from an Arab Newsroom: Terrorizing the Arab Media
By Abdel Bari Atwan
from the May 6, 2006 edition of Al Quds Al Arabi, marking
World Press Freedom Day)
The Arab media suffers
from an unprecedented case of depression and that is why the
celebration of the international day of journalism has reached
its lowest level ever. There has not been any tangible achievement
worthy of celebration under the shadow of terror and the terrorizing
of workers in the media field by militias or regimes—even
by the USA, the leader of the free world. Terrorism comes in
many forms. The most dangerous forms are bullets or car bombs,
and after that come the other degrees of terrorism, such as
threatening, prohibition, confiscation, sabotage, censorship,
bribery and falsifying facts.
Bullets took the
lives of 63 journalists last year. Half of them were Arab journalists,
killed mainly in Iraq. In Lebanon, car bombs have torn the bodies
of two of the most courageous Lebanese journalists. One of them
is Samir Assir, and the other is Jibran Tueni, and God knows
who the next victim will be. According to the same source, 110
journalists were killed in Iraq since the American invasion,
which came under the cover of spreading freedom. But what is
worse than killing is what currently happens in this country—the
destruction of freedoms and humiliation of the journalism profession
through what has been described in a number of publications
about the American administration approaching Iraqi newspapers
to sell articles and media material to glorify the occupation
and to brush up its image and stigmatize everything beautiful
and patriotic in the country.
The greatest achievement
of the American occupation in terms of the media and its freedoms
is the financing of sectarian newspapers and TV channels that
practice division and promote sectarian and racial hatred. In
this happy American era, there is no single independent or non-sectarian
Iraqi newspaper. The Arab sky is currently filled with satellite
channels which reproduce at a frightening speed. The number
has reached 250 channels at the time of writing these lines.
Amongst these, there are only 10 political news channels and
the rest specialize in immorality, superficiality, and exposing
There is no nation
on the face of the earth which possesses the amount of male
and female singers as our Arab nation. Even in America, such
a number of immoral singers and channels do not exist. Reading
is regressing, and the sales of papers are declining. The distribution
of books has reached its lowest level, replaced by nudity, video
clips, singers, dancers, and gossip magazines with long celebrity
interviews, talking about everything that is outside normal
tastes and social and ethical codes.
There are three types
of TV channels which reproduce like rabbits in our region. The
first is musical, immoral, and based on nudity and seductive
dance. The second is full of football games and competitions
from all the over the world, just to fill the broadcasting hours.
The third is honor-stripped Islamic channels, which focus on
what they regard as moderate Islam. It is surprising that those
who launch the unethical, immoral channels are the same who
are financing those so-called Islamic channels. To explain these
contradictions, one needs to speak to those princes who gathered
huge wealth through oil revenues.
There is no doubt
that the future generation is the target. Their aim is for those
generations to be brought up on superficial consumer values
that have nothing to with Arabic or Islamic values, but which
accept the American domination and regard Arab and Islamic issues
as backward and divisive leftovers from the Middle Ages. It
is not a coincidence that some leaders of the Gulf business
class are the ones behind the spread of illiteracy. They spend
billions of dollars to finance it and to completely dominate
the sky alongside the American billions, which serve their purpose
in the form of Alhurra TV station and other radio channels.
So when Islam fought the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, it was
called moderate Islam, and when that same Islam with its same
people fights the American forces in Iraq and the Israeli forces
in Palestine, it becomes an extremist Islam, for which dozens
of Islamic channels are launched to fight against it.
The phenomenon of
targeting the coming generations and stripping their identities
will unfortunately increase because the oil revenues that are
employed in this work are increasing day after day and month
after month. The numbers indicate that more than $500 billion
enter the Arabic treasuries (of the states) that produce oil,
every year. And their explicit American instructions (are) to
sink the markets with satellites channels, because this is the
most influential means by which to brainwash the coming generations,
cleansing from them any Arabic or Islamic trends which stick
to dignity and moral codes and confront the humiliation and
the project of domination project faced by the (Arab and Muslim)
It is unfortunate
to see the countries that are expected to face these projects
ill and broken. This is for several reasons, which revolve around
either accepting American pressure or succumbing to a chronic
weakness in the intentions of its Arab and Muslim leaders.
For example, Egypt,
which was leading the national media, has become the most backward
in this area, and its media system has become the least influential,
not only in the Arab region but also locally. Syria is also
out of the picture completely. Statistics by Reporters Without
Borders have revealed that Lebanon, which is considered the
oasis of media freedom in the region, has been ranked number
76 among the 168 countries in the freedom of expression level.
And five Arab leaders have been ranked among the top in the
world in terms of hating the media, its freedom, and its workers.
The Arab region
has lived a short honeymoon, which only lasted for few years.
Starting with Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi and MBC, the satellite
channels have been competing to organize national festivals
to collect donations for the Palestinian Intifada or to save
the holy places, but this honorable phenomenon has since become
completely extinct and most channels have started to support
the American occupation of Iraq, promote its sectarian projects,
and publish its adverts, which praise the American “democracy”
of killing and fraud in that Arab and Muslim country.
On this day of media,
we can’t celebrate this frustrated Arab media reality.
All we can do is to pray for our martyrs, either those who are
the sons of this profession, or those who were killed by American
and Israeli fire. Moreover, we should pray for this (Arab) nation,
which became the martyr of the Arab leaders’ deceiving
channels and their poisonous money.
Bari Atwan is editor-in-chief of London-based Al
Quds Al Arabi, one of the leading Pan-Arab daily newspapers.