long it can survive.
Its wealthy owner Lai, 73, is currently serving multiple jail sentences for his involvement in democracy rallies in 2019.
He has also been charged under the national security law and has had his Hong Kong assets frozen.
Authorities froze a further HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of Apple Daily’s company assets on Thursday.
Police say they also plan to prosecute three companies owned by Apple Daily under the security law, which could see the paper fined or banned.
It is the first time companies, rather than an individual, have faced a national security investigation.
Mark Simon, an aide to Lai who lives overseas, said the paper would have difficulty paying its staff of about 700.
Company lawyers were trying to work out the breadth of the asset freeze order, he added.
“Money is not an issue. Draconian orders from Beijing via the NSL (national security law) are the issue,” he said.

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio

Updated 04 August 2021

STARZPLAY partners with YouNeedCharacter to expand kids’ content portfolio

  • Partnership adds ‘CricketPang’ animation series endorsed by Ajinkya Rahane, vice captain of Indian cricket team

DUBAI: STARZPLAY has expanded its portfolio of kids’ content on the streaming platform with the addition of “CricketPang,” an animated TV series based on cricket and endorsed by the talented Ajinkya Rahane, vice captain of the Indian cricket team.

“We are thrilled to stream ‘CricketPang’ for our youngest viewers who can now enjoy a fun animation show while also honing their creative skills. We look forward to our partnership with YouNeedCharacter and are confident that this all-new edition will be loved by our MENA subscribers,” said Nadim Dada, vice president of content acquisition at STARZPLAY.

The series is produced by global character creation and animation production company YouNeedCharacter, which recently signed Indian cricketer Ajinkya Rahane as the brand ambassador for the show. With Rahane onboard, the company aims to launch activities to support cricket by securing scholarships for promising young cricketers.

“‘CricketPang’ offers a simple and interesting way for kids to learn while being entertained, and we hope that animation fans in the region enjoy the series as much as we enjoyed creating it,” said Minsu Song, CEO of YouNeedCharacter.

Each episode of “CricketPang” has been designed to contain stories of friendship, conflict resolutions, cooperation and creativity in ways that children can understand and learn from. The fun and light-hearted stories aim to help children with problem-solving, cooperation and communication skills.

“We have been working continuously to increase awareness for ‘CricketPang’,” Song said, adding that the partnership with STARZPLAY would further strengthen the brand.

The first season of the series is currently streaming on STARZPLAY.


Twitter accidentally verifies fake account of novelist Cormac McCarthy

Updated 04 August 2021

Twitter accidentally verifies fake account of novelist Cormac McCarthy

LONDON: Twitter admitted on Tuesday that the platform had accidentally given a fake account for renowned author and novelist Cormac McCarthy a blue tick marking it as a “verified user.”

The account, under the misspelled name “CormacMcCrthy,” was registered in 2018 and was recently tweeting about kombucha and SoundCloud for thousands of followers on the platform.


Both the author’s agent and publisher confirmed that McCarthy has never signed up for Twitter.

A spokesperson for Twitter said: “The account referenced was verified by mistake and that has since been reversed. The account will also be required to adhere to Twitter’s parody, news feed, commentary, and fan account policy.”

This is the second time Twitter has verified a fake account supposedly belonging to McCarthy; the first time was in 2012.

The fake account of 2012 was not only verifed, but also welcomed by Twitter’s chief executive Jack Dorsey.

In order to qualify for verification, Twitter users must upload an ID to authenticate their identity or show that an official website links directly to their account.

However, the fake account “CormacMcCrthy” did neither, and Twitter verified the account anyway following a viral tweet that gained more than 122 thousand likes.

Twitter restarted its verification process in May after halting it for several years to reassess how the process works.

Verification was initially introduced to combat identity theft on the platform and has since grown to include an array of special features for those carrying a blue tick.

Features include access to additional tools for notifications, priority for algorithmic filters and moderation, and a few or no adverts on the site.

The process was paused in 2017 and restarted in May 2021, only to be paused again a week later because of a flood of requests for verification.





Zain records fastest response times for popular video games in Saudi Arabia

Updated 04 August 2021

Zain records fastest response times for popular video games in Saudi Arabia

LONDON: Telecoms company Zain has recorded the fastest response times for the most popular online video games, according to a Saudi industry survey.

The firm’s rating was revealed in the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission’s quarterly Game Mode report.

The study compared the response times of telecom providers in Saudi Arabia, reviewed the most popular video gaming platforms and games, and offered guidelines to improve the quality of internet connections for video games.

The Game Mode initiative forms part of the commission’s drive to increase competition between telecom providers to give the best experience for video gamers.

Its efforts are also aimed at increasing transparency in the sector by publishing data and indicators and enabling investors to view market performance indicators in the Kingdom.

The quickest response time rate for the popular “Fortnite” online game was secured by Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) and Zain with an average of 12 milliseconds, jointly followed by Mobily and Salam on 24 milliseconds.

Response time performance for “FIFA” again showed STC and Zain in the lead at 13 milliseconds and Mobily and Salam closely behind with an average of 23 milliseconds and 24 milliseconds, respectively.

Battle royale-hero shooter game “Apex Legends” mirrored the results of “FIFA” with STC and Zain heading the list with a 13-millisecond response time, followed by Mobily in second on 24 milliseconds, and Salam third at 28 milliseconds.

Mobily hit top spot in “League of Legends” with a time of 79 milliseconds, followed by STC, Salam, and Zain on 86, 89, and 91 milliseconds, respectively.

Zain came first for battle arena game “Dota 2,” recording a response time of 20 milliseconds, followed by STC on 23 milliseconds. The third and fourth place were taken by Salam and Mobily with 25 and 31 milliseconds, respectively.

The White House is frustrated with media coverage of pandemic

Updated 04 August 2021

The White House is frustrated with media coverage of pandemic

LONDON: The White House and senior officials in President Joe Biden’s administration have expressed their frustration last week over media coverage of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases among vaccinated Americans.

A senior official in the Biden administration stated on Friday that the press is reporting misleading information on a breakthrough of Delta variant infections spreading among vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The official said that the White House had asked these news organizations to tone down the language as focusing on “breakthrough infections” is likely to lead to more vaccine hesitancy.

A member of Biden’s COVID-19 response team, Ben Wakana, also referred to a Washington Post article as “completely irresponsible” for featuring a story about an outbreak in Massachusetts among vaccinated people.

This comes as the Biden administration steps up its efforts to combat COVID-19 misinformation.

Last week, Biden blamed Facebook for the soaring number of COVID-19 infections and said that the social media company was “killing people” by allowing the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

However, a few days later, Biden softened his tone and said instead that he meant to accuse a dozen users who have been responsible for spreading the most amount of misinformation on the social media platform, not the company itself.

With a combined 59 million followers, the 12 online personalities — also known as the “Disinformation Dozen” — include doctors who practice pseudoscience, a bodybuilder, a wellness blogger, a religious zealot, and, most notably Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of former US President John F. Kennedy.

Facebook’s WhatsApp rolls out option for disappearing photos, videos to take on Snapchat

The feature is called 'View Once' and will be displayed as 'opened' once the media has been viewed by the user. (File/AFP)
Updated 04 August 2021

Facebook’s WhatsApp rolls out option for disappearing photos, videos to take on Snapchat

  • WhatsApp rolls out new feature which allows users to send photos and videos which will then disappear from the chat after they have been seen

Aug 3 : Users of Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp can now send disappearing photos and videos on its platform starting this week, as it looks to better compete with Snap Inc’s photo messaging app Snapchat.
The feature, called View Once, will let photos and videos disappear from the chat after they have been seen, Facebook said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that once the media content has been viewed, the message will be shown as “opened.”
Snapchat, known for its Stories feature that lets users post updates that disappear after 24 hours, has grown in popularity last year as pandemic-induced curbs kept users at home. The company has also been adding new features on its messaging app to attract more users.