New Look to Arab News
By Muafac Harb
is something very important to be said about competition, especially
within the media. With the onslaught of cable and satellite
networks in the United States, Americans can easily watch a
news story on four or five different channels, to ensure they
get a balanced and accurate idea of what is going on in the
world and filter through any biases, whether real or imagined.
essentially the idea behind Alhurra (Arabic for "Free One"),
the latest Arabic-language news and information channel to come
to the Middle East: to present factual and accurate reporting
to viewers in the 22 Arab countries we reach, thereby providing
them with a fresh perspective of the news that affects them.
Once people have a better understanding of the world around
them, they become part of the global debate. Headquartered outside
of Washington, DC, Alhurra supplies context and background to
the headlines, with bureaus throughout the Middle East. In the
short time we have been on the air, we have covered a variety
of topics, from human rights to political upheaval; Alhurra
has been there for every major event in the region. We are also
the most technologically advanced television station to date,
which allows us the opportunity to bring news reports from all
over the world and give viewers a global perspective.
incredible to work in this state of the art newsroom, but the
heart and soul of Alhurra is the staff. A majority of the journalists
that have joined Alhurra have moved to the United States from
the Middle East, many leaving their homes and families to have
the opportunity to report the news without government influence.
There is a camaraderie among the staff here and around the world.
We know we can make a difference, but only if we inform and
engage our viewers.
not like the typical news channels, because we entertain as
well as enlighten. In addition to its nightly hour-long newscasts
and round-the-clock news updates, Alhurra offers audiences hard-hitting
talk shows and roundtable discussions, such as "Free Hour"
and "All Directions," providing fresh perspectives
of the headlines with the newsmakers of the day. Viewers can
also watch international award-winning documentaries, as well
as programs on fitness, technology, fashion, entertainment news
in the region knows, the Arab press went out of its way to denounce
Alhurra before it even launched. There was a theme in all of
the Arab media articles that Alhurra would just reiterate US
government propaganda, but that could not be further from the
truth. Our mandate and mission, issued by the US government,
is to report accurately, even if this results in criticizing
the current administration. This is a new concept to many state-funded
Arab media outlets that take direction from their own government
entities. It is not surprising they attacked us from the onset;
we represented everything they are trying to suppress. If we
were not a threat, why would they even comment about us?
reaction to Alhurra has also brought about debate, as the more
moderate journalists in the region ask why there were such harsh
attacks. Alhurra has made the media in the Middle East turn
a critical lens onto itself. Although this was not the immediate
goal when Alhurra was launched, it is consistent with this undertaking,
to bring forth a fresh perspective of the news.
the attention that has been brought to the channel by the Arab
media has also brought in viewers. We have received numerous
emails from the Middle East, thanking us for Alhurra and praising
our objective reporting. This brings us back to the original
mission of Alhurra, to provide Arabic-speaking viewers an alternative
to the traditional news reports they have endured.
is not on the air to say something is right or wrong; that is
not the job of a journalist. We are here to give audiences another
viewpoint, and whether they use Alhurra as their sole source
of news or in combination with others, we have accomplished
our goal. We are competitors of Al Jazeera and Al Arabia, and
any media outlet that reports to the Middle East for that matter.
With a new kid in the sandbox, you are bound to stir up a little
Harb is director of network news at Alhurra and Radio Sawa. This
article is taken from bitter-lemons international, an on-line
publication (April 22, 2004 Edition 15 Volume 2).