TUNIS: Tunisian authorities have arrested an Al Jazeera reporter, the network’s bureau chief said Thursday, as campaigners voiced concern over a growing number of journalists behind bars in the North African country.
“Samir Sassi, a journalist at the Al Jazeera office in Tunisia, was arrested after security forces raided his house” late Wednesday, said Lotfi Hajji, director of the Qatar-based television network’s bureau in Tunis.
He told AFP that police did not disclose the reasons for the arrest nor where Sassi was being held. There was no official comment from Tunisian authorities.
Hajji said the security forces had also seized Sassi’s “computer, phone, and the phones of his wife and children.”
Al Jazeera’s Tunisia bureau has been closed since President Kais Saied’s swift power grab in July 2021, but the network’s journalists remained accredited and maintained their coverage in Tunisia.
Authorities did not provide a reason for shutting down the bureau at the time.
Tunisia has come under criticism for a crackdown on the freedom of speech, including the arrests of more than 30 journalists in 2023, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
In an open letter to Saied published on Thursday, the IFJ expressed its “deepest concern at the frequent imprisonment of journalists, in total contravention of the provisions of the Tunisian Constitution in respect of freedom of expression and the media.”
It mentioned the case of Tunisian journalist Zied El Heni, who was arrested on December 29 after criticizing Tunisian Commerce Minister Kalthoum Ben Rejeb in a radio show he hosts.
Heni became well known during the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and set in motion what later came to be known as the Arab Spring.
The journalist remains in detention, awaiting trial scheduled for January 10.
“Heni’s case is not an isolated one, but clearly indicates the existence of a systematic policy of instrumentalising legal procedures and the judicial system to systematically intimidate, bully and imprison journalists,” said the IFJ.
Last summer, the United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said he was “deeply concerned” over the crackdown on media in Tunisia, with vaguely worded legislation used to criminalize criticism.
Seventeen journalists in Tunisia currently face trial, according to local media.
Heni and some other journalists have been prosecuted under the provisions of Decree 54, which punishes those accused of spreading “false news” with a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
The legislation “is being used to silence journalists and opponents of the president,” Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of the IFJ, said earlier this week, accusing the government of “attacking journalists.”
LONDON: A British journalist’s interview with a Palestinian politician has sparked anger on social media, with viewers around the world describing the presenter’s conduct as “racist” and “unprofessional,” and demanding an apology.
Talk TV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer was interviewing Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Mustafa Barghouti on Wednesday, the day after Israel assassinated deputy Hamas chief Saleh Al-Arouri in Beirut.
In video footage of the interview, which went viral on social media in the days that followed, Hartley-Brewer repeatedly interrupts her guest and shouts at him as he talks about the rule of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Do you think Israel is a democratic country? Netanyahu is destroying democracy,” Barghouti says.
Speaking over him, Hartley-Brewer says: “They have elections.”
Barghouti continues: “This man now has three, four courts against him because of four cases of corruption. This man knows if the war stops, he will go to jail.”
After further exchanges, Hartley-Brewer expresses impatience and says: “You talked about how you do not want Israel… you are saying Israel, Oct. 7 happened, you are placing that in a historical context, I understand that, please do not say that again. We do not have time for it. You have made that point five times already.”
Barghouti, who is head of the Palestinian National Initiative, responds: “I do not know what you have time for.”
Hartley-Brewer raises her voice to say: “Oh my God. For the love of God, let me finish a sentence, man. Maybe you are not used to women talking, I do not know, but I would like to finish a sentence.”
While Barghouti remains calm and composed, the broadcaster, in a still-raised voice, gives him 10 seconds to outline what he believes would have been “an acceptable reaction” to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
“To end occupation and allow peace to prevail for both people,” Barghouti says.
“Brilliant,” Hartley-Brewer says, then slaps her desk and concludes by saying: “Sorry to have been a woman speaking to you.”
Shocked viewers took to social media to express their anger, describing Hartley-Brewer as “bigoted,” “racist” and “unprofessional,” and demanding an apology from Talk TV.
British newsreader India Willoughby said in a message posted on social media network X that Hartley-Brewer “is very lucky that she lives in a time period where bullies are indulged,” and noted that Barghouti had “seemed very calm.”
Julia Hartley-Brewer is a terrible broadcaster who is very lucky that she lives in a time period where bullies are indulged. The Palestinian guy seemed very calm to me. pic.twitter.com/7JMTuhBsFI
Philip Proudfoot, a politics researcher, tweeted: “The level of disrespect shown to Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghouti here is beyond shocking, including an anti-Arab trope framing his struggle to explain even basic context to Julia Hartley-Brewer as driven by … misogyny.”
The level of disrespect shown to Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghouti here is beyond shocking, including an anti-Arab trope framing his struggle to explain even basic context to Julia Hartley-Brewer as driven by … misogyny.pic.twitter.com/FLVxNllrdV
British-Lebanese journalist Hala Jaber shared Talk TV’s clip and described the presenter as “rude, bigoted, narrow-minded, arrogant and absolutely unprofessional.”
Addressing Hartley-Brewer directly, she added: “Your performance was a disgrace to your profession.”
Rude, bigoted, narrow minded arrogant & absolutely unprofessional @JuliaHB1. To even suggest & play the woman card was as a new mow even for you.
I can assure you he knows how to speak to women more than you know how to speak to men or people in general.
Your performance was a… https://t.co/RmzJIXKAk1
Reem Kelani, who described herself as a “proud Arab woman,” urged Talk TV and Hartley-Brewer to apologize.
“Her interview with Dr. Barghouti, a man of great integrity, was a disgrace,” she wrote on X. “Hartley-Brewer also made false accusations about Dr. Barghouti’s stance towards women.”
We demand an apology from @TalkTV & Julia Hartley-Brewer @JuliaHB1 to Dr @MustafaBarghou1
Her interview with Dr Barghouti, a man of great integrity, was a disgrace
Hartley-Brewer also made false accusations about Dr Barghouti’s stance towards women@ReemKelani proud Arab woman pic.twitter.com/LPS09XEBh0
Stewart Mills, who is based in Sydney according to his X profile, wrote: “Appalling racism by Julia Hartley-Brewer.”
Demanding an apology, he said the journalist’s conduct showed “complete disrespect for a beautiful and decent man who has devoted his life to community and public health.”
Appalling racism by Julia Hartley-Brewer @JuliaHB1 with Palestinian MP Dr Mustafa Barghouti: ‘Maybe you are not used to women talking’
Complete disrespect for a beautiful & decent man who has devoted his life to community & public health
Columnist Reem Al-Harmi said Hartley-Brewer’s language was “condescending, patronizing, and next-level gaslighting.”
Julia Hartley yelling racism at Dr. Barghouti, “Maybe you’re not used to women talking”.
This arrogant language is condescending, patronizing, and next-level gaslighting.
Have you ever seen any TV presenter challenging an Israeli official, let alone yelling at him/her? pic.twitter.com/cWPHWvY7ic
LONDON: Al-Arabiya’s correspondent in Gaza, Mohammed Awad, said 20 of his relatives, including his brother’s family, were killed on Saturday in an Israeli attack in the southern city of Khan Younis.
The house where they had taken shelter was hit by an Israeli airstrike, the news channel reported. Three other relatives of Awad died previously when their home, in the Nusairat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, was hit by an Israeli strike.
Awad told Al-Arabiya that those killed on Saturday included his brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, and his brother’s in-laws. He said his brother’s family could not flee their home before the airstrike hit the building at night.
The Israeli military has been pounding central and southern Gaza since Christmas Eve as it expands its air and ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave.
At least 22,700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched its military assault on Gaza on Oct. 7, according to the Gazan health ministry, and more than 85 percent of the territory’s 2.3 million population has been displaced.
The UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, said on Friday that “Gaza has simply become uninhabitable.”
ABU DHABI: Nadim Koteich has been appointed general manager of Sky News Arabia, International Media Investments announced on Friday.
In addition to continuing to host his own show on the newscaster, “Tonight with Nadim,” Koteich will be tasked both with setting the channel’s editorial tone and with making sure its content is “optimized across all platforms,” IMI said in a press release.
He will also be overseeing the launch of a number of new programming initiatives on Sky News Arabia, a joint venture between IMI and Sky Group, over the next few months.
Koteich has more than 20 years of experience in the media industry and has worked with various regional outlets across print, broadcast, and online platforms, including hosting “DNA,” which aired on Future TV and Al Arabiya, as well as contributing a weekly political column to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
IMI, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation, also announced that it has promoted Abdou Gadallah, previously head of news at Sky News Arabia, to group editorial director. Gadallah joined Sky News Arabia in 2012, and has since taken on various editorial leadership positions. Before that, he served as media advisor to the US Embassy in Doha.
Both executives will report directly to IMI CEO Rani R. Raad, who joined the company in September.
“These appointments strengthen our commitment to upholding the highest standards of editorial integrity whilst we grow and strengthen our relationships with our audiences,” Raad said in the press release. “Our mission is to deliver a full and comprehensive picture of what is happening in our region and beyond, so our audiences can make informed decisions and have the facts to form their own opinions.”
He added: “Technology is offering us the opportunity to reach more and more people and to change how we interact with them. But it is our engaging and differentiated content that is at the heart of our relationship with them. With Abdou and Nadim in these roles we are going to start to redefine what makes a great news product.”
LONDON: Microsoft has introduced a new button to the Windows keyboard to activate its newly launched AI Copilot service, the first change to the keyboard layout since 1994.
According to the company, the Copilot key will be featured on numerous new Windows 11 personal computers.
Using AI, the shortcut will help users in generating images, composing emails, and condensing text, as well as other functions, creating what Microsoft described as “your everyday AI companion for work and life.”
Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s consumer chief marketing officer, said in a blog post announcing the change on Thursday: “AI will be seamlessly woven into Windows from the system, to the silicon, to the hardware.
“We see this as another transformative moment in our journey with Windows where Copilot will be the entry point into the world of AI on the PC.”
Reflecting the trend among smartphone manufacturers to promote their newest models as “AI phones,” Microsoft said it believed 2024 will be “the year of the AI PC.”
The company dedicated 2023 to revamping its major products with AI technology in an effort to develop products capable of creating fresh content from extensive datasets.
Copilot, which has been developed by engineers at OpenAI, the company largely supported with $13 billion from Microsoft, will rely mainly on ChatGPT-4 technology, but will feature distinct differences.
It utilizes not only the integration between ChatGPT and Microsoft 365, but also merges the capabilities of large language models with a user’s data stored in the Microsoft Graph and the Microsoft 365 apps.
LONDON: The New York Times is facing scrutiny over claims that its reporters “manipulated” family members linked to the victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel.
In an investigative report, “How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7,” published on Dec. 28 last year, the newspaper alleged that Palestinian militants engaged in a pattern of gender-based violence against Israeli women during the surprise Al-Aqsa Flood operation.
But the family at the center of the report has since challenged claims made by the newspaper.
The authors, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman, and Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella, said that the report was compiled from more than 150 interviews with purported victims or their families.
But a significant portion of the investigation focused on the Abdush family, working-class Mizrahi Jews whose daughter, Gal, and son-in-law, Nagi, were killed during the Hamas-led attack.
In relation to Gal’s death, the newspaper used footage recorded on Oct. 8 by Eden Wessely, an Israeli woman accused of disseminating misinformation about the conflict.
The clip, labeled by the Times as “The Woman in the Black Dress,” shows Gal’s corpse in a dress that had been lifted upward.
In the report, the Times said that the Abdush family had seen the footage and “feared that she (Gal) might have been raped,” with the newspaper claiming that the footage served as evidence of the “violence committed against women that day.”
Following Wessely’s release of the clip, the footage was also used as part of Israeli presentations to foreign countries and media organizations demonstrating the extent of the violence on Oct. 7.
The New York Times also examined timestamps of phone messages sent by Gal and Nagi before their deaths in an attempt to reconstruct the chaotic events of that morning.
In the report, the newspaper claimed that Nagi had sent his final message at 7:44 a.m., requesting that his children be looked after.
But according to Mondoweiss, the Times neglected to report on an earlier message sent by Nagi at 7 a.m. that confirmed Gal’s death.
The news website claimed that The New York Times had “manipulated a working-class Mizrahi family in the service of Israeli hasbara in order to score a journalistic achievement.”
In an interview with Gal’s parents on the Israeli Ynet news site, shortly after the Times report was published, the Abdush family contradicted the newspaper’s reporting.
Gal’s parents said that there was a lack of evidence regarding the alleged rape and accused the Times reporters of misleading them during interviews.
Etti Brakha, Gal’s mother, told Ynet: “We didn’t know about the rape at all. We only knew after a New York Times journalist contacted us. They said they matched evidence and concluded that she had been sexually assaulted.”
Gal’s sisters also vehemently deny the rape allegations.
Tali Barakha, one of Gal’s siblings, said on Instagram: “No one can know what Gal went through there! Also, what Nagi went through, but I can’t cooperate with those who say many things that are not true.
“I plead with you to stop spreading lies. There is a family and children behind them — no one can know if there was rape or if she was burned while alive.”
Nissim Abdush, Nagi’s brother-in-law, said in a Jan. 1 interview with Israel’s Channel 13 station that he did not believe Gal was raped, further challenging the Times’ narrative.
He argued that the timings of the different calls made by his brother did not align with the facts presented in the Times’ report.
On Oct. 7, Nissim continued to communicate with Nagi until the latter’s death, and his brother-in-law made no mention of sexual assault, he told Channel 13, accusing the US newspaper of having “invented” the story.
Other relatives of Gal and Nagi have also said that the “Woman in the Black Dress” video fails to support the newspaper’s claims.
Hamas, which led the Oct. 7 attack, has consistently rejected Israeli claims that its fighters engaged in rape and sexual assault.
The militant group said in a statement: “We reject the Israeli lies about raping, which aim to distort the resistance and tarnish our humane and moral treatment of captives.”