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BuzzFeed cutting jobs, top editors leaving news division – Arab News

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DUBAI: BuzzFeed is reorienting and shrinking its news division as the digital media company best known for its lighthearted lists and quizzes strives to increase its profitability.
The New York-based company is offering voluntary buyouts in its high-profile, 100-person newsroom and some top editors are leaving. They include Mark Schoofs, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, and deputy editor in chief Tom Namako, who announced a move to NBC News Digital on Tuesday. Ariel Kaminer, the executive editor for investigations, is also leaving.
BuzzFeed News is unprofitable but has won awards, including its first Pulitzer last year, and its staff has been regularly poached by traditional news organizations. BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said about 35 people were eligible for the buyouts, but the company doesn’t expect all of them to take one.
Buyouts will be offered to news staffers on the investigations, inequality, politics and science teams, as BuzzFeed focuses more on big breaking news and lighter content.
“We’ve had freedom to chase wild, impossible stories,” tweeted Rosalind Adams, an investigative reporter at BuzzFeed News. “It’s a sad day to watch @BuzzFeedNews move away from valuing that work.”
Beyond the newsroom buyouts, the company also said it is cutting 1.7 percent of its staff. In a January filing with securities regulators, Buzzfeed said it had 1,524 US and international employees, so the cuts would amount to roughly 25 people.
BuzzFeed’s shares have dropped more than 40 percent since the company went public in early December via what’s known as a SPAC, merging with a company that already trades, rather than an IPO.
The company had a solid year in 2021, it reported Tuesday in its earnings release. Its revenue rose 24 percent to $397.6 million, thanks to increases in e-commerce and ad revenue, and its profit more than doubled, to $25.9 million.
But it expects revenue to drop in the current quarter if it includes the acquisition of Complex Networks, a group of pop culture sites BuzzFeed acquired last year. The layoffs separate from the news division will come from BuzzFeed Video and the editorial side of Complex.
BuzzFeed also acquired HuffPost in early 2021, and laid off several dozen of its staffers shortly after.
On BuzzFeed’s earnings call Tuesday, CEO Jonah Peretti said the company is accelerating its investment in vertical video, the smartphone format used on the increasingly popular video sharing site TikTok.
As for the news division, it “will need to get smaller,” and “prioritize the areas of coverage our audience connects with most,” Peretti said in a memo to employees.
On the earnings call, he said that the company needs to make BuzzFeed News “a stronger financial contributor to the larger business,” and doing so will involve focusing on big breaking news, culture and entertainment, celebrities, and “life on the Internet.”
SYDNEY: Canberra voiced concern for Australian journalist Cheng Lei’s well-being Saturday, as it confirmed she would face trial in China next week after almost two years in detention.
Cheng, previously an anchor on state broadcaster CGTN, disappeared in August 2020 and was formally arrested for “illegally supplying state secrets overseas” in February last year.
“The Australian government has regularly raised serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s welfare and conditions of detention,” foreign minister Marise Payne said in a statement, also confirming staff had met with Cheng on Monday.
“We expect basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international norms.”
The mother of two was a familiar face on the state broadcaster’s English-language channel, conducting interviews with noted CEOs from around the world.
Further details of the charges against her are not known.
“We have asked also that Australian officials be permitted to attend Ms Cheng’s hearing on 31 March, in line with China’s obligations under the Australia-China bilateral consular agreement,” Payne said.
Born in Hunan province, Cheng is now an Australian national who emigrated to the country as a child, before returning to China and joining the state broadcaster in 2012.
China does not allow citizens to hold dual nationality.
She could face severe punishment if found to have broken China’s national security laws, which can carry a sentence of up to life in prison for cases deemed most serious.
Cheng’s detention came as relations between Australia and China cratered.
The timing and lack of information about charges raised speculation that her detention was politically motivated, or tit-for-tat retaliation.
Beijing has reacted angrily to Australia’s liberal use of foreign interference laws to block Chinese investment in sensitive sectors and to investigate Chinese influence on the country’s public life, as well as Canberra’s calls for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cheng’s detention also came weeks after Australian authorities raided the homes of Chinese state media journalists.
Her detention sent shockwaves through China’s foreign journalist community and two Australian journalists, Bill Birtles and Michael Smith, fled China shortly after being interrogated about Cheng.
Months after Cheng’s detention, Chinese authorities also detained a Bloomberg News employee, Haze Fan, also on allegations of endangering national security.
Messaging app Telegram on Friday signed an agreement to join a program created by Brazil’s Electoral Court to combat misinformation ahead of the country’s presidential election in October, the court said on its website.
Telegram was the only remaining major messaging and social network app that had not yet closed a partnership with the court.
“The purpose of the partnership is to fight fake content related to the Electoral Justice, the electronic voting system, the electoral process in its different phases and the actors involved in it,” said the court’s note.
On Thursday, Telegram’s local representative Alan Campos Elias Thomaz said he would deliver the proposal to the company’s executives, adding that the app is committed to fighting “fake news.”
The app was suspended by Brazil’s Supreme Court last week for non-compliance, but the measure was revoked on Sunday.
DUBAI: The BBC World Service has filed a new urgent appeal to the UN this week against Iran over the online violence directed at women journalists working for BBC News Persian.
Women journalists at BBC News Persian face relentless online attacks and harassment, including threats of rape and death, the BBC said.
“We absolutely deplore the violent, misogynistic and gendered harassment our women journalists have to face every day,” said Liliane Landor, senior controller of BBC International News and director of the World Service.
The harassment includes threats of death and rape, attacks on their credibility, hacking and phishing of their emails and telephones, and false and defamatory stories about their personal lives.
The information obtained through hacking and phishing is often used to spread false stories about them online, which is then used in the interrogation of their family members in Iran, the BBC added.
The false stories not only attack them professionally but also aim to taint their character by questioning their relationship with co-workers and commenting on what they wear.
The online abuse and harassment is severely impacting female journalists at BBC News Persian, with many of them saying in interviews that they have opted out of using social media entirely due to fear of harassment.
Landor added: “Trusted and impartial journalism is fundamental to any democracy and it is only by working together that we can ensure the safety of journalists everywhere and ensure women’s voices are included. We have to be able to work unhindered, free from threats and free from abuse.”
The constant attacks have resulted in serious mental and physical health issues, including anxiety, psychological trauma and depression.
The appeal from the BBC calls on Iran to take action against those responsible for the online violence towards women journalists by investigating and prosecuting them.
International counsel for the BBC World Service, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson, said: “Women journalists at BBC News Persian face abhorrent online violence every day simply because they are doing their job. This is a paradigm case of what UN experts call ‘gendered censorship’.”
They added: “Misogynist, sexist online abuse and all threats of physical or sexual violence towards journalists are intended to force women offline and to silence women journalists. It is unacceptable and it must stop.”
BBC has made multiple UN complaints since 2017. Since BBC News Persian TV started in 2009, the staff and their families have faced harassment and intimidation, the BBC said.
BBC News Persian staff cannot return home to Iran because of the risk of arrest and prosecution resulting in the media network not having any staff working in the country.
And it is not just the female journalists who are harassed. Their family members have been arrested, detained, repeatedly interrogated, fired from their jobs, had their passports confiscated and pressured to encourage their family members to leave the BBC and return to Iran.
In 2017, Iran announced a national security criminal investigation targeting 152 BBC News Persian staff members and froze any assets they had in Iran.
Iran has “international obligations of due diligence,” said Gallagher and Robinson. “We call on the UN to condemn the attacks and to ensure Iran meets its international obligations.”
DUBAI: Amid a crackdown on Western social media giants, Russia banned Facebook and Instagram earlier this month, describing the platforms’ parent company Meta as an “extremist” firm.
“The activities of the Meta organization are directed against Russia and its armed forces,” Igor Kovalevsky, a representative of the Russian security service FSB, said, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said the platform’s 80 million users in Russia will be cut off because of the ban.
On Monday, Instagram will be blocked in Russia. This decision will cut 80 million in Russia off from one another, and from the rest of the world as ~80% of people in Russia follow an Instagram account outside their country. This is wrong.
Moscow’s crackdown will stop individual users from posting and connecting with others, as well as hinder their ability to receive information.
But it is the country’s army of social media influencers who are paying a particularly heavy price.
Russia is home to thousands of fashion influencers with millions of followers. Influencer marketing platform Starngage alone tracks 176,070 influencers in Russia, with follower counts ranging from 1,000 to 10 million.
 
A post shared by KARINA NIGAY (@karina_nigay)
 
“Roughly half of all my income came through Instagram advertising,” said Karina Istomina, a DJ and Instagram influencer with more than 400,000 followers, reported The Guardian.
“Most likely I will have to find new sources of income and will have to rediscover myself,” she added.
Another influencer, Karina Nigay, said tearfully: “This (Instagram) is my life, this is my soul. This is what I have been waking up to and falling asleep with for the past five years.”
 
Девушка-блогер плачет из-за блокировки инстаграм. Может уже пора переставать быть вне политики и включить мозги? Все крупные звёзды, кто не высказался в первую неделю против войны, вероятно, просто решили отмолчаться и переждать. Просто позор. pic.twitter.com/DgJZBky6J7
 
“I’m in a state of resentment and nowhere near a state of acceptance,” she added.
A few days later, Nigay was in Dubai, celebrating her birthday and dancing on a boat.
 
A post shared by Sergey Kosenko (@sergey_kosenko)
 
The influencer, who has 2.9 million Instagram followers, posted on the platform last week, complaining about the ban and claiming that any platforms which replace it will require four times as much work.
“I want to live and work in Russia, but at the same time I don’t want to lose my career in Europe, which I have built over the years.”
 
A post shared by KARINA NIGAY (@karina_nigay)
 
The UAE’s sunny beaches and luxurious hotels have become a refuge for Russian influencers, who now find themselves struggling to make a living off Instagram.
Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram and, previously, VKontakte, a Russian social media app, was among those who left Russia for Dubai in the wake of the government crackdown.
He has publicly posted his story on Telegram, describing how his career at VKontakte ended due to pressure from the FSB, and his determination to protect users’ privacy and data — especially that of Ukrainians.
Another influencer, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who has over 30 million Instagram followers, was also seen in Dubai recently.
 
A post shared by Хабиб Нурмагомедов (@khabib_nurmagomedov)
 
Russian TV personality Olga Buzova, who had more than 20 million followers on Instagram, also broke down in a tearful video when the ban was announced and has since traveled to the UAE, according to media reports.
Her sponsors are paying for the vacation, including flights and a room at a five-star hotel, according to the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Sonia Plotnikov, the daughter of Vladimir Plotnikov, an MP and supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and is also currently in Dubai.
 
A post shared by Soniaplotnikova (@soniaplotnikova)
 
However, if the influencer was expecting sympathy, she may be disappointed. Comments on Plotnikov’s posts reveal how many people feel about influencers being able to travel to other countries, and even continue enjoying a luxurious lifestyle, while their country wages war on Ukraine.
 
One of the #Russian bloggers cries that in two days her Instagram will stop working

She does not care at all about the thousands of dead people, including her compatriots. Obviously, her biggest worry right now is that she won’t be able to post pictures of food from restaurants. pic.twitter.com/LSdBiSlwHr
 
In a separate interview, Dubai-based influencer Becky Jefferies told Arab News: “We live in a world in which many people across the globe are without basic necessities, or are otherwise in need, and that’s an unfortunate reality in both good times and bad.
“But I don’t see social media as a cause, or solution, to economic challenges on a micro or macro level.”
Increasingly, the UAE has become a safe haven for Russian influencers but it isn’t the only one. Within the region, for instance, Russian model and Instagram star Polina Malinovskaya with 2.2 million followers was seen in Egypt this month. 
A post shared by Polina Malinovskaya (@polinamalinovskaya)
Some have taken off to the relaxing comfort of hotels in Bali and the Maldives, while others are looking for normalcy in the bustling cities of New York and London. 
 
A post shared by Polina Malinovskaya (@polinamalinovskaya)
 
Vlad Berenich, for instance, who has over 800,000 followers on Instagram is relaxing in Bali, while Polina Kovaleva lives the high brow life in London. 
Maria Pevchikh, who heads investigations at Russian lawyer Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, recently posted Kovaleva’s story in a Twitter thread. 
I would like you to meet Polina Kovaleva. Polina is a 26-year-old glamorous Russian girl from London. She lives in a huge apartment in Kensington and loves to party, her instagram feed looks like a non-stop holiday. That’s not unheard of, but there is one small detail…(THREAD) pic.twitter.com/6OsVGjPxQQ
Kovaleva is the stepdaughter of Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, who, at the age of 21, bought an apartment in London on Kensington High Street for £4.4 million — in cash.
Moreover, her fancy lifestyle is evident via her Instagram profile that has since been deleted and a new temporary one, which is private, has been created. After the news broke on Twitter, Kovaleva was sanctioned by British authorities. 
GENEVA: Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists and activists have been detained or forcibly disappeared by invading Russian forces, the UN said Friday, warning that some cases resembled “hostage-taking.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine just over a month ago, the United Nations rights office said it had documented the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of 22 local Ukrainian officials, 13 of whom had subsequently been released.
The most famous case was perhaps the mayor of Ukraine’s southern city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, who Ukrainian authorities said was abducted by occupying Russian forces and held for several days before being released.
“This does seem to be a pattern that is occurring in areas that are occupied by the Russian Federation,” said Matilda Bogner, who is the UN rights office’s representative in Ukraine.
“Forces of the Russian Federation are going specifically to detain, and do not inform relatives and others where they are taking people,” she told journalists in Geneva via video link from Uzhhorod in western Ukraine.
“That does in some cases appear to be a form of hostage-taking.”
Bogner said 15 journalists and civil society activists “who vocally opposed the invasion” in several regions had also been taken.
“It certainly does appear that those who are targeted are those who are pro-Ukrainian activists or who are seen to be pro-Ukrainian by the Russian forces,” she said.
Bogner said UN staff were trying to verify reports that five of the journalists and three of the activists had since been released, but “the whereabouts of the other individuals remain unknown.”
Seven journalists have meanwhile been killed since the invasion began on February 24, she said.
They are among thousands of civilians, as well as thousands of soldiers from the two sides, who are believed to have been killed.
The UN rights office had verified 1,081 civilian deaths, including 93 children, but has stressed the true toll is likely higher.
Bogner said for instance that the rights office so far had been unable to verify many of the deaths in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.
Authorities in the city have put the death toll in the city at over 2,000, and said Friday that a single strike last week on a theater where civilians were sheltering was feared to have killed 300 people.
Bogner said the rights office had little access, but using satellite data, it had been able to get information on mass graves in the city, including one that held around 200 bodies.
But, she stressed, so far there was no way to verify whether they were all civilians or had all died directly due to the conflict.
Overall, Bogner said the “extent of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian objects strongly suggests” that international laws on protecting civilians were being violated in the Ukraine conflict.
“These attacks cause immeasurable human suffering and may amount to war crimes.”

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