LONDON: Senior Roman Catholic figures in Jerusalem said Israel “brutally” violated religious freedom in the city after police confronted mourners at the funeral procession of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday.
Police beat people carrying Abu Akleh’s coffin from St. Joseph Hospital and fired stun grenades at the crowd.
Monsignor Tomasz Grysa, the Vatican’s representative in Jerusalem, said the incident violated a 1993 agreement between the Holy See and Israel that “upholds and observes the human right of freedom of religion, which in this case has been brutally violated.”
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Roman Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, added: “The Israel Police’s invasion and disproportionate use of force — attacking mourners, striking them with batons, using smoke grenades, shooting rubber bullets, frightening the hospital patients — is a severe violation of international norms and regulations, including the fundamental human right of freedom of religion.”
The statements came as part of a series of condemnations made in a press conference at St. Joseph Hospital by the leaders of 15 religious denominations based in the city.
Jamil Koussa, the hospital’s director, said he believed the police targeted Abu Akleh’s coffin, not just the mourners, in an effort to intimidate and “horrify” onlookers.
A number of medical staff were also injured by the police after they stormed the hospital. Dr. Mohammed Hmeidat, who works in the neonatal intensive care unit, told the BBC he was burned by a stun grenade.
“One of them was very close to my feet, and [it] exploded. After that, we hurried to the emergency department and [the police] also followed us [there],” he said.
Israeli law enforcement warned Jerusalem’s religious figures against making “extreme statements, which include assertions about events that are still being examined, only stir up emotions and are not responsible.
“We expect clerics to help calm the area and avoid statements that agitate it.”
Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist and a Christian, was shot while covering an Israeli military raid in a Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday.
The Israel Defense Forces initially denied they were responsible for her death, but amid evidence from eyewitnesses that the fatal shot came from IDF personnel, they have since opened an investigation into the activity of their soldiers during the operation.
Israeli police, meanwhile, claimed intervention in her funeral was necessary as the journalist’s family had planned to use a hearse to transport the coffin from the hospital but the crowd had threatened the driver and appropriated the body against their wishes.
“Police were present at the incident to maintain public order and to allow the funeral to take place when there were extremists on the ground who provoked and engaged in an attempt to turn the funeral into a violent event,” the police said in a statement.
However, Abu Akleh’s brother, Tony Abu Akleh, told the BBC: “Everybody saw the pallbearers beaten savagely by batons without any mercy, without any respect to the funeral, to the dead.
“This was a national funeral for all the Palestinians to participate in…[The police] had no business to do [what they did] at the gate.”
Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina, told the BBC: “I honestly was very afraid…because [the police] started throwing stun grenades, and one of them actually threatened to beat me if I don’t move out of the way,” she said.
CAIRO: The Egyptian Journalists Syndicate will honor the late Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh with a special category in the Egyptian Press Awards bearing her name.
The award will be based on coverage of Palestine.
Syndicate head Diaa Rashwan said that Abu Akleh’s death had caused an emotional outpouring in the Arab world and around the globe.
The veteran Palestinian journalist, who worked for the Qatari Al-Jazeera network, was covering an Israeli army security operation in Jenin camp when she was shot and killed on May 11.
During an Egyptian Journalists Syndicate memorial service for Abu Akleh at the union’s headquarters, Rashwan promised that a section would be added to the site entrance bearing models of press martyrs, including Abu Akleh.
Egyptian journalists observed a minute’s silence for Abu Akleh during the memorial ceremony, which was attended by Palestine’s Ambassador to Egypt, Diab Al-Louh.
Abu Akleh’s martyrdom will not be forgotten in Arab and international history, Al-Louh said.
He told the Egyptian journalists that “Shireen’s blood will not be in vain.”
The envoy declared “May 11, the day of the martyrdom of the Palestinian journalist, is an international day of solidarity with the Palestinian press.”
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its “condemnation in the strongest terms of the heinous crime of assassination of the late Palestinian journalist and Al-Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh.”
DUBAI: The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has announced that music streaming charts are in development for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including IFPI’s first ever regional chart.
IFPI published the “Global Music Report” in March and it showed that market revenues in the MENA region grew by 35 percent in 2021, making the region the fastest-growing area in the world. The numbers also portray that the market is mainly made up of streaming which is 95.3 percent of the region’s revenues.
The charts are presently being tested in four countries — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Morocco — alongside a first of its kind regional chart for the MENA region. The outcome is the product of collaborative and direct partnerships between the industry and the largest streaming services in the region, which include Anghami, Spotify, Apple, Deezer, and Youtube.
IFPI additionally conducted a research study to demonstrate the industry’s interest in the region which showed that UAE residents listen to an average of 22.5 hours of music in a week which is 22 percent higher than the world average. The study explored music engagement of people in the country between the ages of 16-44, also found that 54 percent of people usually listen to a minimum of one Middle Eastern genre.
IFPI Chief Executive, Frances Moore said “both the research and the upcoming charts serve to demonstrate the passion music fans have for music here in the region. We are seeing how the presence and investment of record companies in the area and their work to develop and support local artists is driving positive developments in the music ecosystem.”
Highlighting the excitement of this endeavour, IFPI’s Regional Director for the MENA region, Rawan Al-Dabbas stated “this is an incredibly exciting time for music in the region. The combination of the forthcoming regional charts combined with the industry’s focus and investment in MENA going forward goes to demonstrate the exciting future for music in the region.”
She also mentioned some drawbacks for the region as there is an issue of streaming unlicensed music in the area. “There are challenges, for example unlicensed music is an issue in the region, and IFPI and our member companies are committed to working with governments here in MENA to tackle this and ensure that licensed music has a secure foundation from which to continue its exciting growth story,” she added.
LONDON: Three top executives quit Twitter on Wednesday as questions continue to swirl around Tesla magnate Elon Musk’s deal to buy the platform.
The departure of Ilya Brown, vice president of product management; Katrina Lane, vice president of Twitter Service, and Max Schmeiser, head of data science, comes shortly after Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal fired two top executives, Kayvon Beykpour, the company’s general manager, and Bruce Falck, head of revenue.
“We are thankful for all of their hard work and leadership,” a Twitter spokesperson commented following the latest departures. “We continue to be focused on providing the very best experience to the people on Twitter.”
Earlier this month, Musk said that a potential mass resignation of Twitter employees is “fine” following his deal to buy the social media company.
“It’s a free country,” Musk said at the Met Gala. “Certainly if anyone doesn’t feel comfortable with that, they will on their own accord go somewhere else. That’s fine.”
The Tesla CEO agreed on a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter in April, but last week said the agreement was “on hold” while he sought clarification about possible fake accounts.
Twitter CEO Agrawal said that internal estimates of spam accounts for the past four quarters were “well under 5 percent,” but has refused to explain how the figure was reached.
“We don’t believe this specific estimation can be performed externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share),” he said.
On Tuesday, however, Musk said that Agrawal had “publicly refused to show proof” that less than 5 percent of Twitter’s accounts were fake, and said the deal “cannot move forward” until evidence is provided.
Musk suggested that up to 20 percent of the platform’s 229 million accounts could be spam bots.
DUBAI: Fake news, a term popularized by former US President Donald Trump to berate sections of the media, is viewed by many in civil society and the business community as one of the most harmful phenomena of the digital age.
There are several recent examples of misinformation, or indeed deliberate disinformation, published online and then amplified by social media, having real-world consequences, from stirring up ethnic tensions to undermining public health initiatives.
Take, for instance, the case of Edgar Welch, a 28-year-old father of two from Salisbury, North Carolina, who in December 2016 read an article online about an alleged elite pedophile ring operating out of a pizzeria in Washington D.C.
“Pizzagate,” as it became known, was a far-right conspiracy theory, which sought to connect several high-ranking Democratic Party officials with an alleged human trafficking and child sex ring linked to a restaurant named Comet Ping Pong.
After reading the article, Welch picked up a gun and drove the full six hours from his home to Washington D.C. where he opened fire on the restaurant. No one was injured in the attack, and the allegations have since been thoroughly debunked.
Compare this example with the footage that emerged on May 13 of Israeli security forces attacking Palestinian pallbearers carrying the coffin of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead two days earlier.
Thanks to video captured by witnesses on their smartphones and shared on social media, the whole world was able to bear witness to this shocking incident instantaneously, spurring world leaders to condemn the funeral assault.
During a panel discussion at the Top CEO Conference in Dubai on May 17, both of these incidents were raised as examples of the tremendous power of social media as a means, on the one hand, of spreading misinformation, and, on the other, of exposing the truth.
It is because of the positive traits of social media as a weapon of truth that media outlets and civil society are cautious about onerous government regulation of these platforms, which might undermine freedom of expression.
“Nobody is against freedom, but we should also be against chaos,” Faisal J. Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Arab News, told Tuesday’s panel.
“We are talking about billions of people, billions of posts, it is physically impossible to monitor everything and by the time they get to it, the damage would most probably have been done.
“If you remember from 2016 the fake story which was spreading on Facebook and other platforms about the pizzeria that had a child abuse ring, and somebody took a gun and went and shot up the place.
“The story got more views than the rebuttals. The more crazy the news, the more content it creates, the more websites like Facebook get traction,” Abbas said.
“There is no end to fake news but we must continue to battle it.”
Indeed, the digital transformation, which has revolutionized the sharing of information in just a matter of years, has left regulators and companies fighting to keep up with some of its more damaging manifestations.
Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap Inc. MENA, who also participated in Tuesday’s panel, said that the efforts of governments to regulate online platforms should not “take away the responsibility of the tech platforms” to tackle fake news.
“When we talk about regulations, there is a component of thoughtful regulation with the government, and we want to engage in that, and help the government to come up with what that means,” Freijeh told Arab News on the sidelines of Tuesday’s forum.
“Then there is self-regulation, or platform regulation. And this is our responsibility and how we deal with product design, and how to do the policy to control that.
“And then (there is) self-responsibility from (content) creators and the community, and that is an educational process. It requires a lot of technology to allow self-regulation, and it is a process that we have to commit to.”
While fake news was in no way created by social media, the sheer speed and accessibility these networks provide means that harmful and malicious behavior now has a greater reach than ever before.
“Social media gave people freedom,” Khaled Janahi, chairman of Vision 3, told Tuesday’s panel. But, he warned, people need to use it correctly.
In separate comments to Arab News, Thomas Hughes, executive director of Meta’s oversight board, said that social media companies have a role to play in combating fake news.
“Content moderation policies have to be crafted in a way that reflects the kinds of standards we want to set globally,” he said.
“As the (oversight) board cannot hear every appeal, when we select cases, we are thinking about what kind of precedent our decision might create, and we prioritize cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Meta’s policies.”
He added that the Oversight Board for Meta — formerly known as Facebook — has already issued more than 100 recommendations and that Meta has committed to implementing the majority of them.
But conflicts like those raging in Ukraine and Ethiopia, according to Hughes, add fuel to the fire of fake news.
Conflict and instability “unfortunately, go hand in hand with rises in mis- and disinformation — although this issue is very much global,” he told Arab News.
Journalists can play a key role in tackling fake news, according to Hughes, which is why many of Meta’s board members have worked in the traditional media in the past.
“They feel passionately about these issues and about ensuring that more is done to protect journalists and free speech, while also working to protect people from harm.”