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A projection turns and throws images onto a wall during the light festival in Ghent, Belgium on Sunday. More than 40 light installations were on display during the festival, which takes places
every three years. — AP
Alarab off air hours after launch
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A source familiar with the affairs of the news channel
said Bahraini officials had delivered the suspension order
on a visit to the station over issues of “journalistic neutrality”. A brief front-page article in the pro-government
Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper said the channel’s broadcasts had been suspended because they did not conform
to Gulf norms. It did not cite its sources. In a column in the
same newspaper, editor-in-chief Anwar Abdulrahman
asked: “Is Alarab really Arab?” He condemned the channel
for hosting Marzouq, who is “radical to the core”. “Resorting
to muscle flexing in news coverage, with the hope of proving that you are an independent channel, is not going to
work,” he wrote.
Viewers tuning into the channel yesterday morning
were only able to see prepackaged promotions for the network, not news programming. Marzouq is a former deputy
parliament speaker who is a senior member of Al-Wefaq,
the country’s main Shiite political bloc. He was cleared of
allegations of instigating violence and having links to a
protest faction that authorities blame for bombings and
other attacks in a closely watched case last year. He was
asked on to discuss Bahrain’s decision Saturday to revoke
the citizenship of 72 people. The list included Turki AlBinali, a 30-year-old who is one of the Islamic State group’s
leading ideologues. It also included several Shiite activists
living in exile.
Al-Wefaq welcomed Alarab’s launch in a statement yesterday and said it has submitted a request to launch a
Bahrain-based channel of its own. Alarab is headquartered
in Bahrain’s twin-towered World Trade Center, one of the
landmark buildings in the capital, Manama. Bahrain hosts
the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and is part of the US-led coalition
striking the Islamic State group. It is connected by a causeway to Saudi Arabia, and its royal family has close political
and security ties to the OPEC kingpin.
Bahrain has faced four years of instability following
widespread anti-government protests in February 2011
that were dominated by the country’s Shiite majority,
which seeks greater political rights from the Sunni monarchy. Bahraini authorities, backed by security forces from
neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,
crushed the initial uprising, but street protests, petrolbomb attacks and other low-level unrest continue.
The channel’s decision in late 2011 to locate its headquarters in Bahrain rather than a larger media hub such as Dubai,
United Arab Emirates, was seen as a key endorsement of the
country’s prospects despite its political unrest. Alarab’s general manager, Jamal Khashoggi, told reporters in December
that the network “will cover all views” and would not shy
away from sensitive topics in Bahrain. Alarab is backed by
Saudi royal family member Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose
Kingdom Holding Co investment firm has stakes in several
well-known companies, including Citigroup Inc, Apple Inc,
News Corp and Twitter. — Agencies
Activist’s jail term upheld as tweeters freed
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The court of appeals meanwhile upheld a four-year
jail term against online activist Ahmad Abdulaziz Fadhel
for allegedly insulting the judiciary and making derogatory remarks against a number of judges on Twitter. The
criminal court handed the same sentence in October on
Fadhel, who has been in jail for the past six months.
In another development, the National Assembly’s
health and labour committee yesterday discussed a part
of the first draft law to regulate the affairs of domestic
helpers in Kuwait. Head of the committee MP Saadoun
Hammad said the panel completed 47 articles of the 73article bill and will meet again on Thursday to complete
the rest of articles. Among articles approved by the panel is an article stipulating that domestic helpers can
transfer their residence permits after working for two
years with their first sponsor, Hammad said. Sponsors
who make the transfer before the two years will lose
their financial guarantee.
MP Abdulhameed Dashti called on the Assembly to
debate human rights situation in Kuwait in a special session or at least allocate two hours for the debate. He
said the Assembly should debate recommendations
made to Kuwait by a large number of countries last
week at the United Nations Human Rights Council,
which heard Kuwait’s report on its human rights situation. Dashti said that Kuwait must be ready to respond
to these recommendations at a meeting to be held by
the Council on June 29.
MP Abdulrahman Al-Jeeran said he has submitted a
proposal to amend the election law to prevent those
who receive jail terms for serious felonies from contesting the election before the lapse of 15 years if
they repeat the crime. Under the current law, people
who have been sentenced for crimes can contest elections after they are rehabilitated. The same applies to
UN: 2014 ‘hottest year on record’
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Also notable was that the 2014 record occurred in
the absence of a fully-developed El Nino system - a periodic weather phenomenon that has an overall warming
impact on Earth’s climate. High temperatures in 1998 the hottest year before the 21st century - occurred during a strong El Nino. The WMO report is a consolidation
of leading international datasets, including research by
NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), the Met Office’s Hadley Centre
and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research
Unit. Some of the data goes back to 1850. Scientists
warn that a 4 C warmer Earth would be hit by more cat-
astrophic droughts, floods, rising seas and storms, with
wars likely fought over ever-scarcer resources like water.
Fraught UN negotiations for a climate-saving pact,
scheduled to enter into force from 2020, are at a difficult
phase and campaigners and observers fear a weak compromise as nations continue to disagree of some of the
very fundamentals. Countries have committed to make
emissions-curbing pledges before the Paris gathering starting next month for those nations in a position to
do so. Emissions must be slashed by 40-70 percent by
2050 from 2010 levels and to near zero or below by
2100 for a good chance of reaching two-degree warming, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change said in a report last year. — AFP
Greste speaks of ‘angst’ over colleagues...
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Canada said Greste’s release was “positive” news and
that it remained “very hopeful” that Fahmy would also be
freed soon.
Greste’s family expressed their joy after speaking to
him on the phone. The Australian’s mother, Lois, told a
news conference in their hometown of Brisbane: “I’m
ecstatic. I just can’t say how happy I am about it.” His father
Juris said it was not clear when he would arrive home. “He
is gathering his thoughts for the trip home,” said his brother Andrew. “He is safe, healthy, very, very happy to be on
his way home.” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
spoke of his “personal delight and our nation’s relief” at
Greste’s release. He also voiced support for a free media
and thanked Sisi.
Al-Jazeera vowed to pursue the campaign to free the
other two journalists. But Heather Allan, head of newsgathering at the channel, admitted she wasn’t confident
that Mohamed would be released. “I can’t say I am confident, no. I just don’t know, honestly. Are we going to keep
on fighting it? Absolutely - we are not going to leave him
there,” she said.
She said Mohamed “must be feeling pretty isolated at
the moment”, but the Qatar-based broadcaster was in
constant touch with the producer’s family. “We might
have to try some other tactics because we don’t have a
foreign country involved, but our commitment to getting
him out is just as strong as it ever was.” Mohamed’s family
has pinned their hopes on a presidential pardon or his
acquittal on appeal.
Amnesty International said Greste’s release should not
overshadow the ongoing imprisonment of Fahmy and
Mohamed. “All three men are facing trumped up charges
and were forced to endure a farcical trial marred by irregularities,” said Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. The
European Union described Greste’s release as a “positive
step” but called for his colleagues’ to be freed, adding that
“journalists must be able to work in a safe working environment”.
The high-profile trial, at which Greste and Fahmy were
sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohamed to 10,
proved a public relations nightmare for Sisi, who has
cracked down on Islamists since toppling president
Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. The verdict was overturned
and a court in January ordered a retrial for the three.
Egyptian police arrested the journalists at the peak of a
diplomatic row between Cairo and Qatar, which owns AlJazeera. The broadcaster had been critical of the deadly
crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood following the
Islamist leader’s overthrow. Qatar has since moved to
mend ties with Egypt, and Al-Jazeera has closed its
Arabic-language Egyptian affiliate which backed the
The rapprochement reflected growing international
acceptance of the crackdown on Egypt’s Islamist opposition and militants who have killed scores of police and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow. The crackdown, which has
left at least 1,400 people dead, had tested Egypt’s ties
with the United States, which temporarily froze part of its
annual $1.3 billion military aid in 2013. Greste worked for
multiple news organisations before joining Al-Jazeera
English. He was the BBC’s Kabul correspondent in 1995
and returned there after the US-led invasion in 2001. From
2009, he was based in Nairobi, winning the broadcasting
industry’s prestigious Peabody Award in 2011. — AFP