US journalist freed in Lebanon after call by rights groups

Nada Homsi, a freelance American journalist who was detained in Beirut last month, gestures as she speaks during an interview with AP, in Beirut on Wednesday. (AP)
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Updated 08 December 2021

US journalist freed in Lebanon after call by rights groups

  • Nada Homsi, the journalist, said after her release that her arrest was part of an intimidation campaign used by Lebanon's security agencies against foreign journalists
  • Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Homsi was arrested without a judicial order on Nov. 16

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities freed Wednesday a freelance American journalist who was detained in Beirut last month. The release came just hours after two international human rights groups called her detention arbitrary and demanded that she be set free.
Nada Homsi, the journalist, said after her release that her arrest was part of an intimidation campaign used by Lebanon’s security agencies against foreign journalists.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Homsi was arrested without a judicial order on Nov. 16 by members of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate. The reasons for the raid remain unknown and her detention is now arbitrary, the groups had said.
“I feel good that I’m free but I shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place,” Homsi told The Associated Press, adding that Lebanese security agencies are “going after foreign journalists so that they can’t cover things that are happening in Lebanon.”
Since Lebanon’s economic meltdown began two years ago, many foreign and local journalists have reported on widespread corruption among the country’s political class, which has been running the small nation since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
“Nada is at home and the decision to deport her has been dropped,” Homsi’s lawyer, Diala Chehade, told the AP, adding that all her papers and documents were given back to her.
Earlier, Chehade said that security force that raided Homsi’s apartment found a small amount of cannabis. Chehade said the officers then called the public prosecutor, who issued an arrest warrant for Homsi and her partner, a Palestinian national. The officers confiscated her electronics and some documents, she said.
General Security members are deployed at Lebanon’s border crossings, ports and the country’s only international airport, and the department usually deals with foreigners by issuing visas and residency permits.
“Not only did General Security officers raid Homsi’s apartment without producing a judicial warrant, but they also violated her rights in detention by denying her access to a lawyer,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Chehade said Homsi lives in Beirut’s predominantly Christian neighborhood of Achrafieh and had earlier this year raised a Palestinian flag on her apartment. This angered a district administrator who complained to the Lebanese army. Army intelligence members then came to the apartment and asked Homsi to remove the flag, which she did, Chehade said.
Homsi wrote a post on her Facebook account detailing the flag incident in May, her lawyer said. “I believe this was the motive that led to the raid,” Chehade said, adding that they found the cannabis during the raid.
The two rights groups said that although the public prosecutor ordered her release on Nov. 25, General Security issued a deportation order for her and “continues to detain her arbitrarily.”
On her Twitter account, Homsi writes that she is currently working for National Public Radio and usually writes about Syria and Lebanon. Homsi has worked with several Arab and international outlets, including most recently, NPR.
General Security officers had continued to insist that Homsi was being detained “for security reasons,” but they have failed to provide any details to Chehade to allow her to prepare a defense, the group said. They added that no security or military charges have been filed against Homsi, but she was charged for consumption of drugs.
Chehade filed a request to release Homsi on Nov. 25, and on the same day, the Beirut Public Prosecutor ordered her release. However, General Security continued to detain Homsi under the pretext that she was working in the country without a proper work permit.
Chehade said General Security officials told her Homsi is under arrest for security reasons, without saying what the reasons are.
“The continuation of the arrest is either a stubborn act by General Security or a deliberate policy that they have done with other foreigners before” to deport them, Chehade said.

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Serie A reaches TV rights deal with Abu Dhabi Media

Updated 01 July 2022

Serie A reaches TV rights deal with Abu Dhabi Media

  • For the next three seasons, Abu Dhabi Media, an Emirati public body, has been awarded the rights for a minimum total amount of $79 million
  • In the absence of a satisfactory offer in its call for tenders last year, the Italian League had developed its own Youtube channel in Arabic

ROME: Serie A on Thursday accepted the offer of TV platform Abu Dhabi Media to broadcast the Italian league in the Middle East and North Africa after more than a year without a broadcaster in this region.
For the next three seasons, Abu Dhabi Media, an Emirati public body, has been awarded the rights for a minimum total amount of $79 million, the Italian League announced.
To this guaranteed minimum income may be added any additional revenue linked to the number of subscribers that Italian football will generate on the platform, a spokesperson for Serie A told AFP.
In the absence of a satisfactory offer in its call for tenders last year, the Italian League had developed its own Youtube channel in Arabic to offer matches free of charge.


Twitter launches branded likes in Saudi Arabia

Updated 30 June 2022

Twitter launches branded likes in Saudi Arabia

  • Custom animation encourages users to like, unlike and relike a tweet

DUBAI: Twitter is rolling out its new “branded likes” feature across the US, Britain, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Branded likes are essentially custom animations for the like button on a tweet that brands can pay for.

 

 

The feature is available as an add-on to Twitter’s Timeline Takeover offering, which ensures a brand’s ad is the first ad to appear when someone opens Twitter for the first time on a given day.

Advertisers can select a hashtag — and up to 10 translations of that hashtag. Twitter then works with its creative partner Bare Tree Media for the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia to create custom artwork for the campaign.

When a user taps the like button on any tweet containing the pre-selected hashtag, the custom branded like animation will appear.

Branded likes have been in testing for nearly two years with testers including brands such as Disney, Paramount Pictures, Tesco, NASA and the NBA.

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/disneyplus/status/1289092933598081025?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw 

 

Disney+ was the first brand to pay for the feature as part of the beta test, reported AdAge. The streaming platform used it to promote the premiere of “Black Is King,” Beyoncé’s highly anticipated visual album inspired by “The Lion King.”

The tweet has over 113,000 likes and more than 10,000 retweets. 

 

 

During testing, branded likes generated a positive impact when paired with the Timeline Takeover feature, resulting in a 277 percent lift in recall, and 202 percent lift in purchase and consideration intent.

Branded likes are well received by consumers too, with two-thirds of people finding them “appealing,” according to Twitter Insiders research.

It is unclear at this time when the branded likes feature will launch in other countries.


Journalist murdered in Mexico, 12th this year

Updated 30 June 2022

Journalist murdered in Mexico, 12th this year

  • De la Cruz, who had been a journalist for 15 years, was also a spokesman for a political party, Movimiento Ciudadano.
  • More than 150 journalists have been murdered since 2000 in Mexico, one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media

CIUDAD VICTORIA: A Mexican reporter was shot dead on Wednesday in the violence-plagued northeastern state of Tamaulipas — the 12th journalist killed so far in a particularly bloody year for the country’s press.
Antonio de la Cruz, who worked for the newspaper Expreso, had frequently denounced alleged acts of corruption by politicians in his posts on social media.
His wife and daughter were injured in the attack, which took place as the reporter was leaving his home in Ciudad Victoria.
“We must not allow more attacks on journalists and activists. These crimes will not go unpunished,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s spokesman, Jesus Ramirez, tweeted.
Expreso demanded “justice from authorities at all levels.”
In 2018, another one of the newspaper’s journalists, Hector Gonzalez, was beaten to death.
This year is already one of the deadliest yet for the Mexican press, prompting calls for an end to a culture of impunity.
“The prevailing impunity in the murders of journalists has become an effective weapon for criminals,” said Jorge Canahuati, president of the Inter American Press Association.
Doctors were fighting to save the life of De la Cruz’s daughter, State Governor Francisco Cabeza de Vaca said, urging prosecutors to ensure “that this cowardly crime does not go unpunished.”


De la Cruz, who had been a journalist for 15 years, was also a spokesman for a political party, Movimiento Ciudadano.
Gustavo Cardenas, a state legislator for the party, described De la Cruz as “a family man, a good man” who had sought to expose alleged corruption by local authorities.
“The main suspects are in the state government... I have not the slightest doubt that a significant responsibility falls on these men,” he said.
Media rights group Reporters Without Borders urged authorities to carry out “a prompt investigation” into the murder and whether it was linked to De la Cruz’s journalistic work.
The Tamaulipas prosecutor’s office confirmed the murder and said that it was investigating the case under protocols for dealing with crimes against freedom of expression.
More than 150 journalists have been murdered since 2000 in Mexico, one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media, with only a fraction of the crimes resulting in convictions.
The United States and the European Parliament have urged Mexico to ensure adequate protection for journalists following the recent string of killings.
Lopez Obrador has vowed “zero impunity” for the crimes.
Before de la Cruz’s murder, the government had considered that nine of this year’s victims were killed because of their media work.
It has reported the detention of 26 suspects in the murders, nine of whom have been formally charged.
Tamaulipas is one of the Mexican states most affected by violence involving drug cartels, which have repeatedly tried to silence the press with attacks, according to rights groups.
In 2012 a car bomb exploded in front of Expreso’s offices, although nobody was injured.
In 2018, a human head was left outside its offices.


A US FCC commissioner urges Apple, Google to boot TikTok from app stores

Updated 30 June 2022

A US FCC commissioner urges Apple, Google to boot TikTok from app stores

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: A Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission has urged the chief executives of Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc’s Google to kick Chinese-owned TikTok out of its app stores.
Brendan Carr, the FCC commissioner, said in a letter to the CEOs, dated June 24 and sent on FCC letterhead, that video-sharing app TikTok has collected vast troves of sensitive data about US users that could be accessed by ByteDance staff in Beijing. ByteDance is TikTok’s Chinese parent.
Carr tweeted details of the letter on Tuesday.
“TikTok is not just another video app. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” Carr said on Twitter. “It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.”
Carr asked the companies to either remove TikTok from their app stores by July 8 or explain to him why they did not plan to do so.
Carr’s request is unusual given that the FCC does not have clear jurisdiction over the content of app stores. The FCC regulates the national security space usually through its authority to grant certain communications licenses to companies.

A TikTok spokeswoman said the company’s engineers in locations outside of the United States, including China, can be granted access to US user data “on an as-needed basis” and under “strict controls.”
Google declined comment on Carr’s letter, while Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
TikTok has been under US regulatory scrutiny over its collection of US personal data. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals by foreign acquirers for potential national security risks, ordered ByteDance in 2020 to divest TikTok because of fears that US user data could be passed on to China’s communist government.
To address these concerns, TikTok said earlier this month that it migrated the information of its US users to servers at Oracle Corp.
A spokesperson for the US Department of the Treasury, which chairs CFIUS, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“What we’re seeing here from Commissioner Carr is a suggestion that at least some parts of the US government don’t think that this is enough,” Richard Sofield, a national security partner at law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP, said about TikTok’s partnership with Oracle. 

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US newspapers continuing to die at rate of 2 each week

Updated 30 June 2022

US newspapers continuing to die at rate of 2 each week

NEW YORK: Despite a growing recognition of the problem, the United States continues to see newspapers die at the rate of two per week, according to a report issued Wednesday on the state of local news.
Areas of the country that find themselves without a reliable source of local news tend to be poorer, older and less educated than those covered well, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications said.
The country had 6,377 newspapers at the end of May, down from 8,891 in 2005, the report said. While the pandemic didn’t quite cause the reckoning that some in the industry feared, 360 newspapers have shut down since the end of 2019, all but 24 of them weeklies serving small communities.
An estimated 75,000 journalists worked in newspapers in 2006, and now that’s down to 31,000, Northwestern said. Annual newspaper revenue slipped from $50 billion to $21 billion in the same period.
Even though philanthropists and politicians have been paying more attention to the issue, the factors that drove the collapse of the industry’s advertising model haven’t changed. Encouraging growth in the digital-only news sector in recent years hasn’t been enough to compensate for the overall trends, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting professor at Medill and the report’s principal author.
Many of the digital-only sites are focused on single issues and are clustered in or close to big cities near the philanthropic money that provides much of their funding, the report said.
News “deserts” are growing: The report estimated that some 70 million Americans live in a county with either no local news organization or only one.
“What’s really at stake in that is our own democracy, as well as our social and societal cohesion,” Abernathy said.
True “daily” newspapers that are printed and distributed seven days a week are also dwindling; The report said 40 of the largest 100 newspapers in the country publish only- digital versions at least once a week. Inflation is likely to hasten a switch away from printed editions, said Tim Franklin, director of the Medill Local News Initiative.
Much of the industry churn is driven by the growth in newspaper chains, including new regional chains that have bought hundreds of newspapers in small or mid-sized markets, the report said.
Less than a third of the country’s 5,147 weekly newspapers and a dozen of 150 city and regional daily papers are now locally-owned and operated, Medill said.
Abernathy’s report pointed to a handful of “local heroes” to counter the pessimism that the raw numbers provide. One is Sharon Burton, publisher and editor of the Adair County Community Voice in Kentucky, where she pushes her staff toward aggressive journalism while also successfully lobbying to expand postal subsidies for rural newspapers.