Correction: 16/06/2020: Some of the quotes in a previous version of this article were directly attributed to the WTO. The summary of the WTO’s ruling quoted in this article was prepared by beIN Media Group and is drawn from the WTO ruling. This is now clearly reflected in the copy.Saudi Arabia has actively promoted and supported the beoutQ pirate TV operation and has breached its obligations under international law to protect intellectual property rights, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled in a landmark verdict.
In its judgment, published on Tuesday, the WTO ruled that Saudi government officials and entities, including Saud Al-Qahtani, an aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), publicly promoted beoutQ, including with governmental tweets.
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Qatari sport network beIN Media Group, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast international tournaments to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Europe, has long claimed beoutQ is stealing its signal and broadcasting it as its own.
BeoutQ began broadcasting after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade against it in June 2017. The four countries accused Qatar of “supporting terrorism” and meddling in neighbouring countries’ affairs. Qatar rejected the allegations.
Shortly after the blockade was enforced, all beIN Sports channels were banned in the blockading nations and their equipment was confiscated in Saudi Arabia.
The WTO case, which was brought by Qatar, took a year and a half to conclude and offers a damning insight into Saudi Arabia’s efforts to undermine Qatari intellectual property rights.
The findings include that the Saudi state actively promoted and supported beoutQ from the beginning and even sponsored multiple public gatherings with beoutQ screenings, including during the FIFA World Cup 2018 when the Saudi government announced “294 public display screenings allocated across the 13 regions of Saudi Arabia broadcasting beoutQ; and – in addition – the Saudi State did not take any action whatsoever against beoutQ over the course of 3 years”, the WTO ruling said.
BeoutQ was facilitated by a Saudi-owned TV channel, which used the Arabsat satellite for its broadcasts [Al Jazeera]
The WTO also found that beoutQ was hosted on frequencies transmitted by satellite provider Arabsat, an entity with a Saudi CEO, majority-owned by the Saudi government, with its headquarters in Riyadh.
The hosting was facilitated by Saudi Television Company LLC, the WTO said, endorsing a 2019 French court decision that definitively ruled that Arabsat carried beoutQ.
Arabsat, according to the WTO ruling, has ignored hundreds of take-down notices from the Premier League, FIFA, UEFA, beIN, and other broadcasters.
Saudi authorities also obstructed the initiation of civil copyright infringement cases, including by pressuring nine Saudi law firms to refuse to take on such civil action by the Premier League and others, according to the verdict.
Qatar welcomed the WTO ruling, describing it as a “resounding victory”.
“Saudi Arabia, especially since it is hosting the upcoming G20, to respect this decisive ruling and end the theft and piracy of IP rights at once,” said Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari, Qatar’s minister of commerce and industry. “They can start by heeding the WTO’s ruling and conducting a fair, timely, and transparent legal proceeding against the perpetrators in order to stop this abuse post-haste,” he added.
David Sugden, legal counsel for beIN Media Group, also described the judgement as a “major victory” for intellectual property (IP) rights protection and the international rule of law.
“Fundamentally, sport relies on the protection of IP and international law and local law to protect its interests, and sadly for three years now every sports body’s rights have been run roughshod over by Saudi Arabia and this judgment emphatically says that,” he told Al Jazeera from London.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 16, 2020
UEFA said it also welcomed the WTO’s ruling and its conclusions. “What is clear is that beoutQ’s broadcasts constitute piracy of UEFA’s matches and as such, are illegal,” it said in a statement, adding that the verdict”shows clearly that no-one involved in audio-visual piracy should consider themselves above the rule of law”.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said anyone committing acts of piracy is not inside the kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia has a strong record of protecting intellectual property and is committed to applying its national law and procedures in full conformity with WTO rules,” read a statement carried by its state news agency SPA.
Separate to the WTO case, beIN Media Group has brought an arbitration case against Saudi Arabia, seeking $1bn in damages accumulated since 2018 for a range of Saudi actions targeting beIN, including beoutQ.
Like with the WTO case, beIN was forced to bring costly and slow proceedings under international law in order to have its claims against Saudi Arabia heard, given the Saudi courts have been blocked by Saudi Arabia.
The beIN arbitration claim was filed on October 1, 2018, and a ruling is some time away, but another major ruling against Saudi Arabia is expected in the investment arbitration, much like the WTO verdict.
Arabsat has ignored hundreds of take-down notices from the Premier League, FIFA, UEFA, beIN, and other broadcasters [Al Jazeera]
Saudi Arabia had for years maintained that beoutQ was a rogue operation with no state involvement.
However, its defence in the WTO case cited protection of its “national security” as justification for its violations of intellectual property rights, an argument that was thrown out by the WTO.
The WTO permitted Saudi Arabia to invoke national security to the justify violation of two articles of the organisation’s foundational agreement, saying Saudi Arabia only needed to demonstrate “a minimum requirement of plausibility” when showing a connection between its “security interests” and its violations of WTO law. However, the verdict continued that all the factual findings still stand despite this.
The WTO called on Saudi Arabia to stop its violation of valuable intellectual property rights.
The verdict comes as Saudi Arabia seeks to play an increasingly larger role in the world of sports and entertainment, including through investments in football clubs – all of which, the WTO pointed out, is predicated on the protection of intellectual property.
The Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) has for months been trying to buy Premier League club Newcastle United. It is not yet clear how the WTO verdict will affect this bid.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
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The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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