The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Al Hubris

A little excerpt from an interesting story on a meeting of Arab satellite TV broadcasters:

Mouafac Harb, director of news at the US government-funded al-Hurra TV, said it was a myth that pan-Arab TV channels were free and independent.

"Pan-Arab media are mouthpieces of Arab governments... they are all linked, money-wise, to one or other Arab state," he argued.

But Abdallah Schleifer, director of the Adham Centre for TV Journalism in Cairo, countered that relying on state funding did not need to impinge on the independence of pan-Arab channels.

The real test of editorial independence lay in whether the stations could act as a force to watch over their own governments and criticise them when necessary, delegates suggested.

And Egyptian broadcaster Mohamed Gohar joked that in Egypt "we have a full democracy - in criticising Bush and Sharon."

Mr Harb said that when it came to deciding whether to screen footage of captives filmed by kidnappers, Arabic satellite channels had to ask themselves: "Are we being used by terrorists?"

It is not only the Arabic stations that show such images
But leading satellite channels al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera both insisted that editorial value was their first consideration with footage of hostages and killings.

In tapes from Osama Bin Ladin, for instance, "we have to avoid the rhetoric and take what's of news value", said Salah Negm of UAE-based channel Al-Arabiya.

Al-Jazeera's Ahmad Sheikh denied the Qatar-based channel was helping "to create the myth of Bin Ladin".

"Any news of Osama Bin Ladin is always covered in a news context - and we are not unique in reporting Bin Ladin's pronouncements," Mr Sheikh argued.

I find it hilarious that Al Hurra, a TV station specifically and explicitly founded to be a propaganda tool for the US in the Arab world, is giving morality lessons to the likes of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, which for all their faults have done more for free speech in the Arab world in the past decade than anything or anyone else. They have certainly done more than a third-rate station run by Maronite nuts like Al Hurra.