I&B Ministry Blocks 35 YouTube Channels and Other Social Media Accounts for Spreading ‘Anti-India News’

The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B Ministry), on Friday, ordered the blocking of 35 YouTube channels, two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts, two websites, and a Facebook account for spreading ‘anti-India propaganda’ and ‘fake news’.

Vikram Sahay, the joint secretary of the I&B Ministry said, “The common factor amongst all these accounts have been that they operate from Pakistan and spread fake anti-India news and other content”.

The channels were featuring content on the death of late Chief of Defence staff Gen. Bipin Rawat, public order, separatism and the Indian army.

The ministry said that their direction to the Department of Telecom and internet service providers to block these channels is underway.

After receiving intelligence inputs about the channels on Thursday, the ministry issued five separate orders to block their content. According to a report by the Indian Express, all 35 YouTube accounts were operating from Pakistan and two of them were identified as ‘Apni Duniya Network’ and ‘Talha Films Network’. While ‘Apni Duniya Network’ was operating 14 channels, ‘Talha’ was operating 13 YouTube channels. The ministry believes that all these accounts were operating with “a single goal of spreading fake news oriented towards the Indian audience.”

According to ANI, these channels also boasted of a huge subscriber and viewership count. “They are YouTube channels with a 1.20 crore subscriber base, 130 crore views. Now since this process has started, I’m sure that more and more such channels will get blocked. Our Intelligence agencies are at work. We’ll look forward to your support too,” said I&B Ministry Secretary Apurva Chandra.

Earlier in December last year, the I&B Ministry had blocked 20 Pakistan-based YouTube channels and two websites under the IT Rules, 2021. The channels had a combined subscriber base of 35 lakh and their content was viewed more than 55 crore times. The Scroll reported that the channels were part of a network called the ‘Naya Pakistan Group’ and were being operated by Pakistani news anchors.

‘Bulli Bai’ App Case: Delhi Court Denies Anticipatory Bail to Vishal Jha

Vishal Kumar Jha, an alleged suspect in the ongoing ‘Bulli Bai’ app case, was denied anticipatory bail by a Delhi court, on Saturday.

A week before Jha’s bail rejection, 20-year-old Neeraj Bishnoi, allegedly the main creator and conspirator behind the app, was also denied bail, as per a Live Law report.

In Jha’s case, the court observed that the conduct of the accused persons in the matter is “against the ever cherished constitutional ethos of secularism and fraternity ensuring dignity of any individual and modesty of a woman.”

The matter came to the forefront after nearly 112 Muslim women found themselves listed on an online auction app, including actor Shabana Azmi, journalists such as Ismat Ara, Arfa Khanum SherwaniFatima Khan and Kashmir-based Quratulain Rehbar, author Saba Naqvi, poet Nabiya KhanRJ Sayema, Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, activist Khalida Parveen, and several other female Muslim activists, who frequently voice their opinions on social media.

The app hosted on GitHub uploaded pictures of the Muslim women and their Twitter handles as part of a fake ‘online auction’ along with the caption ‘Bulli of the day’. Nearly 80 Muslim women were earlier listed “for sale” on a similar fake online auction known as ‘Sulli Deals‘, also hosted by GitHub in July 2021.

After complaints were registered by the women, on January 3, the Mumbai Police Cyber Cell detained and arrested 18-year-old Shweta Singh from Uttarakhand. Jha was the first to be arrested from Bangalore, in connection to the case. He maintained that he was falsely implicated in the case, accused of merely following the Bulli Bai app, and is not a flight risk. He applied for bail, based on grounds that the prosecution had failed to produce concrete evidence supporting the allegations made against him, in the case.

Shortly after, police arrested 21-year-old Mayank Rawat from Uttarakhand, and finally prime accused Bishnoi, on January 6.

While both Singh and Jha were remanded to a 14-day judicial custody, last week, Bishnoi was sent to five-days of police custody until January 27.

Kashmir Press Club Shut Down; “An Important Journalistic Institution Dismantled,” Says Editors Guild of India

The Kashmir Press Club was shut down on Monday, a couple of days after the takeover of the institution by a group of journalists with the active support of the state police and CRPF. Expressing ‘deep anguish’ over the action, the Editors Guild of India issued a statement condemning the move, on Tuesday.

“With the shutting down of the club and government reverting the land back to the Estates Department, an important journalistic institution in a region that has seen the worst kind of state heavy handedness against any independent media, has been effectively dismantled,” the Guild said.

Several organisations, such as the Press Club of India, the Mumbai Press Club (MPC), and the Editors Guild, had issued statements on Sunday condemning the “forcible takeover” of  the Kashmir Press Club and insisting on its immediate restoration and an independent inquiry into the role of armed police forces in the incident.

After Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir was overturned and the state became a union territory in 2018, the 300-member Kashmir Press Club had applied for a re-registration in May 2021, as required by an April 2021 notification, MPC’s statement explained. On December 29, a Registration Certificate under the Societies Act was issued to the KPC, after a long verification process by the District Commissioner.

Following this, on Thursday, the club, which was under interim management post the re-registration, announced that elections would be held on February 15, to select a new management body as well as executive committee.

The next day, the administration issued an order stating that the re-registration of the club was temporarily suspended pending the receipt of a final report from the Additional District Magistrate, Srinagar. And on Saturday, a group of journalists, led by journalist Saleem Pandit, barged into the premises of the KPC and declaring themselves to be an ‘interim’ body, seized the club with the help of armed policemen, who entered the club without due warrant.

In their statements, the various press bodies urged the restoration of the KPC’s registration as well as the facilitation of the scheduled elections in a peaceful manner.

Meanwhile, addressing the media, Pandit said, “We should not be considered as having taken it [the club] over by force. Since there has been a delay in conducting the elections, we have taken it over to run the day-to-day affairs of the club. Give us time, we will do everything for the club, we will build it and ensure it flourishes and work for the welfare of the journalists.”

“We have only decided on an interim president, general secretary and treasurer for the time being. Later, we will create several committees to look into different issues, such as the memberships – to check who are the members and if they are eligible to be members of the club,” Pandit further added.

On the other hand, calling the move “uncivil, illegal, unconstitutional and without any precedence,” the outgoing members of the KPC  issued a statement expressing “anguish” over the “arbitrary takeover.”

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Geeta Seshu, co-founder of Free Speech Collective – an organisation that monitors and documents violation of free speech in the country with the aim to protect the right to freedom of expression and the right to dissent – called the takeover “shocking and disturbing.”

“For a faction of journalists to resort to such undemocratic methods to take over an independent journalists’ organisation is unheard of. Bringing armed escorts to a club created to provide a safe space for journalists in their work and recreation, sends a very alarming signal about the state of the media that already operates under huge pressure in one of the most militarised zones in the world,” she said.

She further noted that this takeover comes at a time when journalists in Kashmir are already “under extreme pressure and work in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear.” Seshu went on to add that such actions further destabilise independent media institutions and curtail their freedom.

The Kashmir region is notable for several such curbs on the freedom of the press, which have occurred with increasing frequency in recent times.

Recently, a Kashmir-based journalist Sajad Gul was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for posting a video on social media which showed a family protesting against the Indian government.

Other alarming incidents affecting the press include the killing of the editor of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari, in June 2018; the FIR filed against journalist Peerzara Ashiq in April 2020 for a report he had filed for The Hindu; freelance photographer Masrat Zahra being charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA); the sudden sealing of the Srinagar office of the Kashmir Times in October 2020; Fahad Shah, the editor-in-chief of The Kashmir Walla, being detained for the third time for his writings in March 2021; and in April 2021, the issue of an advisory by the Kashmir Police forbidding journalists from reporting live encounters with militants.

UK Freezes BBC’s Licence Fee for 2 Years; Sparks Concerns of Drastic Cuts

The Boris Johnson-led UK government announced on Monday that it has decided to freeze the licence fee of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) at £159 for the next two years.

“The BBC wanted the fee to rise to over £180 by the end of the settlement. Instead, it will remain fixed at £159 until April 1, 2024. That’s more money in the pockets of pensioners; in the pockets of families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said UK’s cultural secretary Nadine Dorries, about the move that comes as a serious blow to the national broadcaster.

During the session at the House of Commons on Monday, Dorries also noted that it was time to begin questioning the funding of the BBC and whether the license fee was appropriate.

According to a New York Times report, BBC’s chairman Richard Sharp and its director-general Tim Davies, said in a statement, that the funding freeze is “disappointing” and that it will “necessitate tougher choices.”

The licence fee is the amount that all TV owners in the country must must pay, and it is the primary source of funding for the BBC. Introduced in 1923, the fee used to pay for radio. Currently, it funds eight national television channels, 10 radio stations, local stations (including Welsh and Gaelic language services), educational content and on-demand services.

This fee has increased in line with inflation annually over the past five years, as per NYT, and negotiations concerning the amount for the next five years had been on since late 2020 between the BBC and the UK government.

A freeze on this licence fee, coming as it does at a time when Britain is facing its highest level of inflation in a decade, could force the BBC, which is already involved in an extensive cost-cutting plan, to make further cuts, the NYT report notes. In 2021, the broadcaster cut 1200 jobs in a move to save £800 million annually and this financial year, it plans for its savings to rise above £950 million.

As per a Reuters report, analysts have said the below-inflation settlement will induce cuts in the BBC’s output. The government’s recent move and proposal to debate the continuance of the licence fee has also sparked accusations of ‘cultural vandalism’.

The BBC’s funding through the licence fee is currently guaranteed till the end of 2027, after which new terms will be decided by the government.

Ahead of the parliament session on Monday, Dorries had tweeted that it was time to “discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.” Hinting at doing away with the licence fee altogether, she had said, “The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over.

Dorries and other Conservatives have long argued for an overhaul in BBC’s funding method. They have also claimed that the broadcaster is too left-leaning and too London-centric.

During the session at the House of Commons, Dorries said that it was necessary for the BBC to address the challenges of modern broadcasting, while engaging with the British public across UK and not just London. She further added that in the last few months, she has made her stance clear on the need for the BBC to address issues around impartiality and “group think.”

Meanwhile, Lucy Powell, spokesperson for culture for the opposition, told the parliament that the funding freeze was an attack on one of the biggest institutions in British public life, and accused Dorries of “cultural vandalism.”

Others like Meera Selva, deputy director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, feel that the license fee is the closest model “for preserving editorial independence.”

Yati Narsinghanand Arrested For Hate Speeches in Haridwar’s ‘Dharma Sansad’

Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, religious leader and one of the organisers of and event in Haridwar that saw promotion of anti-Muslim hate speech in December 2021, was arrested on Saturday according to a report by NDTV.

This is the second arrest made in the hate speech conclave case, with Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi, who was Waseem Rizvi before he converted, to be the first accused to be arrested on Friday. Rizvi’s arrest came after the Supreme Court directed the Uttarakhand government to submit an affidavit within 10 days of action.

Narsinghanand is among the 10 people named in the FIRs registered against speeches that called for genocide and the use of arms against Muslims.

The dharma sansad, or religious assembly, was held from December 17 to December 19, 2021, and was titled Islamic Bharat Me Sanatan Ka Bhavishya [The Future of Sanatan (Dharma) in Islamic India]. Organised by Narsinghanand, the priest of Dasna Devi temple in Ghaziabad and recently anointed ‘Mahamandaleshwar’ of the Juna Akhara, the event witnessed mass gathering and was attended by speakers like Annapurna Maa, Dharamdas Maharaj from Bihar, Anand Swaroop Maharaj, Sagar Sindhuraj Maharaj, Swami Premanand Maharaj, and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay.

Giving the moto of ‘Shastra Mev Jayate’ to incite armed violence against Muslims, Narsinghanand said, “Economic boycott won’t work. Hindu groups need to update themselves. Swords look good on stage only. This battle will be won by those with better weapons.”

Sadhvi Annapurna, who is currently under the police radar, said, “If you want to finish them off, then kill them… We need 100 soldiers who can kill 20 lakh of them to win this.”

Apart from Muslims, other minorities were also targeted during the event that was streamed live on social media.

It received flak from people across the globe. Students and faculty of the Indian Institutes of Management penned a letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to speak up for minorities in the country.

They criticised Modi for his silence on the rising intolerance and added, “There is a sense of fear in our country now – places of worship, including churches in recent days, are being vandalised, and there have been calls to take arms against our Muslim brothers and sisters. All of this is carried out with impunity and without any fear of due process.”

Twitter trended with hashtags #StopIndianMuslimGenocide, #StopPersecutingIndianChristians, and #StopPrsectingDalits, as people condemned the act.

Vanitha Magazine Provides Space for Sexual-Assault Accused Dileep to Whitewash His Image

On January 8, Vanitha, a popular Malayalam women’s magazine, released its latest issue featuring a cover story of actor Dileep and his family. Dileep is the eighth accused in the ongoing case of the abduction and sexual assault of a female Malayalam actor.

The January cover of Vanitha features a family photo of the actor along with the text Oru Prarthana Maathram, Dileep Kudumbasametham (Only one prayer, Dileep and his family) and story’s headline reads Ente Yudham Sathyam Jaikkan (My Battle to Win the Truth). This has notably been published just as a fresh probe has been launched by the Kerala police against Dileep, after new revelations in the assault case have come to light.

Vanitha positions itself as a ‘women-friendly’ magazine – its name translates to ‘woman’ and its tagline, Sthreekalude Suhruthum Vazhikaattiyum, means ‘Friend and Guide of Women’ – and it has consequently received considerable backlash for propping up an accused in a sexual assault case.

The cover story, which is an interview with Dileep and his wife, tries to prove that the truth is on his side and aims to garner sympathy for the actor by using his family as a backdrop. The interview in its entirety seems to be an attempt at whitewashing the Janapriya Nayakan’s accused image.

Let’s look into what exactly Dileep had to say in the interview with Vijeesh Gopinath.

The actor begins by speaking about his recently released film Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan, and then reminiscing of his childhood memories, financial struggles, and so on. When he moves on to addressing the sexual assault case, Dileep says, “I have answers for all the allegations raised against me. However, I am unable to speak about it to the public or media as the case is still in court. I can only speak in court. I am someone who believes in law and order. I have utmost faith in god, the courts, and truth. The truth will come out, until then I have only one prayer, I should not lose my mental strength and life.”

On February 17, 2017, a female Malayalam actor was abducted and sexually assaulted in a moving vehicle. Actor Dileep was arrested that July after investigations pointed to him having orchestrated the assault. The case has been pending in court for years now and has seen several major twists and turns with recent revelations against the actor reigniting public interest.

To a question from the interviewer on what these four years have taught him, Dileep says that he understood it is family and friends that stand with him during such situations. He also adds that he took the initiative to talk to people who spoke against him and “mistook” him.

Dileep’s wife, Kavya Madhavan, then speaks about the “bad mental stress” she went through when her husband was arrested a few months after their marriage.

Dileep, meanwhile, takes pains to mention that his mother was completely shattered by what happened to him. 

He also notes that he is indebted to the audience for their reception to Ramaleela. “It was the first film that was released when I was at the worst phase of my life.” 

Ramaleela had been released just a couple of months after his arrest.

He recalls that there were protests to boycott the film till the day before to its release. “However, the audiences received the film well and made it a super hit. That’s why I am able to sit here and talk about it today,” he says, adding that but for that, it would have taken a lot of time for him to come back.

The interview also tries to gain sympathy for the actor by noting that he had earlier confessed that he wanted to die by suicide after producing the film Twenty: 20

“I don’t know why people have so much enmity against me,” Dileep says at one point. “I am an artist who aims to make people smile. I have a mother, brother, wife and daughters. Their future depends on me. That’s why I am fighting this battle, for my family. This phase will pass,” he adds.

He also states that he is believer and says it is his belief that everything happening to him is due to his bad time (“samaya dhosham“). 

Meanwhile, breaking her long silence, the survivor publicly opened up for the first time on Monday, through her official social media account. In her Instagram post, she extended her gratitude to all those who have supported her.

Dileep, who was granted bail in 2017 in the sexual assault case, has recently been charged with plotting to kill the police officers who were investigating that case. His anticipatory bail plea in the new FIR is up for hearing on Friday.

For a full timeline of the female actor abduction and assault case, see here.

Jacqueline Fernandez Releases Statement on Viral Photo with Conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar

Hindi film actor Jacqueline Fernandez issued a statement on Saturday addressing a leaked intimate photo of her and conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar that went viral online.

Taking to her Instagram, the Bhoot Police actor requested the media to respect her privacy. She wrote, “This country and its people have always given me tremendous love and respect. This includes my friends from the media, from whom I have learned a lot. I am currently going through a rough patch but I am sure that my friends and fans will see me through it. It is with this trust that I would request my media friends to not circulate images of a nature that intrude my privacy and personal space. You would not do this to your own loved ones, am sure you would not do this to me either. Hoping that justice and good sense prevails. Thank you.”

The actor also disabled comments on the Instagram post.

Fernandez has been linked to Sukesh Chandrashekhar in connection to a Rs 200 crore money laundering case. She has appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED)  thrice until this point.

Earlier, the actress denied the “alleged slanderous statements” made about her relationship with Chandrashekhar and his wife Leena Maria Paul.

According to the chargesheet filed by ED, she received expensive gifts from Chandrashekhar and she confirmed the same. She alleged that he approached her under the pretext of being the owner of Sun TV. “Shekhar told me that he is a big fan. Soon he told me that I should do movies in south India and that Sun TV is producing many such movies. Since February, I was in touch with him. He gave me his number… and asked me to make calls on this number,” she said.

Sukesh Chandrashekhar has over 20 cases registered against him and was also allegedly running the extortion cases when he was in jail.

Ajith Kumar’s ‘Valimai’ Release Postponed Due to Rising Covid-19 Cases

In a big blow to Tamil Nadu theatre owners, the release of Valimai, the upcoming Tamil film starring actor  Ajith Kumar in the lead role and scheduled to hit the theatres for the occasion of Pongal on January 13, has been postponed, the makers of the film officially announced on Thursday.

Although the new release date has not yet been announced, in a statement, producer Boney Kapoor said that the release has been postponed due to the “steep rise in Covid infections across the globe”.

Valimai, which marks the actor’s return to the screen, three years after Nerkonda Paarvai (2019), has been the most awaited film in his career. Valimai is Directed by  H Vinoth and produced by Kapoor. Also starring actors Huma S Qureshi, Karthikeya, Bani, Sumithra, Achyunth Kumar, Yogi Babu, Raj Ayyappa, Pugazh, among others, the film was set to release in Hindi and Telugu as well.

“Audiences and fans have always been the source of our felicity. Their unconditional support and love during the hard times, instilled vital hopes in us to face the hardships and successfully complete our dream project. All that we desired during every single moment was to see them cheerful and happy in the cinema halls. At the same time, the safety and well being of our audiences has always been at the forefront of all our decisions. Given the steep rise in Covid infections across the globe, and abiding by the regulations of the authorities, we have decided to postpone the release of our film Valimai until the situation normalizes,” the makers of Valimai said in the statement.

The Tamil Nadu government, in an order issued on Wednesday, imposed lockdown restrictions, night curfew, and in a previous order had permitted cinema halls to function only at 50% occupancy, owing to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Valimai is the latest in a line of to films that have deferred their scheduled release in January. Release of pan-Indian films, RRR and Radhe Shyam, has also been postponed indefinitely. Theatre owners, speaking to Silverscreen India earlier, had said that they had pinned their hopes on Valimai‘s release, as per schedule, after other big-budget films opted out of the race.

Golden Globes 2022: Amid HFPA Controversy, No Celebrities, No Audience and No Press to Attend Event

The 79th Golden Globe Awards this year, which is set to happen on January 9, will go ahead with no audience or media, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Tuesday. In fact, the event will also see no celebrity presenters, Variety has reported.

This comes at a time when HFPA, Golden Globes’ curator,  came under fire after an LA Times investigation revealed that there were no black members among the 87 HFPA members. The organisation was thus, boycotted by Netflix and Amazon Studios, along with several other studios. Its broadcasting partner NBC also distanced itself after the controversy. Following the report, Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globe awards, while other celebrities such as Scarlett Johanssen and Mark Ruffalo asked others in Hollywood to “step back” from the HFPA.

The HFPA was further criticised for the Golden Globe nominations in its 2021 edition for not including Oscar frontrunners Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Da 5 Bloods, both of which are black-led films.

According to the report in Variety, an email from a talent booker for the Golden Globes indicated that showrunners were inquiring about celebrities joining the show to present, but sources revealed that no famous faces agreed to present, likely considering the backlash.

However, according to the press release by HFPA, it is “because of the current pandemic surge”.While it has been stated that the awards will be revealed from the Beverly Hilton on January 9 it has not been mentioned whether the show will be televised, or how the winners will be revealed.

It is also unclear as to how the association plans on broadcasting the event this year with NBC out of the equation. The nominations were announced on its YouTube channel this year and were read out by singer and rapper Snoop Dogg.

Post the backlash, the HFPA announced a reform plan and also added 21 new members in what it describes as its “most diverse class to date.”

Citizen News: Curtains Drop on Third Hong Kong Media House, Days after ‘Stand News’ Shuts Down

Citizen News, one of the last functioning independent news organisations in Hong Kong, has announced that it will cease its operations from Tuesday owing to the “deteriorating media environment.” It is the third media house in the erstwhile British colony to shut down in recent times after Stand News last week and Apple Daily in June 2021.

Citizen News is shutting down after functioning for five years. It was founded on January 1, 2017 by a group of veteran journalists and has been supported entirely by crowdfunding, according to a CNN report.

“We have never forgotten our original intent,” the statement from Citizen News read. “Sadly, we can no longer strive to turn our beliefs into reality without fear because of the sea change in the society over the past two years and the deteriorating media environment. At the centre of a brewing storm we found ourselves in a critical situation. In the face of a crisis, we must ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on board.”

The changes alluded to in the statement refer to the passage of the national security law in 2020 and the crackdown on press freedom in its aftermath. The law was implemented in the wake of the civil disobedience movement that broke out in Hong Kong in 2019. It is aimed at censoring voices that endorse, support, glorify, encourage, or incite activities that might “endanger national security.”

The new law has curbed the freedom of citizens in several ways, with news agencies becoming a primary target. The most recent of these was the pro-democracy media house Stand News that ceased functioning on December 30 after six of its employees were arrested and tons of journalistic material seized following a raid at its offices.

Over 200 police personnel were deployed to conduct the raid on the media outlet. Acting chief editor Patrick Lam, former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen, former director and ex-chief editor of the science section Chow Tat-chi, and former board members Christine Fang, pro-democracy singer Denise Ho, and barrister Margaret Ng were arrested by the authorities. While the last four were released a day later, Lam and Pui-kuen have been charged with allegedly conspiring to publish seditious content.

Earlier, in June 2021, another pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, shut down operations after it was raided and its executives were arrested for alleged “collusion with a foreign country.” Additional charges were imposed last week against its founder Jimmy Lai and six other former staff members as part of their trial under the national security law.

Citizen News’ exit now leaves Hong Kong with even fewer independent news organisations.

BBC Admits That Its Interview of Alan Dershowitz Did Not Meet Editorial Standards

The BBC, in a statement on Thursday, admitted that its interview with lawyer Alan Dershowitz, following the conviction of Jeffrey Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell, did not meet its editorial standards.

“Last night’s interview with Alan Dershowitz after the Ghislaine Maxwell verdict did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards, as Mr Dershowitz was not a suitable person to interview as an impartial analyst, and we did not make the relevant background clear to our audience. We will look into how this happened,” read the news agency’s statement.

A former Harvard Law School professor, Dershowitz gained notoriety after Virginia Giuffre, a victim of Epstein’s, filed a lawsuit against him and alleged that he had sexually abused her. Dershowitz has denied these allegations and has filed a defamation suit against Giuffre.

Even before Giuffre’s complaint, Dershowitz was known for being a long-time acquaintance of Epstein and the one who had aided the late American financier in obtaining an easy plea deal in 2008. This was around the time Epstein was under investigation for sexually abusing underage girls.

Epstein died by suicide in his prison cell in 2019, after he was charged with sex trafficking and exploiting several girls and women.

On Wednesday, Epstein’s associate Maxwell was convicted for trafficking and sexually abusing underage girls.

Following this, despite his questionable background, BBC interviewed Dershowitz and left out the parts that potentially connected him to Maxwell’s trial and conviction via Giuffre. Instead, the broadcasting agency introduced Dershowitz as a “constitutional lawyer” who would provide analysis on the verdict. This step drew much criticism on social media.

Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister, called the action a “huge error” on BBC’s part.

Another Twitter user and human rights activist, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, called the decision bizarre. She wrote, “Sorry, what?! BBC News now have Alan Dershowitz on to analyse Ghislaine Maxwell’s conviction, without any reference to his background; he’s simply introduced as ‘constitutional lawyer’ as if he’s a neutral expert. Shocked.”

However, Dershowitz himself supposedly mentioned the connection during the interview, and said, “Well, I think the most important thing, particularly for British viewers, [is that] the government was very careful who it used as witnesses [in Maxwell’s trial]. It did not use as a witness the woman who accused Prince Andrew, accused me, accused many other people because the government didn’t believe she was telling the truth. In fact, she, Virginia Giuffre, was mentioned in the trial as somebody who brought young people to Epstein for him to abuse.”

He also said that Maxwell’s conviction further weakened the case of sexual abuse against Prince Andrew, who is also named a perpetrator in Giuffre’s lawsuit. She has sued the Duke of York for allegedly sexually assaulting and battering her, when she was 17.

Hong Kong Police Presses Charges against Two ‘Stand News’ Employees; Singer Denise Ho Released from Custody

Hong Kong’s Police National Security Department has formally pressed charges against two staff members of Stand News, as well as the organisation itself, for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious content.

According to the authorities, the two men – aged 34 and 52 – were found to be in contravention of sections 9 (seditious intentions) and 10 (offences that comprise seditious intentions) of the Crimes Ordinance, that was put in place when Hong Kong was still under British rule. They were to be produced before the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon.

While the men have not been named in the official statement, local media reports suggest that it might be the media outlet’s former editors-in-chief, Patrick Lam and Chung Pui-kuen.

Meanwhile, Denise Ho, pro-democracy singer and former member of Stand News, was released from custody on Thursday. She was seen walking out of court 36 hours after being taken into custody.

Lam, Ho, and Chung were three of the six Stand News staff members arrested on Wednesday, after a raid was conducted at the premises of the non-profit news outlet by over 200 national security officers. The others who were apprehended were Chow Tat-chi, former director and ex-chief editor of the science section, former board member Christine Fang, and barrister Margaret Ng.

Head of Hong Kong Journalists Association, Ronson Chan, was detained as well to “assist investigation” though he was not arrested.

Lam resigned from his post shortly after and the media house ceased operations that same day. Stand News also wiped its social media footprint from the internet. However, tons of journalistic material that belonged to the now defunct organisation were carried away by the police department.

While multiple foreign news publications criticised the Hong Kong authorities for curbing the freedom of the press, a government spokesperson slammed the international coverage, especially the American media, for its “slandering remarks on the enforcement actions taken in accordance with the law.”

The law in question is the Beijing-imposed national security law passed by Hong Kong in 2020 in the wake of the civil disobedience movement that broke out in the former British colony in 2019. It is aimed at censoring voices that endorse, support, glorify, encourage, or incite activities that might “endanger national security.”

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Media House ‘Stand News’ Ceases Operations after Office Raid & Arrest of 6 Staff Members

Hong Kong-based media house, Stand News, discontinued operations on Wednesday after the police raided its office and arrested six staff members on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious pieces.

The Facebook page of the media outlet also announced that all the information on its website as well as its social media pages will be removed within a few days.

Over 200 national security officers were deployed to conduct the raid at the premises of the non-profit news outlet, according to a Hong Kong Free Press report.

Those apprehended include acting chief editor Patrick Lam and former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen, along with Chow Tat-chi, former director and ex-chief editor of the science section. Lam is said to have resigned immediately after his arrest. Former board members Christine Fang, pro-democracy singer Denise Ho, and barrister Margaret Ng were also reportedly taken into custody.

Head of Hong Kong Journalists Association, Ronson Chan, was detained as well to “assist investigation” though he was not arrested. Chan, who was released a little later, told HKFP that the police confiscated his electronic devices, his Stand News press card, and his bank passbook.

Police said that they had issued a warrant for the raid under Schedule 1 of the Implementation Rules for Article 43 of the national security law. The rule empowers the Hong Kong Police to search premises and other relevant places, to freeze and confiscate property, and conduct surveillance on people or organisations suspected of committing “serious crimes.”

In a press conference, Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department, said that the authorities had frozen assets totalling HK$61 million, including computers, mobile phones and HK$500,000 in cash. Li added that the police was not targeting the media, but was just taking action against “national security offences.”

Hong Kong passed the Beijing-imposed national security law in 2020 in the wake of the civil disobedience movement that broke out in the former British colony in 2019. It is aimed at censoring voices that endorse, support, glorify, encourage, or incite activities that might “endanger national security.”

The new law has curbed the freedom of citizens in several ways, with news agencies becoming a primary target.

In June, the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily shut down operations after it was raided and its executives were arrested for alleged “collusion with a foreign country.” Additional charges were imposed on Tuesday against its founder Jimmy Lai and six other former staff members as part of their trial under the national security law.

Stand News has come under fire now in a similar fashion.

A winner of the Reporters Without Borders 2021 Press Freedom Prize, Stand News was founded in 2014 after its predecessor House News shut down for safety reasons. According to a Reuters report, the Stand News charter states that it shall be independent, autonomous, and committed to safeguarding Hong Kong’s core values of “democracy, human rights, rule of law and justice.”

The publication has been critical of various actions of Hong Kong authorities, including the city’s smart prison programme and the Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution. Moreover, the staff members arrested have vocally criticised mainland China’s intentions towards Hong Kong.

Former lawmaker Margaret Ng had earlier noted that “China has always found it difficult to accept the kind of freedom and restraint to power that Hong Kong has under a separate system.”

The raids thus come as no surprise.

Earlier this year, Hong Kong authorities also began cracking down on cinema with the passing of a new film censorship law, which announced a retroactive ban on films with content deemed offensive to national security. Punishment for the screening or exhibition of unauthorised films include three years in prison and a fine of HK$1 million.

Astroworld Tragedy: US Congress Sends Notice to Organizer Live Nation

The US Congress sent a notice to Live Nation, the organiser and promoter of Travis Scott‘s Astroworld concert which witnessed the death of 10 people due to a crowd surge, and sought information on the planning of the festival, on Wednesday.

The Committee of Oversight and Reform, in a statement addressed to Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino, wrote, “Concert attendees have provided firsthand accounts of being crushed within the crowd as it surged towards the stage,” and held Live Nation responsible for “planning, staffing, putting up money, securing permits, finding vendors, communicating with local agencies,” for the festival.

Live Nation is required to submit written answers to the committee’s queries, by January 7 next year. A session is scheduled five days later which will be centered around Astroworld as well as earlier events organised by the company.

The company is directed to submit security and crowd details with pre-show security assessment records, responses to the management of unruly crowd, and the policies on medical care among others. It also noted that the organiser withheld the payments of Astroworld employees until they signed revised contracts.

Scott’s Astroworld concert was held on November 5, and witnessed a footfall of 50,000 people.

A stampede followed and crushed attendees after the crowd surged towards the stage, the statement noted.

The incident left 10 dead, eight of whom died the night of the event. It also left multiple people injured. While Indian-American student Bharti Shahani succumbed to her injuries on November 11, 9-year-old Ezra Blount became the youngest victim on November 15.

The statement further quoted multiple reports with attendees as eyewitnesses, as well as expert voices which indicated a clear failure on the management’s part.

“The police activity log shows that, by 9:38 p.m., Houston Police officers and firefighters responded to reports of a “mass casualty event.”8 Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña stated that after local law enforcement received the initial reports of people sustaining injuries in the crowd, “our people stepped up and immediately went to the producers and told them, ‘Hey, people are going down,'” the notice read.

It added that the concert was not halted until after 10 p.m., despite the rapper’s stand that he “did stop a couple times just to make sure everybody was okay.”

Both Scott and Live Nation have been slapped with hundreds of lawsuits alleging negligence and misconduct. An online petition followed on change.org that sought to remove the rapper from music festivals after his concert in Houston.

In the light of the legal battle that Scott is embroiled in, he was recently removed from the lineup of the North American festival Coachella.

A Mumbai Court Rejects Kangana Ranaut’s Plea to Transfer Her Extortion Case Against Javed Akhtar Out of Andheri Court

A Mumbai court on Saturday rejected actor Kangana Ranaut’s plea to transfer her extortion case against lyricist Javed Akhtar out of Andheri court according to a Live Law report.

The court had earlier refused a similar application by Ranaut to transfer the defamation case Akhtar filed against her in 2020. An appeal against the order was filed in the sessions court yesterday.

Ranaut alleged that during her public spat with actor Hrithik Roshan in 2016, the veteran lyricist and screenwriter invited her and her sister Rangoli Chandel to his house with malafide intentions and forced her to give a written apology to Roshan. She also claimed that Akhtar threatened her with dire consequences if she refused.

She sought transfer of the complaint as she had already alleged bias against the Andheri Magistrate hearing the defamation case. She did not wish to proceed with her extortion complaint before the same judge, she said.

Akhtar’s lawyer argued that the plea was not maintainable since the Magistrate had not even heard the complaint. “Moreover, the extortion complaint is a counter blast to the defamation case filed by Akhtar earlier and therefore should be heard by the same Magistrate currently hearing the defamation case,” the report read.

The defamation case can be traced time back to November 2020 when Akhtar had filed a complaint against Ranaut alleging that she had made defamatory remarks about him during an interview with Republic TV after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput by suicide on July 14. In the interview aired on July 19, 2020, Ranaut said that some of the senior members of the Hindi film industry, including Akhtar, were part of a “gang” that was against “outsiders” in the industry.

Last week, Akhtar also moved a Mumbai court and sought a non-bailable warrant against Ranaut for not appearing before the court in the ongoing case. He submitted a few of the actor’s Instagram posts, and stated that she had attended other events during the time she did not appear in court citing ill health. Alleging Ranaut’s deliberate attempts at delaying court proceedings, he also listed the number of exemptions sought by Ranaut in the case for various reasons since March.

Ranaut’s plea seeking to quash the defamation case was dismissed by the Bombay High Court on September 9.

Aryan Khan Need Not Appear Before Mumbai NCB Anymore, Rules Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, relaxed Aryan Khan’s bail conditions and ruled that he need not appear before the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), every Friday, in relation to the cruise ship drug raid case, according to a Live Law report.

The order followed Khan’s application last week, that sought modification to his bail conditions after the investigation was transferred to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the NCB branch in Delhi.

Khan’s plea cited difficulties that he faced during his visits to the NCB office in Mumbai, including being accosted by the media, which was present every time he appeared to mark his attendance.

However, Khan will have to present himself before SIT Delhi, as and when required, provided a prior notice of 72 hours is given, noted Justice Nitin Sambre.

The 24-year-old was arrested on October 3 by the NCB during a cruise ship drug raid based on a tip-off. The agency allegedly seized 13 gm of cocaine, 21 gm of charas or hashish, 22 pills of MDMA (ecstasy), 5 gm mephedrone, and cash worth Rs 1.33 lakh, and Khan was taken into NCB custody, along with a few others, including his friend Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha.

Khan, along with two other accused, was granted bail on October 28 and 13 bail conditions which included weekly Friday visits to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) office were set out.

Recently, Khan was also interrogated for hours by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the NCB. He was questioned about the circumstances under which he boarded the cruise, his links to drug suppliers, and about his peer group and their drug-related habits and preferences. Khan was also asked if he had planned to do drugs onboard the cruise.

Further, the SIT team asked Khan about his WhatsApp chats that were cited by Sameer Wankhede’s team in court while opposing his bail. Wankhede and his team had claimed in court during every hearing that Khan had “incriminating” WhatsApp chats that indicated consumption of drugs as well as the purchase of larger quantities.

Google Reveals ‘Jai Bhim’ & ‘Shershaah’ Were Top Trending Films in India in 2021

Jai Bhim, the Tamil film starring actor Suriya, topped the list of movies that trended on Google this year in India, as per the ‘Year in Search 2021’ stats released by the search engine.

It is followed by Hindi biographical war drama Shershaah, featuring actors Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani.

Interestingly, both Jai Bhim and Shershaah premiered on Amazon Prime Video – in November and August, respectively – and are inspired by real events.

Jai Bhim is based on a real-life case fought by now-retired Madras High Court Justice K Chandru, when he was an advocate in the 90s. Suriya, who also produced the film, essayed the role of lawyer Chandru in the film, which featured a cast that included actors Lijomol JoseRajisha Vijayan, and Prakash Raj. Helmed by filmmaker TJ Gnanavel, Jai Bhim opened to a largely positive reception, though it also received flak from certain sections.

Shershaah, on the other hand, traces the life of late Kargil war veteran Captain Vikram Batra (played by Malhotra), who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. While the film received mixed reviews, General MM Naravane, Chief of Army Staff, praised the film for its realistic portrayal of the war.

Other films that garnered a place in the Google list were, in order, Radhe, Bell Bottom, Eternals, Master, Sooryavanshi, Godzilla vs Kong, Drishyam 2, and Bhuj: The Pride of India.

Eternals grabbed the first place in the corresponding global list of top-trending films. It was followed by Black Widow and Dune.

The global list of TV shows that trended the most was led by Netflix’s Korean series Squid Game and Bridgerton.

In the category of personalities, Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra emerged as the most searched name in India, and he was followed by Aryan Khan, son of Hindi actor Shah Rukh Khan. Aryan was arrested for alleged possession and consumption of illegal drugs in October and later released on bail.

Other film-related personalities who grabbed a spot on the list were Shehnaaz Gill (3rd), Raj Kundra (4th), Vicky Kaushal (6th), and Natasha Dalal (10th).

Meanwhile, Twitter India revealed the top 10 most tweeted hashtags of the year. While #Covid19 took first place, and was followed by #FarmersProtest, the list was dominated mostly by sports hashtags such as #TeamIndia, #Tokyo2020, and #IPL2021. The only film that found a place on the list was Vijay-starrer Master; it took the eighth spot.

Twitter’s most retweeted tweet in entertainment also belongs to Vijay for his post unveiling the first look of his upcoming film Beast. It was also the most liked tweet in entertainment for the year.

Mahesh Babu’s post on his upcoming film Sarkaru Vaari Paata was revealed to be the most quote tweeted post in entertainment for the year.

The most tweeted films section was dominated by the South Indian industry. Master topped this list, with Ajith’s Valimai coming in second, followed by Beast, Jai Bhim, and the Telugu film Vakeel Saab.

Twitter also revealed the most tweeted Hindi actors. Alia Bhatt (female) and Sonu Sood (male) led the respective lists.

Instagram Head Adam Mosseri Testifies Before the US Congress on impact of app on teens and privacy protections

Instagram head Adam Mosseri appeared before the US Congress, on Wednesday, in relation to former Facebook employee Frances Haugen’s recent disclosures that Instagram exacerbated suicidal thoughts and eating disorders, according to a Reuters report.

The hearing dealt with the issues of big tech, the invasion of privacy, the lack of data security, and the need for Section 230 (that generally provides immunity for website platforms with respect to third-party content), or internet law, reforms.

Senator Marsha Blackburn said that she along with other American parents, was frustrated with how Instagram functions in terms of children’s security, and told Mosseri that it is “time for action”.

While Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg have come under immense scrutiny in the last few years for its failure to curb hate speech and misinformation, Instagram came under fire only recently after the revelations made by Haugen included the harmful effects of both platforms and their priority of financial gains.

The first whistleblower highlighted that evidence of hate extended to Instagram though the harm caused by it is more personal than public. “13.5% of teen girls say Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse. 17% of teen girls say that Instagram makes eating disorders worse,” read from one of the reports that Haugen shared with the Wall Street Journal.

Mosseri testified before the Congress and maintained his stand that the platform, as opposed to Haugen’s claims, can “help teenagers in those critical moments” and take on complex issues such as bullying and social comparison to bring changes.

“We need to make sure that the responsibility is on the big tech to put the best product on the market. We need 100 percent transparency,” Mosseri said in his testimony, and referred to Section 230, or the internet law which offers tech platforms protections from liability over content posted by users.

He called for the creation of an industry body to determine best practices to help keep young people safe online. The body, he said, should receive input from civil society, parents, and regulators to create standards on how to verify age, design age-appropriate experiences, and build parental controls.

Senator Blackburn noted that it was the fourth time in the last two years that the Congress had spoken to someone from Meta. “The conversation feels like to repeat itself ad nauseum”.

She also addressed Mosseri’s plans to amp up parental controls that were announced a day prior to him appearing before the Congress, on Tuesday, and called them “half-measures.”

The new controls that will be brought into effect from March 2022, are aimed at creating a stricter approach including preventing non-followers of teenagers from tagging or mentioning them in posts, nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time, and allowing parents to keep a tab on the amount of time spent by their kids on the platform.

He also launched the feature ‘Take a Break’, in select countries, that will encourage teenagers to keep a check on the time they spend on the platform.

“Educational tools for parents can be helpful but frankly, I am more concerned about things we know kids and teens are hiding from their parents. We know that Facebook and Instagram have encouraged teens to use secondary accounts and told them to be authentic,” she added.

Mosseri has been associated with Meta for over 11 years now, and was made the head of Instagram only in 2018.

Instagram Announces New Plans to Keep Teenagers Safe On the Platform

Instagram head Adam Mosseri announced that parental controls will be introduced to keep young people “even safer on Instagram,” according to a statement from Meta-owned, social media giant Facebook on Tuesday.

The tools will be launched in March 2022.

The platform’s latest measures say that they aim at creating a stricter approach including preventing non-followers of teenagers from tagging or mentioning them in posts, nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time, and allowing parents to keep a tab on the amount of time spent by their kids on the platform.

“We’ll also give teens a new option to notify their parents if they report someone, giving their parents the opportunity to talk about it with them. This is the first version of these tools; we’ll continue to add more options over time,” Mosseri said.

Instagram also announced a new educational hub for parents and guardians in addition to the launch of the Take a Break feature in select countries for now, including the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The feature according to the statement will “empower people to make informed decisions about how they’re spending their time.” It entails showing notifications to teenage users, who spend a certain amount of time on Instagram, and ask them to “take a break from Instagram and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future.”

Early test results show that once teens set the reminders, more than 90% of them keep them on, Mosseri noted.

The new plans will also enable teenagers to delete content they’ve posted like photos and videos, as well as their previous likes and comments. According to Mosseri, this will help them to manage their digital footprint, and will be brought into effect from January 2022.

The recent measures come in the backdrop of the two Facebook whistleblowers, who shared company data on how it failed to curb hate-speech and misinformation for its monetary gains.

The first whistleblower and former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, highlighted that evidence of hate extended to Instagram, though the harm caused by it is more personal than public. “13.5% of teen girls say Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse. 17% of teen girls say that Instagram makes eating disorders worse,” read from one of the reports that Haugen shared with the Wall Street Journal.

HarperCollins Will Not Publish Chris Cuomo’s Book ‘Deep Denial’

Chris Cuomo, who was recently fired by CNN for helping his brother Andrew Cuomo deal with a sexual harassment scandal, will not see his book published by Harper Collins.

As per The Hollywood Reporter, a William Morrow spokesperson said, “Custom House does not intend to publish the Chris Cuomo book.”

William Morrow is an imprint of HarperCollins, and Cuomo’s book Deep Denial was slated for release in 2022 through its Custom House line of curated non-fiction and fiction literature.

The book was earlier described by the publisher as a “provocative analysis of the harsh truths that the pandemic and Trump years have exposed about America – about our strength and our character – and a roadmap of the work needed to make our ideals match reality.”

Cuomo, who joined CNN in 2013 to co-host its morning show, moved on to host the channel’s most-watched news show, Cuomo Prime Time, in 2018.

In December 2020, his brother Andrew Cuomo, former governor of New York, faced sexual assault accusations from a former aide.

In May 2021, Chris Cuomo admitted to breaching some of CNN’s rules and advising his brother on handling the sexual assault allegations from the perspective of public relations.

Andrew Cuomo subsequently resigned in August after an investigation found that he had “sexually harassed a number of State employees through unwelcome and unwanted touching, as well as by making numerous offensive and sexually suggestive comments.”

While CNN had “appreciated the unique position [Chris Cuomo] was in and understood his need to put family first and job second” back in May, the channel suspended him on November 30 after new court documents raised “serious questions” about the level of his involvement.

A few days later, on Sunday, CNN terminated his contract citing that “additional information” had come to light during a review conducted by a respected law firm.

Cuomo called the decision “disappointing,” and as per a New York Post report, he is set to sue the network for $18 million over his terminated contract. Cuomo will also likely seek damages, the report adds.

Meanwhile, the former CNN anchor has not commented on the pulling of his proposed book by HarperCollins.

Documentary on Late Journalist & Activist Gauri Lankesh in the Works

Filmmaker Kavitha Lankesh is making a documentary on her sister, the renowned journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead in 2017. The documentary is one of four entries worldwide rewarded by the Free Press Unlimited, Amsterdam for highlighting crimes against journalists. 

Speaking to The New Indian Express, Kavitha said that the Amsterdam-based foundation had called for proposals last year, for documentaries on journalists who have lost their lives in war, or by an act of violence in the line of duty. Out of the around 300 submissions, four were selected, including Kavitha’s proposal.

“The film captures the life of Gauri soon after she took over our father’s publication, Lankesh Patrike, in 2000 and her activism. The documentary is likely to be premiered in a film festival in the Netherlands,” the filmmaker added.

Kavitha also said that before submitting the proposal, she had asked herself whether she would be able to endure the trauma of following the life of her sister yet again and filming it. 

“It was a tough decision to make because Gauri was more than a sister to me. She was my friend, mentor and soul keeper. I have still to come to terms that she is not around. Making the film meant going back to those traumatic memories. But I felt that I must tell the story of this woman who knew no fear when it came to fighting for justice and the constitutional rights of people,” she added.

The filmmaker noted that the documentary is in the final stages and will be completed in early 2022. 

Gauri Lankesh was a Bengaluru-based journalist-turned-activist who worked as an editor of Lankesh Patrike, the Kannada weekly founded by her father Lankesh P. She also ran a weekly titled Gauri Lankesh Patrike. Known as an advocate for the freedom of the press, she was also critical of right-wing Hindutva politics and the caste system.

On September 5, 2017, Gauri was assassinated by unidentified persons at her residence in Rajarajeshwari Nagar.

As per the TNIE report, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) established by the Congress-led Siddaramaiah government of Karnataka has arrested and chargesheeted 18 accused, who reportedly claim to be part of some fringe right-wing groups, for the murder of Gauri Lankesh.

Rohingya Refugees Sue Facebook for $150 Billion over Myanmar Hate Speech and Misinformation

Accusing the social media giant Facebook, now known as Meta, of allowing the spread of hate speech against their community, several Rohingya refugees in the United Kingdom and the United States have sued the company, according to a BBC report.

As compensation, they are demanding more than $150 billion.

The lawsuit claims Facebook promoted violence against the persecuted minority by allowing “the dissemination of hateful and dangerous misinformation to continue for years” on the social media platform.

One of the most persecuted minorities in the world, Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law and are considered illegal migrants in the country, resulting in discrimination by the government as well as the public in the Buddhist-majority country.

As per the BBC report, an estimated 10,000 Rohingya Muslims were killed during a violent crackdown launched by the Myanmar military in 2017, after Rohingya militants allegedly carried out deadly attacks on police posts. Following this, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Facebook, which is hugely popular in Myanmar, was widely used to spread anti-Muslim hatred and disinformation about the Rohingya ahead of the violence and since. In 2018, Facebook admitted to not doing enough to prevent the incitement of violence and hate speech against the Rohingya.

In a letter to Facebook that BBC accessed, the British law firm representing some of the refugees has now pointed out the social media giant’s failure to invest in moderators and fact-checkers who knew the political situation in Myanmar, to take down posts or delete accounts that incited violence against Rohingya, and to “take appropriate and timely action” despite warnings from charities and the media.

Lawyers in the US, meanwhile, filed a legal complaint against Facebook in San Francisco accusing it of being “willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country in Southeast Asia.”

The complaint further states that the introduction of Facebook in Myanmar “materially contributed to the development and widespread dissemination of anti-Rohingya hate speech, misinformation, and incitement of violence – which together amounted to a substantial cause, and perpetuation of, the eventual Rohingya genocide.”

Earlier this year, Facebook was embroiled in controversy after ex-employee Frances Haugen leaked documents to the media that show the company put monetary gains ahead of user safety. Facebook also took heat for its failure to curb hate speech and misinformation across the world. Leaked documents revealed that in India, Facebook failed to flag-off hate speech, misinformation and inflammatory posts – particularly anti-Muslim content – despite being made aware of them through internal research since at least 2019.

Meanwhile, following its recent rebranding as Meta, the company released data on bullying and harassment on both Facebook and Instagram. It noted that the “prevalence of hate speech on Facebook continued to decrease for the fourth quarter in a row.”

Despite SC Order Against Coercive Action on Journalist Booked under UAPA, Tripura Police Asks Twitter for His Account Details

Days after the Supreme Court’s order that “no coercive action” shall be taken against journalist Shyam Meera Singh, who was booked under UAPA for tweeting on the recent communal violence in Tripura, the state’s police has asked Twitter to provide details of his account on the social media platform.

On Friday, Singh received an e-mail from Twitter informing him that it had received a legal notice regarding his account @ShyamMeeraSingh which “obligates Twitter to produce information” related to the account.

“This is an open abuse of the power of the state to infiltrate privacy of its citizens,” Singh wrote on Twitter, sharing the e-mail.

In October, Tripura police had booked 102 social media users, including several journalists, activists and lawyers, under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for tweeting about and reporting on the communal violence in the state. 

Tripura was witness to severe communal violence in October that was triggered by events that happened earlier the same month in Bangladesh. During Durgapuja celebrations in mid-October, communal violence had broken out in parts of Bangladesh and several pandals and Hindu temples were vandalised, resulting in the death of at least seven people. Following this, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), decided to organise a rally in Tripura, in protest. During this rally, on October 26, several mosques and shops were vandalised.

Singh and many others were booked under UAPA for tweeting about this.

On November 17, the Supreme Court had ordered that no coercive action shall be taken against Singh and two Delhi-based human rights lawyers, Mukesh of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and Ansar Indori of National Confederation of Human Rights, who were also booked under UAPA.

Despite this, the Tripura police has now sent a legal notice to obtain Singh’s Twitter account details.

Meanwhile, HW News Network, employer of the two women journalists – Samriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha – who were arrested for reporting on the Tripura violence, has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the action of Tripura Police against its journalists.

A request for hearing the matter before December 9 was made by the publication’s advocate when the petition was mentioned before the Chief Justice on Friday. The request was allowed by the latter.

Sakunia and Jha were arrested on November 14 on charges of “maligning the image of Tripura government, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal.” They were initially detained by the Assam Police while on their way to Silchar, Assam after the Tripura Police registered multiple cases against them. They were granted bail the following day.

Meghan Markle’s Copyright Claim to Letter to Father Upheld; Appeal of British Tabloid Turned Down

The Court of Appeal in London ruled in favour of Meghan Markle in the appeal filed by British Tabloid, The Mail On Sunday, against the High Court’s ruling granting the Duchess of Sussex copyright claims to the letter she wrote to her father in 2019.

In 2020, Prince Harry and Markle filed a lawsuit against The Mail On Sunday, managed by the Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), for the misuse of her private information and breach of copyright.

The High Court had ruled in February that the publisher had breached Markle’s privacy by reproducing a large portion of the handwritten letter she had sent her father, Thomas Markle, a few months after she married Prince Harry.

Markle had later won the copyright claims to the letter in May.

Following this, ANL appealed against the ruling in November. The publisher claimed that the “letter was crafted specifically with the possibility of public consumption in mind, because the claimant appreciated Mr Markle might disclose it to the media.”

A former British Royal family aide, Jason Knauf, who served as the former communications chief, had noted in a witness statement that Markle was meticulous in her word choice as she had anticipated that the letter might get leaked.

The Mail’s lawyer also cited text messages sent from Markle to Knauf which said she had decided to use the word “Daddy” to begin the letter because it “would pull at the heartstrings.”

However, dismissing the appeal, senior judge Geoffrey Vos told the court on Thursday that “the Duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter. Those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest.”

In a statement released by Markle’s representatives shortly after her win, the Duchess said, “Today, the courts ruled in my favor – again – cementing that The Mail On Sunday, owned by Lord Jonathan Rothermere, has broken the law.”

She added, “While this win is precedent setting, what matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create. The courts have held the defendant to account and my hope is that we all begin to do the same. Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. Tomorrow it could be you.”

The publishers were disappointed with the court’s decision and considered filing for an appeal with the UK Supreme Court, according to the AP report.

Indian Journalists Protest over Restrictions on Access to Parliament

Indian journalists took to the streets of New Delhi on Thursday protesting against the restrictions limiting their entry into the Parliament through a “lottery system,” calling it a “dangerous” trend.

“In the largest democracy of the world, the entry of journalists in the Parliament is regulated through ‘lottery system’. This seems to be a ploy to censor transmission of news and information to people. This is a very dangerous trend in a parliamentary democracy like India,” tweeted the Press Club of India.

On Thursday afternoon, several journalists, editors, photojournalists, writers and press correspondents, who are part of the Press Club of India, Editors Guild, Press Association, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Delhi Union of Journalists and Working News Cameraman Association, gathered at the Press Club of India premises for the protest.

Earlier, the press club had expressed its dissatisfaction with the media not being allowed to enter the Parliament to cover the first day of the Winter Session 2021 on Monday.

Noting that it marked the fifth session when “reporters have been deliberately kept out of the Press Gallery,” the press club said, “Assurances given to us were not complied with. Adding to that, is a new format of restrictions to thwart the entry of the media.”

Terming it “blatant censorship,” the press club had also shared an open letter addressed to the leaders of all political parties in the Parliament. In it, the journalists’ organisation mentioned that the press has been denied access to the Press Gallery and to parliamentarians over the past one and a half years.

Even as malls, restaurants and cinema halls have reopened, entry to the Press Gallery has been denied citing Covid protocols, the letter stated.

During the press conference held in the second week of July 2021, the Lok Sabha Speaker had assured that there would be no restrictions on media’s entry and that all permanent passes would be renewed, which was not complied with, the letter noted.

It also expressed concern that “there is a depressing trend emerging to isolate parliament and parliamentarians from media gaze” and added that this trend “augurs ill for parliamentary democracy.” 

Speaking at the protest meet on Thursday, PCI president Umkant Lakhera said the Parliament becomes the hub of information and news when it is in session, and so, to restrict entry to journalists amounts to stopping the media from doing its work.

A member of the media fraternity told Al Jazeera that the number of journalists allowed inside the Parliament house has been “drastically reduced.” Under the lottery system, 60 journalists will be allowed inside the Lok Sabha and 32 in Rajya Sabha, with 11 and 10 slots, respectively, reserved for government-run and some select media organisations and agencies.

“The present lottery system is giving no access at all to the smaller newspapers. You cannot cover parliament only by watching Sansad TV,” said editor and TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, referring to the government channel that telecasts parliamentary proceedings.

“It is very undemocratic what the government is doing by keeping the media out of reporting because in a parliamentary democracy the media plays a very important role,” Sanjay Kapoor, general secretary of the Editors Guild of India, told Al Jazeera.

The All India Trinamool Congress extended its solidarity to the protest, saying, “A free and robust media is the soul of a Parliamentary democracy.”

India ranks 142nd out of 180 countries in the global Press Freedom Index 2021.