Unsigned Editorial / Al-Quds al-Arabi – 2004-04-09 19:39:48
LONDON (Feb. 17, 2004) — Yesterday, the Americans entered the arena of “guided news,” unleashing a satellite channel that speaks to Arabs in their own language, just like the totalitarian Arab and Soviet regimes did during the Cold War.
While many anticipated that the channel would be “one of a kind” and provide a unique media model, its beginnings were disappointing, characterized as they were by monotony and an almost total lack of professionalism.
From the start, when it got US President George W. Bush to be its first guest, the station brought to mind official Arab channels broadcast by regimes mired in dictatorship, just like those at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the ’70s.
Significantly, the presenter conducted the interview as if he were an Arab journalist meeting an Arab leader on his own official station. In other words, he directed excessively polite questions at him, so as not to anger the boss and risk being fired.
‘The Name on the Envelope Reveals the Content of the Letter’
To put it another way, we didn’t get any new information from the interview. The presenter didn’t ask the president about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, for example, or whether the American people and then everyone else had been subjected to a campaign of misinformation to justify the war.
Perhaps it isn’t very objective to make a priori judgments about the station, its administration, and its methodology when it’s still in its early days, but the as the proverb goes, “you know the letter’s content from the sender’s address.”
So far, it’s been clear that this station’s “address” doesn’t suggest doses of genuine “freedom” or the standards of free media that present more than one point of view, like those enjoyed by Americans and Europeans.
We should first accept that the US administration didn’t spend nearly $100 million for the sake of “the other point of view” or presenting highly professional programs.
This seems especially true when we see the way it has carried out an organized terror campaign against Arab satellite media in Iraq.
US-picked Governing Council Attacks Competing Arab Stations
The most significant achievements of the Iraqi Governing Council—an American creation—have been confined to pressuring the Arab satellite stations, closing their offices, preventing them from carrying out their job in a professional manner, and requiring that they use special terminology in their reports, such as not using words like “resistance” and “occupation.”
Perhaps the best examples of this are the announcements [US Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld made two days ago, in which he accused Arab satellite channels, and especially Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyya, of doing damage to the American presence in Iraq and inciting violence against American forces.
It may be useful to bear in mind that the US-funded Iraqi media is not that different from the old Baath party media. It only publishes misleading news that discusses the occupation’s “good works” and avoids anything else.
The era of this kind of media ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet bloc, yet it appears there are some in the US administration who want to transport us back some 40 or 50 years.
They forget that their country talks to us about globalization, free markets, and the information revolution, and that they demand that we acquire a 21st-century mentality.
The fate of Al-Hurra will be that of the Israeli channel Al-Maqboura [the Arabic-language satellite TV station launched by the Israeli government in 2001] and most of the government-owned Arab channels: It will create jobs for government employees. The public reaction and the ratings are a different matter
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