Egypt

What Happens When Media Oligarchs Go Shopping?

Mighty, politically well-connected oligarchs are in the mood for retail therapy, and their targets are media outlets. Their influence over journalism has begun to reach worrying levels.
 
Jack Ma of Chinese giant Alibaba, Rupert Murdoch of News Corp, Delyan Peevski from the tobacco maker Bulgartabak, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and Saudi prince Al-Waleed are all completely different businessmen. They look totally unalike and live in different places. One is obese, another one is skinny. One hails from Sofia, another one from Cairo. Their tastes are dissimilar.
 
But they also have some things in common: an unwonted wealth, close links with political power and a firm grip on much of the world’s media.
 
The issue of ownership concentration in the media is not new. It goes back to the 1980s and 1990s when some of the now old media moguls began to build their holdings. The rise of disrupting internet behemoths in the past decade or so was expected to dent into their power. It didn’t.

Middle East: Online Conversation Moves out of Facebook and Twitter

Uncomfortable with the government’s aggressive snooping, internet users in the Middle East are increasingly beginning to move their discussions to more impervious chatrooms.
Last summer, the Saudi Arabian government stunned internet freedom activists, and others, when they announced new legal provisions that allow the naming and shaming of offenders of the kingdom’s anti-cyber crime law. The law enables authorities to throw people who produce, prepare, distribute and even store content that “impinges” on public order, religious values and “public morals” via the internet into jail.
 
As if that was not sufficient, the same law allows the naming and shaming of those found guilty of these offenses. In a region like the Middle East where individual reputation is a cornerstone of societal value, naming and shaming has the potential to be even more intimidating than rotting in a Saudi quod. Local observers saw these legal provisions as another step towards stifling criticism by the local authorities, through such a powerful social deterrent.
 

The Middle East: Have You Been Watching?

As online video consumption skyrockets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, power holders are desperately looking for smart blocking tools. But the audiences they fight against are hard to stop unless internet giants agree to play the censorship game.
 
Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, made headlines last December when she traveled to Silicon Valley to meet with executives from Google to negotiate ways to block videos posted by Palestinians on YouTube, the video sharing platform owned by Google. The visit followed complaints by the Israeli government that some of these videos incite Palestinians to carry out attacks on Israelis. 
 
Ms Hotovely claimed that she was victorious. After the meeting, she said that Google joined Israel in the fight “against incitement”, something that Google denied. But whatever the real agreement was, the Israel-Google meeting speaks volumes about the growing interest and anxiety politicians and governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have been showing when it comes to online videos.
 
The reason? A massive increase in online video consumption in the region, particularly on YouTube.

Costa Rica: The Biggest Leap in Technology Use in the World

Costa Rica sported the highest growth in technology use worldwide during the past five years. Other, once sluggish, technology markets such as Bahrain, Lebanon and Ghana have since followed. However, the gap between the most and least digitally connected nations is widening.
 
Last November, the Costa Rican telecommunications regulator, SUTEL, raised eyebrows when it hired a PR agency to handle a campaign that would convince customers to accept a new method of charging for internet connections. Even some lawmakers slammed SUTEL’s move, claiming that the regulator was spending taxpayers’ money to push the same taxpayers to accept higher internet connection fees. SUTEL wanted to start charging Ticos according to the amount of transferred data and scrap the fixed fee that they were paying for a certain connection speed.