Satellite Chronicle
May 2006

AFGHANISTAN

01/05/2006 Afghan governor rejects charges of corruption by private Tolo TV

Text of report by Afghan state TV on 1 May

Tolo TV has recently broadcast a report on poor police performance in Nimroz Province, squandering money and administrative corruptions in the province. The report was categorically totally rejected by local government officials and was called baseless by the governor of the province.

[Voice of the governor] Tolo TV has always been trying to pretend that it is an independent TV. The TV has proved in all other provinces of Afghanistan that its reports are against national and public interests and they are prepared very quickly, carelessly and irresponsibly.

Source: National Television Afghanistan, Kabul, in Dari 1430 gmt 1 May 06

MALAYSIA

02/05/2006 Minister proposes establishing Islamic journalism centre in Malaysia

Text of report in English by Malaysian news agency Bernama website

Kuala Lumpur, 2 May: Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin Tuesday [2 May] floated the idea of establishing an international Islamic journalism centre for Muslim journalists to get together to discuss common issues.

The centre can also organize programmes for non-Muslim journalists to know more about Islam.

"This centre can be set up along the lines of several international journalism institutes that are already in existence, offering training and fellowship programmes," he said when opening a workshop for 23 journalists from 15 Arabic-speaking nations here.

The five-day workshop organized by Bernama and Unesco with support from the Information Ministry is attended by newspaper, news agency and radio/television representatives from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Zainuddin said the proposed International Islamic Journalism Centre could organize workshops such as the one being held here to discuss issues concerning Islam and the ummah [Islamic community]. He said that by inviting non-Muslim journalists to also participate in the centre's programmes, hopefully it would help put a halt to the spread of Islamophobia that is seen today.

Zainuddin said journalists, especially the Muslims, must have a critical and analytical mind and see things beyond what they seemed to appear, given the sophistication of the media today.

"There is no denying that there is an agenda to belittle Islam and Muslims among certain quarters in the West, using the media.

"Various tactics, including deception, are used in the onslaught against Muslims to work up their emotions because these people know full well that Muslims would respond in full agitation when their religion is attacked," he said.

This tactic was used to deflect the attention of the Muslims from the killings of their brethren as in the case of the Prophet Muhammad caricatures, he added.

He wondered whether or not this was a case of a well-orchestrated media blitz to draw away the attention of Muslims from the killings of innocent civilians in Pakistan at the time the issue resurfaced.

Eighteen people, including 14 members of a family, were reported killed and six others injured in the Bajaur region in January when intruding aircraft fired missiles in an operation targeted at Al-Qa'idah elements.

Zainuddin said Islamic countries must develop and strengthen their media to become credible and effective channels for the dissemination of news and information about Islamic activities and events.

Serious efforts should be made to strengthen the Jedda-based International Islamic News Agency (IINA) so that it could play a meaningful role in the distribution of news concerning the ummah, he said.

"We should make full use of our media organizations to expound our views and opinions about our culture, our society and above all, our religion, so that others may know what Islam is really all about," he said.

Zainuddin said Muslim journalists should together develop a common strategy in countering the Islamophobia which had been thrust upon the ummah.

He said that as journalists, they had a duty to impress upon the world at large that Islam does not advocate violence, that Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion and that those who perpetrate violence and disharmony are an aberration in the eyes of the religion.

He also stressed that freedom of the media must be freedom with responsibility. He said that in Malaysia, the media was free to publish but must bear certain responsibilities, given the multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious make-up of the country.

"If certain parameters have to be laid for our media so that we may preserve harmony and peace and tranquillity, we need not feel bashful about it.

"Not for us the runaway media that we see in some countries which also seem to be overdosing on democracy," he said.

Zainuddin told reporters later that Malaysia was offering to host the international Islamic journalism centre.

He said that Malaysia, which was acknowledged by the world community as a model Islamic state, was a suitable location to show how the Muslims and non-Muslims could live together in peace.

"If the centre is established here, we hope to show the world the example of a developed Islamic nation, Muslims who are 'hadhari' and able to live with people of other faiths.

"We don't want to fight with the west (by setting up this centre), we only want to inform (the international community) about the real situation in the Islamic world," he said.

He said the functions and role of the centre would not differ much from those of journalism institutes in the west, like the American Press Institute and the International Press Institute in German.

"This centre will organize journalism courses like other journalism institutes in the west. We don't want it to be regarded as a centre to spread Islam."

Zainuddin was happy with the response from the workshop participants to his idea and hoped that they would further discuss the matter at the workshop.

To a question, he said the government was willing to help make the centre a reality, including providing financial aid.

Source: Bernama website, Kuala Lumpur, in English 2 May 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

02/05/2006 Analysis: Palestinian factional disputes spill over into the media

Editorial analysis by Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring Media Services on 2 May

Palestinian news outlets have reported a surge in threats and violence against Palestinian journalists in the occupied territories, especially in the Gaza Strip, for their critical coverage of Hamas since it took over the government in March.

The Palestinian Press Syndicate, controlled by Fatah, has "strongly condemned the continued aggression and violence against journalists".

It said this posed a serious threat to "the lives of journalists, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression," according to the Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency website on 28 April.

Hamas takes on its critics

Larger Palestinian media outlets, especially official Palestine TV, have been critical of Hamas policies since the group took office after defeating Fatah in elections in January.

Bassam Abu Sumaya is head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, which runs the Voice of Palestine radio, Palestine TV and the official Wafa news agency. He wrote in a recent newspaper commentary that the Hamas government must step down.

Some pro-Fatah outlets predicted that a Hamas government would collapse through financial problems after Western donors cut off aid, while others accused Hamas of being unprepared to run state affairs.

Now Hamas has decided to confront its critics in the media.

The information ministry has called on journalists to use phrases such as "the government of the Palestinian people" instead of the "Hamas government" and "the ministers of the Palestinian government" instead of "Hamas ministers". The ministry warned Palestinian media "to avoid instigative and factional terms or else face legal questioning".

Meanwhile seven journalists in the Gaza Strip, mostly sympathetic to President Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement, have received threats by e-mail, phone or fax, reportedly made in the name of Hamas, according to officials of the journalists' union.

Reuters news agency quoted Muwafaq Matar, a journalist with the pro-Fatah Al-Hurriya radio station in Gaza who has criticised the performance of Hamas in government, as saying he had received three separate threats for his allegedly anti-Hamas stance.

Reuters quoted another Palestinian journalist, Wasim Gharib of the pro-Fatah Palestine Press news website, as saying: "Since Hamas came to power, they want journalists all to talk the same language, the Hamas language."

"We are taking these threats seriously, although we do not think the Hamas movement has a policy to threaten journalists," Sakhir Abu Awn from the journalists' union told Reuters on 1 May.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied the group had threatened journalists, and described the threats as a fraudulent attempt to "damage Hamas's image", Reuters added.

"The Palestinian media is clearly biased against Hamas... What they are doing is not monitoring or criticizing. What they are doing is inciting against Hamas, in the interest of Fatah," Mahmud Ramahi of Hamas, secretary-general of the Palestinian parliament, told the Associated Press.

And as Daoud Kuttab, Palestinian columnist and the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University, notes in a recent article on the www.amin.org website, "the sensitivity of the leaders of Hamas about media coverage can also be seen in the reaction of Fatah leaders to what is being reported about them".

Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan has reportedly hired a lawyer to sue the pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Centre website for carrying out what he called a smear campaign against him, Kuttab notes.

Self-censorship, intimidation

A 1995 presidential decree, still in force, prevents the media from carrying anything critical of the Palestinian National Authority or the president.

As the US State Department's 2005 Human Rights report noted, "self-censorship and fear of being harmed or harassed by armed activists and militant groups remained the greatest challenges for journalists working in the West Bank and Gaza".

The New York-based media freedom watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in its 2005 report that journalists, foreign and local, "were harassed, threatened and beaten by Palestinian security forces and the various factions in retaliation for their coverage of Palestinian politics".

Hamas tries to get a media grip

"The Palestinian media is now launching a campaign against the Hamas government," Nashat al-Aqtash, a communications lecturer at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, told the Associated Press.

But Hamas is acutely aware of the importance of getting its message out to the world. It says it is planning to launch a satellite TV station in the future. More urgently, the movement is looking for ways to counter what it perceives as the current media campaign against it at home.

"The movement now controls many levers. Therefore, it must develop and intensify its media performance and address its media message to the crowd with maximum speed," said a commentary in the pro-Hamas Gaza paper Al-Risalah on 13 April.

It may be only a question of time before Hamas steps up its efforts to bring more Palestinian local media under its influence.

Commentator Daoud Kuttab believes that although much of the Palestinian political debate will be played out on websites, many of which are "independent of traditional political or financial pressures", the internet is not the only medium where a genuine debate is taking place.

"While most of the excitement is being played out on the web, the traditional media is also full of unique and local stories that reflect the changes that the Palestinian media is feeling in the post-Hamas election victory," Kuttab writes.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 2 May 06

ALGERIA

03/05/2006 Algeria: Editorial views symbolism of presidential pardon of journalists

Text of editorial by Amine Lotfi entitled "A Symbol" published by Algerian newspaper El Watan website on 3 May

Freedom of the press, to quote a phrase that has been proven in such a magisterial way, gets run down only if one does not use it. It gets even more run down if one cannot use it. The date of 3 May, which is celebrated around the world, helps to remind us of this today and requires needed stops to emphasize the fact that this freedom is not yet and not everywhere an indisputable entitlement. It is not always good to say, show, or write truths. There would not be this temptation to repress if truths did not have a frontal clash with interests that often conflict with the general good.

So the press misdemeanour was created by the powers that be to nip in the bud any stray impulse to call into question or merely describe things getting out of hand politically or attacks on the economy. This can be verified, including in the advanced democracies, with dictatorial regimes not having a monopoly on punitive practices: both assert reasons of state, as needed, to muzzle the freedom to inform.

Conversely, the exception that proves the rule is for a leader to hit on a date that is as emblematic as 3 May, as President Bouteflika did, to take the initiative of pardoning reporters found guilty of so-called press misdemeanours. This is a measure that could be read as a political determination to take the drama out of relations that were not always the best between the [P]ouvoir and the press. This is a deed that, in a certain way, levels things. It is not the same everywhere.

The conflicts currently convulsing the planet are so many indicators of the limits to which freedom of the press is subject. We then come to this awful axiom that the freedom to inform gets run down only if one cannot use it. What is happening in Iraq, Palestine, and in the areas for major tensions in Africa illustrates the fact that information is under close surveillance and that the freedom to exercise it still pretty much remains to be conquered.

Yet, and nowhere, it will certainly not be generously granted, because the press's missions will for a long time continue to unfold against backgrounds of conflict. The profession, when confronted by a clearly proclaimed hostility, will count more on the virtues of solidarity than on professional seclusion. Indeed freedom of the press goes beyond borders and it transcends entities because it is the symbol, beyond just information professionals, with which all of humanity identifies.

Source: El Watan website, Algiers, in French 3 May 06

DENMARK

04/05/2006 New threats to Danish Muhammad cartoonists

Text of report by Danish radio website on 4 May; subheadings as published:

New threats have been issued against the cartoonists behind Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad drawings. BT [Danish daily newspaper] quotes a Pakistani journalist, who says that 12 young men are travelling to Denmark to kill the cartoonists.

The threats are described in Internet newsletter "Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin", which has obtained the information from Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir.

Danish expert plays down risk

However, Danish terrorism expert Lars Erslev Andersen does not believe it is very likely that those involved will ever reach Denmark if anyone is on their way anyway.

"It is of course very unpleasant for the illustrators when these kinds of threats are made, which is of course the intention when threats are made on the Internet, as well as keeping the pot boiling and continuing to hold people's attention," Lars Erslev Andersen says.

The Danish terrorism researcher says it would be very difficult for them to come to Denmark unnoticed if they are travelling on Iranian and Afghan passports.

Police Intelligence Service monitoring

Danish Police Intelligence Service Deputy Chief Constable Erik Terp says in a statement that the service continually assesses the threat scenario facing the cartoonists and the security measures they have taken. They are also aware of the threats and promises of rewards which emerge regularly.

Source: Danmarks Radio website, Copenhagen, in Danish 1312 gmt 4 May 06

QATAR

03/05/2006 Qatar: Report lauds steps taken towards free expression

Text of report in English by Qatari newspaper The Peninsula website on 3 May

The government witnessed serious developments towards free expression and the NHRC [National Human Rights Committee] is doing its work without any red tape or interference. The media is also unrestricted.

But media workers indulge in self-censorship while talking about internal affairs, naturalization issues, labour issues, the sponsorship system, exit permits, detention camps, juvenile camel jockeys, maids and others, said the rights report.

There are external pressures on the media in covering events in the Arab world. An important network like Al Jazeera is pressured by the US and the UK and closed their office in Iraq. Their correspondents in Arab countries are also targeted.

Reporters Sans Frontieres has reported that Qatar is ranked 105 in press freedom globally. The ranking was based on journalists arrested for their opinions, freedom of scientific research and freedom of the Internet. Qatar ranked third in the Arab world after Lebanon and Kuwait. However NHRC found no cases of scribes arrested for their ideas.

Source: The Peninsula website, Doha, in English 3 May 06

AFGHANISTAN

08/05/2006 New religious journal for west Afghanistan

Excerpt from report by Afghan state-run newspaper Etefaq-e Eslam on 8 May

There has not been a professional journal in the field of religion and Islamic teaching. Nor has there been a magazine to reflect the views and ideas of religious scholars in Herat. Nada-ye Haq [Voice of Truth], a journal that has been published recently, has decided to fill this gap. The Herat Council of Religious Scholars has published this journal. Alhaj Mawlawi Khodadad Saleh and Asamoddin Shams are the proprietor and editor-in-chief of the journal. [Passage omitted: names of deputy editor and columnists of the journal].

Mawlawi Ghabrani has written the first editorial of this publication, highlighting the important role of religious scholars in social affairs. Religious issues are the focus of attention of this magazine. We wish further success to the writers of this religious publication.

Source: Etefaq-e Eslam, Herat, in Dari 8 May 06

08/05/2006 Afghan MPs condemn assault on Tolo TV journalist in parliament

Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 8 May

[Presenter] A number of MPs today condemned the insult and yesterday's violent behaviour against a Tolo TV cameraman. Khial Mohammad Hussaini, a parliamentary representative from Ghazni Province, beat up a Tolo TV cameraman yesterday. Today, MPs described the violent behaviour as contradictory to the accepted principles of democracy and parliamentary culture.

[Correspondent] Yesterday's parliament session was expected to discuss issues relating to the approval of this year's budget but disparaging remarks by Malalai Joya regarding 8 Sour [Day of the victory of jihad against the Soviet Union] turned the session into chaos. The irregularities and disorder in parliament escalated when Malalai Joya spoke about true and treacherous mojahedin. Her objections provoked harsh reactions from some MPs and some have even attacked her and threw bottles at her, meanwhile a Tolo TV cameraman, who wanted to film the scene, was severely beaten up.

[An MP in Pashto] Those who mistreated Malai, they were either gun dealers or warlords. It was really bad to verbally abuse and beat up a journalist in parliament hall. It is against the law.

[Correspondent] Khial Mohammad Hussaini, an MP from Ghazni Province who insulted the Tolo TV cameraman said: It was a plot against me, he was standing in front of me. It is my right [his voice trails off]

Source: Tolo TV, Kabul, in Dari 1330 gmt 8 May 06

08/05/2006 Local council threatens journalists over satirical programmes in Afghan north

Text of report in English by Afghan independent Pajhwok news agency website

Taloqan, 8 May: Officials of the National Radio and Television said on Monday [8 May] that they were being threatened by members of the provincial council to stop broadcasting programmes against them.

Head of the National Radio and Television transmissions Syed Yasin Dehzad told Pajhwok Afghan News that they were warned and insulted for airing satirical programs about provincial council members.

He said they broadcast programme named Wakil Jan Dana, Dana, Paisa Jam Ko Chawki Namemana, [Dear MP, make the most of it, try and amass as much money as possible because your post is not forever]. Soon after presenting the programme, provincial council members threatened them to stop broadcasting such programmes, he said.

He said all their programmes were in line of the press laws and freedom of expression and thus they were permitted to do so. "We don't mean to insult council members," he said, "We broadcast the programmes according to the desire of the people, who claim that council members did not fulfil their promises they made before the election."

He said they had also received death threats from unidentified men via telephone. Maulvi Ahmadullah Ahmadi, deputy provincial councillor, warned them of serious consequences if they didn't stop such programmes. Ahmadi said broadcasting such programmes was tantamount to insulting and satirizing provincial council members. He said: "We cannot allow anybody to insult elected representatives."

However, Dehzad said they would continue broadcasting such programmes and they are afraid of nobody. However, head of the Provincial Information and Culture Department Mir Ahmad Tamim showed ignorance about the threats issued to the officials.

Source: Pajhwok Afghan News website, Kabul, in English 1615 gmt 8 May 06

MIDDLE EAST

08/05/2006 Analysis: WE Media Forum: Mid-East "citizen media" off to slow start

Editorial analysis by Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring Media Services at the WE Media Global Forum in London in May 2006

There are now over 300 satellite TV channels beaming news and entertainment programmes across the Middle East.

Up to now, the development of blogging and the growth of "citizen media" have failed to keep pace with the explosion in TV broadcasting, a conference in London has heard.

In the view of most speakers at the WE Media Global Forum last week, pan-Arab TV channels are still seen as a bigger political force for raising awareness of regional and international issues in the Middle East than the new media. The impact is mostly limited to a dozen or so hard news channels; the rest, which include about 100 pay-TV channels, carry a mixture of entertainment, cultural, educational, religious and sports programming.

Blogging and "citizen journalism" have yet to make a significant impact on the region's 300 million inhabitants, according to speakers at the forum.

TV "a mirror of society"

Michael Kraig of the Stanley Foundation sees the new media landscape as a reflection of an emerging rebirth of Arab nationalism, which many had already declared dead.

In much of the Middle East, said Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of the Daily Star in Beirut, "media is an instrument of resistance and a form of empowerment". The information field, in his view, is "the only area where the Arabs have beaten the US at their own game".

Khouri drew attention to what he termed the huge gap in accurate understanding of Arab media in the West.

He said it was important to correct "an important misconception" - that pan-Arab TV channels were deliberately inciting anti-US opinion. On the contrary, he said, they were "good mirrors of our societies". They "accurately reflect street sentiment and public opinion throughout the region, which is usually critical of the Anglo-American tradition, Israel, and Arab ruling elites and regimes."

Khouri, like most other speakers in the Middle East session, was referring to the success of pan-Arab satellite channels like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya in opening up information access in societies previously dominated by state-run media.

But he tempered his praise for the pan-Arab satellite channels by adding that their chat shows often merely reflected what people had been talking about for years in their homes, in cafes and on university campuses. "They didn't give us anything new, they just projected it into the public sphere."

Islamists and the web

The session provided few insights into the state of the blogosphere in the Middle East. Blogging in Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Iran got comparatively little attention from panelists.

Participants differed over whether greater media openness in the region would actually lead to more government accountability, increased political participation and more interaction between media and society.

One speaker noted that in most of the Middle East, activism on the street usually resulted in sanctions. Yet there was no systematic state control over blogging, Iran aside, although many countries tried to curb access to the internet.

Participants felt the blogosphere in the Middle East was a nascent movement that could break out on a larger scale in the near future. But for the time being, issues of literacy and language were restricting its global impact.

Media liberalization, commented Michael Kraig of the Stanley Foundation, did not mean the people of the Middle East would necessarily have more power over their political lives. Nor would the growth of civil society of itself bring solutions to the region's big issues.

Tarek Atia, who runs various blogs and news aggregator websites from Cairo, including www.cairolive.com, commented later: "They should have discussed Al-Jazeera and the TV networks for the first 10 minutes, and then moved into the blog explosion in all these countries and how they are opening up political discussions online. But instead, they spent 30 minutes talking about TV and barely got to blogs at the end."

Jihad Ballout, spokesman for Al-Arabiya, gave everyone food for thought with his remarks about the most visible convergence between Middle East politics and the new media when he said: "The Islamists are the one group in the Middle East who have embraced new media - rather than the affluent middle class."

Source: BBC Monitoring research 8 May 06

NEPAL

08/05/2006 Nepal: Journalists protest for reinstatement of colleagues

The Nepal Press Union (NPU) is to call on the country's media to reinstate their members of staff who were sacked or downgraded during this period, the website quoted its leader as telling the protesters. And representatives of two other media bodies, the Nepalese Federation of Journalists and a leftist press club, spoke of their plans to fight for "total press freedom" in the country.

Source: The Himalayan Times website, Kathmandu, in English 8 May 06

EGYPT

07/05/2006 Egypt: Premier comments on plans for media

Excerpt from report in English by Egyptian news agency MENA

Cairo, 7 May: Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif said the government was resolved to implement President Husni Mubarak's election programme.

He told the Egyptian television his talks with members of the Syndicate of Journalists were constructive.

The premier said a new bill on sentences in press-related cases was expected to be referred to the People's Assembly and the Shura Council in the coming few weeks.

[Passage omitted]

On relations with the media and the public, Nazif said the government was seeking more transparency, hoping to boost communication with the Egyptian people. He denied claims that the government was hindering the issuance of the new legislation abolishing jail sentences in press-related cases.

The premier said the law needed more discussions, citing disagreements between the government and the Syndicate of Journalists on some provisions.

He described as constructive his talks with members of the Syndicate of Journalists.

Nazif said President Mubarak was resolved to abolish jail terms in the press-related cases. He said that no Egyptian would be imprisoned for expressing an opinion even if it clashed with that of the president or the government.

Nazif added that the government would send the bill to the People's Assembly and the Shura Council within weeks, expecting it to be passed before the end of the current parliamentary session.

[Passage omitted]

Source: MENA news agency, Cairo, in English 2038 gmt 7 May 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

03/05/2006 Palestinian rights group reports on media freedom in West Bank and Gaza

Text of report by Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah on 3 May

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights (PICCR) issued a report on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on Monday [3 May] in which it discussed the conditions of the media in Palestine during the past year. It warned against encroaching on the freedom of the press, continuing attacks against journalists and threatening other journalists and news agencies either verbally or in writing through unknown people or armed groups on the basis of information or recently published opinions. However, and at the same time, the PICCR praised the developments that took place in the field of media freedom in the PNA areas since presidential elections were held at the beginning of last year until now.

The PICCR, in its review of the status of media freedom in Palestine, pointed out the following series of developments:

1. Decrease in the degree of the security services' intervention in the affairs of information institutions and the enhancement of the role of the Ministry of Information in protecting the freedom of opinion and speech.

2. Increase in the margin of the freedom of opinion and expression in the government and private mass media particularly following the administrative changes that took place in the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation during the past year.

3. The issue of licences to new information institutions. (During 2005, 111 licences were issued)

On the other hand, on the level of violating the freedom of opinion and speech, the PICCR noted the following:

1. Increase in the instances of abducting local and foreign journalists on the part of armed groups. During the past year, about eight instances of such abduction took place in the Gaza Strip, compared with only one abduction the previous year.

2. Several instances of attacks against Palestinian journalists took place on the part of armed people or individuals working in the security services. During these instances, physical and verbal violence was used against journalists. The latest of these attacks took place against one of the local TV stations in Bethlehem on 23 March 2006. The attackers destroyed the equipment at the station. On 12 April 2006, a security man drew his weapon in the face of journalists while they were trying to cover the cabinet meeting.

3. Some journalists received verbal and written threats because they published a particular news report or presented certain radio programmes. The latest of these threats was against a journalist from the Gaza Strip. He was threatened with death if he did not stop a radio programme he presented.

4. An announcement was issued by the Information Office at the Ministry of Interior on 1 August 2005, which read: "Local, Arab and international mass media are prohibited from circulating any written, audio or video news related to the Palestinian security and police forces without informing the Information Office at the Ministry of Interior and national security."

5. A decision was issued by the Higher Judicial Council on 16 April 2005 stopping a judge from performing his work and referring him for investigation on the basis of a press interview regarding the conditions of shari'ah law.

The PICCR went on to say that despite the developments that took place regarding the enhancement of freedom of opinion and of speech, these freedoms are still being violated on the ground and this exposes journalists to danger since the authorities concerned do not take the necessary steps to guarantee the protection of journalists.

The PICCR concluded its report with a set of recommendations, including the following:

1. To take practical steps that ensure implementation of the contents of the cabinet platform regarding the enhancement and protection of media freedoms in the PNA areas. These steps should be part of the work of the ministries concerned with freedom of opinion and expression.

2. To investigate all incidents of attacks and threats that Palestinian journalists faced, and are still facing, as a result of what they publish and to refer the perpetrators and aggressors to justice for trial.

3. To enhance the policy of openness undertaken by the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation with respect to freedom of opinion and expression. This should be done through the ratification of a law regulating the work of the Corporation and providing for its independence in such a way that its policies and programmes reflect the interests of all the citizens and not only those of the government agencies.

4. To enact legislation that ensures the freedom of the print, audio and video mass media and the freedom to access and publish information without any restrictions or conditions that prejudice freedom of opinion and speech.

Source: Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Ramallah, in Arabic 3 May 06

EGYPT

09/05/2006 Analysis: Egyptian protest bloggers detained "pending investigation"

Editorial analysis by Shuvra Mahmud of BBC Monitoring Media Services on 9 May

The detention of activist and popular Egyptian blogger Alaa Ahmed Seif el-Islam and 10 others on 7 May has provoked angry reactions and appeals for urgent action from the Egyptian blogosphere, and made headlines on traditional media websites outside the country.

Bloggers call for release of detained Kifayah protesters

Fellow bloggers have said Alaa was arrested for protesting against the detention of other campaigners demanding democracy in Egypt, according to Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) on 8 May.

In his weblog entitled The Skeptic, Elijah Zarwan said that Alaa and the 10 other bloggers arrested had turned up to support Kifayah (Enough) activists on their hearing.

"Kifayah" is the slogan for the Egyptian Movement for Change, a pro-democracy movement which has been active and growing for the past two years, and holding "groundbreaking demonstrations", according to the Washington Post in March 2005.

The activists had been allegedly arrested while protesting against the extension of Emergency Law 162 (1958), which the organization Human Rights Watch said "prohibits demonstrations and public rallies and allows the authorities to detain individuals without charge".

The Skeptic said in an entry dated 8 May: "I've met these people. I can't imagine the Interior Ministry honestly regards them as a threat. True, Alaa is an award-winning blogger and the son of veteran rights activist Ahmed Seif al-Islam, but the protests represent a nuisance rather than an existential threat to the regime."

He said that three of the detained were released on 8 May and eight remain in custody. Zanwar is the only blogger currently to have named all of the detainees, including those who have been released.

Manal, Alaa's wife and co-blogger, said in a post dated 8 May on Manalaa.net weblog that Alaa and the others arrested would be detained for a period of 15 days. Another outspoken blogger, Sand Monkey, said that the detainees were being held "pending investigation", and together with The Skeptic, expressed concerns over their health and welfare, as many of the arrested Kifayah members are young and have no previous experience of prison life in Egypt.

Sand Monkey said in an entry dated 8 May that their detention could be indefinite is the state wished. He said: "[Alaa] and the men were sent to the infamous Torah Prison and the girls to the Qanatir prison for the duration. This makes them hardly safe, because stuff that goes on in Egyptian prisons on the hands of the jailers: beatings, sexual assaults, torture of all kinds. This is why we aim to get them out of there as soon as possible, so that even if they do end up serving the entire 15 days- which they won't have to if the government gets pressured- they don't end up serving an extra day after that. No one deserves this happening to them, especially for exercising their right to free speech." clamps down on dissent, judges

Some 48 people are being held in custody from arrests over the past two weeks. Egyptian human rights organizations were quoted on the UK-based Guardian newspaper website on 8 May to have said: "There is an urgent need for serious and hard work, not only to release the detained pro-democracy activists in Egypt but also to hold the perpetrators accountable for these savage practices."

Human Right Watch reported in February 2006 that some judges in Egypt were accused of "defaming the state" and called before a disciplinary committee with the threat of losing their jobs. In March, Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said: "The government is punishing judges just for doing their job. It should be investigating the widespread evidence of voter intimidation, not shooting the messengers who reported the fraud."

An online campaign for the release of Alaa and the other 47 detainees has been launched and is growing in popularity amidst bloggers worldwide. Baheyya, an anonymous Egyptian woman, has had a significant number of hits for her description of contemporary Egypt in an entry dated 2 May.

She said of the arrest of the two judges in Egypt, on 2 May: "There's no clearer testament to the urgency of a new judiciary law than the summons meted out to [the judges] Bastawisy and Mekky."

The AKI report warns that as weblogs become greater sources of information, and an alternative to traditional media, there will be an increase of "punitive measures" taken against bloggers and other cyber dissidents.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 9 May 06

IRAN

10/05/2006 Analysis: Iranian efforts to control satellite broadcasts from abroad

Editorial analysis by Steve Metcalf of BBC Monitoring Media Services on 10 May

As the United States makes plans to expand its direct broadcasting into Iran, Tehran itself is reportedly making plans to counter and control satellite television broadcasts from abroad.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has launched a project which uses "intelligent jamming" that can block specific satellite channels, said a report in the Rooz online newspaper on 27 April. According to the paper, the project has an annual budget of around 10 million dollars and plans to increase the number of jamming stations in Tehran and other cities from the current number of 50 to 300 within two years.

Previous jamming efforts

Among the targets of this jamming are the many Persian-language channels run by the expatriate community in California. They were first targeted in July 2003, at the same time as a wave of student protests in Tehran and the start of a new Persian TV broadcast by Voice of America. The interference, believed to come from an Iranian diplomatic facility in Cuba, stopped after a month.

Further attempts to block these external broadcasts were reported in the run up to the presidential election of June 2005. An AFP correspondent described the increased jamming efforts as "unprecedented". However, said AFP, the microwave signals being used were so strong that they also interfered with state television (known as the Voice and Vision) and the mobile telephone network.

According to the Rooz report, the new IRGC project makes use of a synthesizer which enables more specific targeting of channels to be jammed. Within the next few months, it said, many Persian channels broadcasting from abroad will be blocked.

Interweaving and combining a number of TV signals into a digital multiplex before uplinking means that blocking specific channels via satellite is not generally possible. Only stations which broadcast as single channels can be individually blocked from the ground. Otherwise, whole multiplexes must be disrupted.

Learning to live with satellite

Although possession of a satellite dish is illegal in Iran, the ban has not been rigorously enforced in recent years. Agency reports on 8 May quoted the national police chief as saying that a fresh crackdown was about to be launched. Esma'il Ahmadi Moqadam told the ISNA agency that if satellite equipment was "visible" in homes, it would be seized. However, on the same day, the government's official spokesman said that the government had not taken any decision about the confiscation of satellite dishes; the matter was under consideration by parliament, he said.

The Iranian authorities seem to have accepted that satellite broadcasting is a fact of life. Indeed the Voice and Vision itself operates several channels aimed at expatriate and Arabic-speaking audiences and has announced plans to launch an English-language news channel this year. The organization's head, Ezzatollah Zarghami, was quoted by Aftab-e Yazd newspaper on 6 May as saying that young people should "consolidate their cultural bases" before turning to the internet or satellite channels.

Two bills are currently being prepared for debate in the Iranian parliament (Majlis). The first seeks approval for 250m dollars of oil revenue to be used for the purchase of a satellite to broadcast the programmes of the Voice and Vision. The state broadcaster's channels are at present carried on a number of international satellites; the domestic and provincial networks are carried by Intelsat 902.

Managed distribution by cable

The second bill seeks to establish managed distribution of foreign satellite broadcasts within the country, as well as reinforcing the penalties for illegal possession of equipment. Sa'id Abutaleb, a member of the Majlis Cultural Committee, gave details to the E'temad newspaper on 24 April.

He said that the bill required the Voice and Vision to establish at least three nationwide networks that would transmit programmes of satellite channels that were "not contrary to the values and principles of Islamic and national culture".

In addition, permits would be issued to private companies to downlink and deliver "authorized" satellite programmes as subscription cable services to private homes, apartment buildings and hotels. The charge for these permits would help to fund the new services offered by the state broadcaster.

The bill also proposes new penalties for those not satisfied with the satellite channels authorized by the state. Those still possessing satellite dishes, said Abutaleb, will first receive two written warnings, then be liable to a fine of between 500 and 5,000 dollars.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 10 May 06

10/05/2006 News agency chief criticizes Iran's weak foreign media links

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website

Tehran, 10 May: Managing Director of Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) Ahmad Khademolmelleh here Wednesday [10 May] said that Iran's media link with the world has so far been unidirectional and quite weak.

On the sidelines of a visit to the 13th Press and News Agencies Fair he told the media headquarters of the fair that this inflicts some damages on the community, one of which is the failure to speak out on the world scene and defend national rights.

"For instance, we believe that similar to many countries, Iran is also entitled to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. However, because of our unidirectional link, we are unable to defend our rights," he added.

Khademolmelleh noted that the world's major media having professional reporters, high circulation and investment spend the highest possible amount, while Iranians are way behind in this respect.

Turning to IRNA representative branches in some countries, he said "we are now facing problems in establishing a branch office in the US and getting the authorization for it."

The IRNA chief urged that a media balance should be established between Iran and other states and added, "In proportion to establishment of Iranian media centres overseas, foreign networks should be allowed to be represented in Iran.

"We should not permit foreign media to be active in Iran, if our media are denied the permission to be represented in the related countries."

Criticizing some media people for conducting interviews with foreign news networks, he asked, "Why should a US reporter easily manage to interview Iranian officials, while the US administrators refrain from such talks?"

Stressing the need to hold international press exhibitions, he said that domestic press and news media should be prepared to participate in international media fairs.

The 13th Press and News Agencies Fair (May 4-14) is currently underway at Tehran international fairgrounds.

Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1310 gmt 10 May 06

10/05/2006 Iranian news agency facing problems establishing US office

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website

Tehran, 10 May: Managing Director of Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) Ahmad Khademolmelleh here Wednesday [10 May] said that Iran's media link with the world has so far been unidirectional and quite weak.

On the sidelines of a visit to the 13th Press and News Agencies Fair he told the media headquarters of the fair that this inflicts some damages on the community, one of which is the failure to speak out on the world scene and defend national rights. "For instance, we believe that similar to many countries, Iran is also entitled to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. However, because of our unidirectional link, we are unable to defend our rights," he added.

Khademolmelleh noted that the world's major media having professional reporters, high circulation and investment spend the highest possible amount, while Iranians are way behind in this respect.

Turning to IRNA representative branches in some countries, he said: "We are now facing problems in establishing a branch office in the US and getting the authorization for it."

The IRNA chief urged that a media balance should be established between Iran and other states and added: "In proportion to establishment of Iranian media centres overseas, foreign networks should be allowed to be represented in Iran. We should not permit foreign media to be active in Iran, if our media are denied the permission to be represented in the related countries."

Criticizing some media people for conducting interviews with foreign news networks, he asked: "Why should a US reporter easily manage to interview Iranian officials, while the US administrators refrain from such talks?"

Stressing the need to hold international press exhibitions, he said that domestic press and news media should be prepared to participate in international media fairs. The 13th Press and News Agencies Fair (4-14 May) is currently underway at Tehran international fairgrounds.

Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1310 gmt 10 May 06

10/05/2006 Viewer tells Iran's Esfahan TV not to "insult viewers' intelligence"

At 1332 gmt on 10 May, Iran's Esfahan Provincial TV aired another edition of its weekly programme: "One, Two, Three, Move".

This week's programme went behind-the-scenes of a 90-part children's programme called: "The Story of an Imaginary City", showing the production stages of the programme's animation work and spoke with its director-producer, Homayun Bolandbakht. He said the series will be aired at the beginning of summer.

Another part of the programme, "One, Two, Three, Move", showed interviews with members of the public on streets of Esfahan and asked them about the local programmes of Esfahan Provincial TV.

One young man said: "I think there are major problems with programmes of Network 5 [Esfahan Provincial TV]. I am not referring to any specific programme here. But, when it comes to TV serials, I believe Esfahan TV has very few local productions." He complained about repeats and the times when the programmes were shown. About Esfahan TV's news bulletins, he said there were many local issues which the station could highlight and create "a particular identity" for itself. He said: "Esfahan TV must avoid direct rhetorical slogans," and added: "Esfahan TV must avoid telling its viewers what to do." The same young man was asked what he would do if he were a programme producer? He said: "First, we must decide what our aim is. For example, are we producing an entertainment programme or a light scientific programme? Do we want to covey a social message? In any case, the message must not be delivered in the form of an order or a slogan. The message should be indirect and must not insult the intelligence of the viewers. Unfortunately, many TV programme insult the viewers' intelligence."

Another young man said; "Esfahan TV is very good in covering local provincial news. He said the 2045 [local time; 1715 gmt] news bulletin has very good coverage of provincial events. But its coverage of international and national news is not so good and is somewhat weak."

The same young man was asked what other programmes he watched. He said he watched some of the local TV serials.

The programme ended at 1352 gmt.

Source: Esfahan Provincial TV, Esfahan, in Persian 1332 gmt 10 May 06

IRAN

07/05/2006 Iran: Journalists Association slammed for awarding "royalist" journalists

Text of Article by Kazem Anbarlu'i: "Freedom of Press!" by Iranian newspaper Resalat website on 7 May [ellipses as published]:

Last Thursday, some of the so-called reformist newspapers allocated their first page to admiring the performance of five journalists, as the pioneers of press activities!

Among these five persons, who were introduced as the pioneers of press and were especially praised, three were royalist journalists - affiliated to the press in Shah's period - and with an inappropriate press background, who had also anti-revolutionary activities in "Ayandegan" newspaper in the early years after the revolution. They worked for Siamak Purzand's publications and I guess there is no need to explain their situation further.

The important issue in this seemingly cultural event is that one of those three persons could not receive his prize, because he is a political refugee in England and lives in London. Instead, Mr Hashem Aghajari, a member of Islamic Revolution Mojahedin read his message and received his prize on behalf of him! Hashem Aghajari had previously revealed his disobedience by the ideology of the establishment, the people and even his own organization, through offering remarks like:

- Religion is the opium of masses and governments!

- Religious instructions are black, dark and antique.

- To reach reforms, one should change the religion.

But, receiving the prize of a royalist, as the representative of his organization, is a new political behaviour for this so-called press pioneer!

But, the "key verse" of these ceremonies was conferring the "Golden Pen" to Akbar Ganji, the owner of the "Manifesto of Republicanism". Ganji's mental metamorphosis, his ideological backgrounds in Halghe-ye Kiyan and Rah-e Now weekly and his membership in the editorial boards of banned newspapers like Sobh-e Emruz, Khordad and ... are not hidden for press communities. In the Manifesto of Republicanism, he said "goodbye" even to the thoughts of Sorush and Hajjariyan; even his friends could not defend his radical thoughts about republicanism, which were totally against Islam, the holy Koran, the revolution and the establishment. However, he stood and also paid its cost. In the Manifesto of Republicanism, he wrote:

- There is not even one rational reason to approve Velayat-e Faghih [guardianship of the supreme jurisconsult]

- There is not the possibility to collect Islam and republicanism, unless Islam becomes secular.

- It is impossible to combine Velayat-e Faghih with republicanism.

- If Reza Khan [Reza Pahlavi, the first king of Pahlavi dynasty] called himself the permanent president of Iran, probably the situation of democracy would be better in Iran!

We have no complaint against the 2nd Khordad newspapers and do not ask them why they praised these elements with all their records before and after the revolution. Because, basically these newspapers have already shown their path and made all their effort to promote secularism or laity and sometimes even tried to satisfy the royalist fellows of the former regime. But, I am questioning the two E'temaad-e Melli and Kargozaran newspapers, both of which belong to renowned parties and distinguished personalities of the establishment.

Do you also agree with the views that Mr Ganji has offered against Islam, the holy Koran, the Late Imam, the establishment and the Constitution in the Manifesto of Republicanism to depict his model of "a complete republic"?

If you agree with them, then what did you mean by serving the Late Imam and the establishment during all these years? If you are against them, then what are their news and pictures - the so-called pioneers of the press - doing on the headline of your newspapers?

Does freedom of press mean that people should be praised, who have targeted freedom and independence of the country, fought against the people and the establishment's ideology and chanted anti-revolutionary slogans unanimously with the foreign radios? The performance of the Association of Iranian Journalists, and consequently the 2nd Khordad newspapers, especially Kargozaran and E'temaad-e Melli, is a great insult against the press communities of the country. Praising a number of royalists, a political refugee in London and one or two writers, who insult the holy values, is not an honour; it is in fact disgracing the people and true press circles.

Source: Resalat website, Tehran, in Persian 7 May 06

08/05/2006 Iran: Voice and Vision to launch public chat radio in June

Text of report "A network to bring contradictory ideas" by Iranian newspaper E'temad-e Melli on 8 May

A radio talk show is to begin in mid-May. Since nearly seven years ago a plan has been in the minds of the ruling powers for launching a medium for the public to express their views. However, during Ali Larijani's tenure at the Voice and Vision this opportunity did not arise. Now, with the presidency of Ezzatollah Zarqami, as a strategy for building trust among various groups in society with different points of view, this plan is to be implemented. Therefore, in order to execute this strategy, a radio talk show, "Goft-o-Gu", by paying special attention to the elite and attracting new listeners, will begin work as of mid-May. For this occasion, the conference hall of the Martyrs' Building of Voice and Vision was host yesterday to some academics and executives of Voice and Vision so that an agreement may be reached between the experts, managers, and programmeme writers for creating a suitable model for this radio programmeme.

Among the guests at this ceremony was Mehdi Mohsenian-Rad, who, throughout his speech, spoke consistently of the "red lines" which create obstacles in the way of the programme writers. In reaction to his speech, Mr. Khojasteh, the head of the radio talk show, "Goft-o-Gu," repeatedly confirmed that the values and customs of the society form the red lines of the writers of this radio talk show.

As he is wont to explain to his students in the classroom, Mohsenian-Rad began to divide the listeners, and speaking of professional communicators, he mentioned Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who, by using the Internet, in a single element in communications (weblog), has turned into a professional communicator.

At this meeting, participants presented suggestions for launching a network with the intent of creating a culture of discussion and interaction. Following this discussion, by explaining the goal in launching such a programme within the state-ruled Voice and Vision, he described it as a programme for bringing together various thinking and conflicting viewpoints in order to pay respect to the requests and desires of the listeners.

"Free thinking" was the first phrase to cross Mohsenian-Rad's lips. While considering "free thinking" to be among the main demands of the revolution, he admitted that putting it into action was very difficult. However, from his point of view, defining "the red lines of the radio talk show, 'Goft-o-Gu," was only to protect national interests.

According to him, if the rules (of the red line) in all programmemes are strictly followed, there will be no need for a special committee to supervise censorship of the programme within Voice and Vision. However, during the last presidential elections, Voice and Vision broadcast presidential debates. Thus, for the next elections, upon the agreement of the

Presidential Campaign Council, there are plans for this radio programmeme, whose focus is discussion, to be an active player.

While the head of the "Goft-o-Gu" radio programme was speaking of the presence of conflicting viewpoints, a clip was broadcast which perhaps confirmed his views. One may say that, in this short film, he was among the few reformist figures who had not expressed any view on the meaning of "goft-o-gu" (discussion). Grand Ayatollah Sane'i, Grand Ayatollah Mussavi-Ardebili, and Grand Ayatollah Nuri-Hamedani were among the sources of emulation whom this radio programme had interviewed, and the TV monitor had recorded their interviews. But Mohammad Tavassoli, a member of the nationalist-religious forces, was among other figures whose words had been broadcast a few times, and in response to the invitation of the executors of this radio network, to have him present at the round table discussions, he emphasized: "Is this is a strategic plan? If this is a tactical move, please excuse us." A hesitation was heard in the words of Hashem Sabaghian; when Sabaghian stood in front of this network's cameras, he requested that the people be informed of the things that had not been said about the revolution. Likewise, in a section of this short film, which was repeated twice, Shahla Lahiji said to reporters, "We don't have permission to express our views; and you cannot eliminate the red lines."

Hadi Khaniki, Issa Saharkhiz, Ali Sufi, Ali Mazru'i, and Fatemeh Rake'i were among reformists who faced this network's cameras. In response to being invited, while believing that it was essential that various voices be brought to the fore, they confirmed that the idea of launching such a network was a very good one. However, during discussions with the reformists, as those who were being interviewed spoke of using different ideas, photos of Sa'id Hajjarian were being broadcast.

Among hard-line figures, only (speaker of the Majlis) Haddad Adel and (deputy to the Supreme National Security Council) Mohammad Nahavandian expressed their views in this regard.

Source: E'temad-e Melli, Tehran, in Persian 8 May 06

IRAN

06/05/2006 Iran press: State broadcaster should actively promote nuclear technology

Text of article by Mohammad Reza Taha'i by Iranian weekly Shoma on 6 May

Great achievements in nuclear technology are one of the glorious honours of our nation. It is due to this same honour that today, the Islamic Republic authorities are fighting against the excessive demands of America and Europe. On the other hand, the enemies of the Iranian establishment are doing all they can to defeat the Iranian nation.

One of the means that is currently being used against Iranian nuclear technology and has significant propaganda effect is the discussion about the purposes that Iran can use this technology for. What is abundantly found in the Western media is news about Iran wanting to use uranium enrichment technology to build nuclear weapons and threaten the world and the region. The objective of this propaganda is to create fear and concern for the leaders and maybe even the people of our neighbouring countries.

The wave of this propaganda is unfortunately even entering Iranian public opinion. There are rumours that, for example, nuclear energy is luxurious, extravagant and very costly. Following this claim, it is said that high economic resources are allocated to nuclear technology, while it has a low outcome and efficiency. Or, for example, it is said that using nuclear energy in other scientific fields (including medical science) needs other technologies, which we do not possess at the moment.

Certainly, these doubts and questions have valid and logical answers that can be expressed via normal channels. But, since the officials are busy with tough and complicated political negotiations and neutralizing the enemies' attacks, they do not have the opportunity to explain the benefits of nuclear energy.

Unfortunately, the mass media - especially the IRIB - have not been active enough on this topic and have only discussed its general issues. For example, it has only been said that this technology can be used in medical science, agriculture and industry, but no further details have been offered.

There is the fear that - due to lack of sufficient information - poisonous enemy propaganda influences unsophisticated citizens and endangers national support for nuclear technology. Unfortunately, some political faces are also, willingly or unwillingly, accompanying this foreign propaganda and their views as expressed on websites, in newspapers and at gatherings - which are usually left unanswered - have destructive effects.

Now, it is IRIB's turn to become active and use its extensive potential to produce and broadcast the necessary information on this topic in simple and clear language (so that it can be comprehensible even for high school students).

There are many specialists who have sufficient information on this subject and IRIB has enough resources and experience to do this job; all that is needed is a little determination.

The national media must do this quickly and before the rivals achieve their aims. Perhaps nuclear energy is the only subject that has always been abandoned by the IRIB; the subject of the Holocaust was also not discussed as it should be. However, the art of media, apart from prudence, is to be quick and up to date.

With a glance at the activities of the rivals that are working close to our borders (for example Al-Jazeera in Qatar), the IRIB can see examples of professional and timely activities and evaluate their effects on global viewers.

By these words, God forbid, I do not intend to weaken or discourage the IRIB; it is in fact a warning in order to encourage them.

Source: Shoma, Tehran, in Persian 6 May 06

IRAN

08/05/2006 Iran: President predicts promising future for national press

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website

Tehran, 8 May: President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad here Monday [8 May] predicted a promising future for the national press and said that men of pen in the Iranian community should give momentum to creative forces and promote their potentials.

Speaking during an unplanned visit to the 13th Press and News Agencies Fair, the president referred to the high capacity of the media in dissemination of information and said that the printed media play a decisive role in enlightening the public opinion.

According to a report released by the Media Headquarters of the ongoing fair, the president said that the literary and cultural works helping individuals develop their capabilities, increase their self-confidence, introduce their potentials and encourage their creativity will last.

Turning to the fact that the national press do not include sufficient analysis and criticism, Ahmadinezhad said that it is quite difficult to analyse an event, given it should be treated correctly.

"Dissemination of information and deliberate criticism is one of the needs of the present human community in the press sector. Despite facing growing circulation and reducing budget, the media people should not disregard their major responsibilities," he added.

For his part, the government spokesman Gholamhoseyn Elham, who accompanied Ahmadinezhad in his tour, said that the fair currently underway is a national base for communication among the media as well as between the public and media.

Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1145 gmt 8 May 06

SAUDI ARABIA

11/05/2006 Watchdog reports continuing lack of media freedom in Saudi Arabia

Text of report by Ahmad al-Masri in London entitled "A report by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists talks about the suppression of journalism and journalists in Saudi Arabia; the fiercest press battles in the kingdom are related to religious issues" published on London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi website on 11 May

A recent report released by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists has revealed that censorship of the Saudi media continues. The report said that despite local and international pressure pushing for reform, the government and religious authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia use a wide range of restrictions from behind the scenes to curtail press coverage of sensitive political and religious news. Writers are routinely banned from writing, editors are dismissed from their jobs and news reports are censored, said the report. The report that the Committee for the Protection of Journalists issued yesterday under the title "Princes, clerics and censors" revealed that the fiercest press battles in the kingdom are related to religious issues. The committee also found that daring Saudi journalists are defying what they consider to be a monopolization of the Saudi society by the hard-line religious radicals.

The report mentioned three forces seeking to suppress press freedoms. The first are government officials who dismiss editors or ban and blacklist dissident writers. They also impose a blackout on controversial issues. They ban independent writers to suppress any unwanted criticism and to appease religious quarters. The second force is the religious establishment in the kingdom which exercises strong political pressure against the daring coverage of social, cultural and religious issues. Chief editors in newspapers and official media outlets represent the third force. These are appointed or approved by the government. They seek to suppress controversial news and submit to official pressure to tone down critical coverage and reporting and to silence the critics. The report notes that independent coverage of political news is still almost non-existent in the Saudi media. Sometimes, the newspaper may criticize the performance of the less important government ministries and public institutions. However, topics related to the royal family and friendly foreign governments and references to the spreading corruption, state mismanagement of political and economic affairs, regional divisions and distribution of the oil dividends are topics that are outside the realm of the possible and do not appear in the newspapers. Debates related to important foreign policies and the demands of the Shi'is in the east of the country are banned topics. The report maintains that the fiercest battles raging in Saudi Arabia are related to the coverage of religious issues. The report admits that there are a few courageous Saudi journalists that defy what they consider to be the monopolization of Saudi society by the hard-liners in the religious establishment that propagate extremist stands. However, the report goes on to say that the coverage by these journalists is very restricted due to the tremendous pressure imposed by the clerics, preachers, activists and their allies in the government. The report makes a connection between the suppression of press freedoms and the Al-Salafi teachings of the followers of Muhammad Bin Abd-al-Wahhab. That is why Saudis prefer to debate these concerns in non-Saudi publications or other forums.

But the report argues that the frank debate in which the Saudis are engaged in their homes or at social gatherings known as "diwaniyat", or in coffee shops, satellite television channels and the Internet are an indication of a much better debate in which the country is engaged than the one found in the newspapers. The report points out that senior chief editors of the official newspapers and most journalists see themselves as defenders of the ruling Al-Sa'ud dynasty. Officials ensure their loyalty by pressuring them behind the scenes as they issue directives and instructions regarding sensitive topics and ban coverage of specific topics as they take disciplinary measures against the journalists. The report talks about a campaign of suppression against dozens of editors, writers, academics and other media critics who have been temporarily suspended from writing or dismissed from their jobs or banned from appearing in the Saudi press in the past decade. These measures were taken on orders from the government or the intervention of religious leaders or at the initiative of chief editors. Other journalists have been detained, interrogated by the security authorities and banned from travelling.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists called on the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to affirm that it is committed to respecting and implementing international laws and norms governing freedom of expression. It urged the Saudi government to guarantee pluralism and the freedom of media outlets, including the publication of diverse opinions and viewpoints that may include criticism of government policies. The committee also called on Saudi Arabia to encourage journalists to undertake independent investigative reports; to end all forms of official intervention in the daily operations of newspapers; to rescind all orders that ban the publication of critical writing by journalists; to stop threatening and arresting journalists because of their writing; to encourage independence and diversity in the local press; to end the practice of approving the nomination of chief editors; to facilitate the process of granting the necessary licenses to publish newspapers to all citizens regardless of whether they enjoy the backing of the royal family or the government; and to take immediate steps to privatize media outlets in order to encourage independent reporting and free opinion in the Saudi radio and television stations, including opinions that criticize the government and its policies. The committee also asked the Saudi government to abolish the censorship on Internet news sites.

The report was prepared by Joel Campagna, a senior programme coordinator in the Middle East and North Africa Division of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists. Campagna made two visits to the kingdom during which he carried out a thorough investigation and met more than 80 journalists, writers and editors in Riyadh, Jedda, Dhahran, Al-Dammam and Al-Qatif. He also interviewed senior officials in the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Information. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists is an independent, non-profit organization based in New York, which seeks to protect the freedom of the press in the world.

Source: Al-Quds al-Arabi website, London, in Arabic 11 May 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

10/05/2006 Hamas-Fatah joint committee to monitor media for "incitement" reports

Text of report headlined: "Fatah and Hamas decide to form three media, field, and political committees to follow up on and address all the issues", carried by Palestinian Ma'an News Agency website

Abd-al-Karim Awad, the media spokesman of the Fatah movement, has asserted that the Fatah and Hamas movements decided this evening to form three joint committees, information, field and political, to follow up on all the issues on the Palestinian arena. In an exclusive statement to the Ma'an news agency, Awad said that these decisions were taken during the meeting of the higher coordination committee of the two movements that is represented by Ahmad Halas, Samir al-Mashharawi, and Abd-al-Rahman Hamad for Fatah and by Fathi Hammad, Ahmad al-Ja'bari and Abu-Bakr Nawfal for Hamas. This committee was formed yesterday following the joint meeting with Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyah to contain the regrettable incidents that took place in the Gaza Strip over the past few days. Awad has said that he will represent the Fatah movement in the information committee that has been formed while Sami Abu-Zuhri will represent the Hamas movement.

Information committee

Awad added that the task of the information committee will be to monitor the print and electronic media outlets of the two movements as well as their internet sites to ascertain that their discourse is based on professional and objective foundations as well as on the basis of democracy and the Palestinian values that do not contradict freedom of expression and opinion and of ethics in order to avoid incitement that poisons the domestic climate and in order to stay away from the language of considering others as traitors and infidels, slandering institutions and individuals, and ending the language of defamation and slander in order to build a national Palestinian culture and enlightened public opinion that gives priority to the supreme national interests of the Palestinian people. Awad also stressed that the committee will remain in open session to follow up on all the information issues.

Field committees

He added that the conferees agreed to form field committees in all the regions while insuring that these committees are in constant and direct contact to follow up issues on the field and do what is required to contain them based on a permanent contact mechanism with the higher coordination committee of the two movements.

Political committee

Awad also said that the political committee that has been formed will discuss all the political issues on all levels and basic issues, such as the PLO, or daily living issues that concern the public and how to emerge from the siege that is imposed on the Palestinian people, and to continue the dialogue that aims at reaching common denominators for a political programme so as to emerge from the current crisis.

Source: Ma'an News Agency website, Bethlehem, in Arabic 2049 gmt 10 May 06

16/05/2006 Iran: Leader criticizes Western media

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website

Tehran, 16 May: Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamene'i said on Tuesday [16 May] that international media networks are suffering from an epidemic of ignoring human tragedies at the expense of magnifying small events.

In a meeting with representatives of different national radio and television networks being represented in the Seventh International Conference of Radio Union, the Supreme Leader said that the international media networks easily ignore death of 120,000 Iraqi civilians in US-led invasion of Iraq and instead, they give wide coverage to the bird flu victims.

The Supreme Leader said that a distinctive way of thinking and culture have dominated the international media networks serving interests of large economic enterprises and the hegemonic powers.

"If ethical values and virtue find a way to the administrative system of the international media networks, situation of humanity will improve and they would work for happiness and prosperity of mankind," the Supreme Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamene'i said that the mass media would have positive impacts on improving situation of the mankind and promoting international peace and security, but, they have become as tools in the hands of warmongers to ignite flames of war and promote a certain lifestyle in order to strip different nations of their cultural identity.

"The mass media should serve as a good venue for dialogue among nations in bilateral or multilateral forms to exchange views about culture, ethics and lofty humanitarian values," the Supreme Leader said.

Citing the example of "one-way propaganda of the international mass media", the Supreme Leader said that the international mass media are attributing "weapon production" to Iran's plan to produce nuclear energy, because they are working for the arms manufacturing companies and producers of destructive atomic bombs.

"They are spreading big lies every day. They do not reflect every day systematic genocide of defenceless Palestinians by the Zionist regime, but instead, they give full coverage if an explosion occurs and a few people get injured," Ayatollah Khamene'i said.

Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 1410 gmt 16 May 06

16/05/2006 World media under monopoly of atomic bomb owners - Iran leader

Text of report in English by Iranian Fars News Agency website

Tehran, 16 May: Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution said on Tuesday [16 May] that the world media today are under the full monopoly of those who own the largest arms manufacturing factories and the most destructive atomic bombs.

Speaking during a meeting with the media producers and directors from various countries, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamene'i described media's role crucial and decisive in cultural orientation, thinking views, determination of the nations' identity structure and promotion of spirituality and ethical codes in the society.

Noting that the global cultural and thinking monopoly now dominates the world media, he stressed that in today's world, the media are serving the interests of giant enterprises and hegemonic powers.

Referring to the different effects of the media, the leader stated that while media can improve man's life and spread global peace and security, they can also cause destructive wars, promote harmful traditions, habits and behaviours and destroy identity of the nations.

He also stressed the point that the media could pave the grounds for the free flow of information, bilateral and multilateral dialogues among nations and serve as a means of exchange of cultural and moral concepts.

Ayatollah Khamene'i further stressed that the world media today are under the full monopoly of those who own the largest arms manufacturing factories, possess the most destructive atomic bombs and are in direct opposition to religion, morality, spirituality and peace in the world.

Slamming the performance of the western media, he said owners of money and force today endeavour to portray Islam as synonymous with terrorism and show the United States as a true and complete manifestation of the observation of human rights and democracy.

He further noted the orchestrated propaganda launched by the world media about certain issues and reiterated, "These media make breaking news on the death toll of the bird flu victims, while the disease may have not even claimed even one thousand lives. But at the same time, they do not reflect the massacre of 120 thousand civilians in Iraq."

"The same is true in the case of the murder of the Palestinians by the Zionists. If an explosion occurs and some Zionists are killed, the media highlight it as a catastrophe, but they ignore the everyday massacre of the Palestinians and the Zionist Regime's official and open announcements concerning assassination of the Palestinian activists," the leader stressed.

Concluding his words, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution viewed the aforementioned realities as the chronic disease and problems of the world media today, saying that if the world public opinion knew the truth about Islam and Iran's views about such important global issues as human rights, religious populism, role of religion in people's lives and role of women in social life, then significant changes would take place in the world, many of the existing misunderstandings would be settled down and those who hold power would resultantly find the domain of their decision-making restricted.

Source: Fars News Agency website, Tehran, in English 1508 gmt 16 May 06

IRAQ

15/05/2006 Iraq: Survey on local TV stations in Iraqi Kurdistan Region

Overview

Following the 1991 war and the establishment of a de facto "Safe Haven", Kurds led by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have governed a big part of Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1992, they elected a parliament and formed a Kurdistan regional government. In 1994 and as the consequence of fratricidal war between the two governing parties, the region was split into two zones governed by the PUK and the KDP. Each party has developed its own media outlets, including the three satellite TV stations Kurdistan TV, KurdSat and Zagros TV (See appendix). In addition, the smaller parties have developed their own radio and local TV stations broadcasting terrestrially. Although most households in the Kurdistan Region have satellite dishes, it has been observed that the local terrestrial TV channels have a significant impact on public opinion. The following is an assessment of the local TV stations in the Kurdistan Region. This is an update, conducted in April 2006, of a survey which was carried out in January 2006.

Harem TV

Harem TV is run by the Ministry of Culture of the KDP-led regional government. It covers Arbil and its surrounding areas.

The channel carries a number of cultural and political programmes as well as documentaries in Sorani Kurdish. It also carries weekly programmes in Turkoman and news bulletins in Arabic.

Harem TV is currently undergoing tests to become a satellite TV.

PUK TV - Kurdistan People's TV

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, has its local TV channels in the three major cities of the Kurdistan Region, including Arbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah, as well as in Kirkuk. The Arbil-based station is called PUK Hawler, Kurdistan People's TV, and it started its broadcast on 8 November 1992. Following the fratricidal war and the seizure of Arbil by the KDP on 31 August 1996, the staff abandoned the station. It restarted its transmission on 24 June 2004. In Sulaymaniyah, the Kurdistan People's TV was established on 11 September 1991.

PUK TV broadcasts its programmes in Kurdish and Arabic with Turkoman and Syriac in Kirkuk.

Khak TV

Khak TV was established by Hero Talabani, the wife of the Iraqi president, in 1997. It is a PUK-run station which covers the city of Sulaymaniyah and its close surrounding area.

The channel carries a number of educational, political and entertainment programmes. As the founder of the station is the head of the Kurdistan Save the Children organization, the channel has produced a number of children's programmes and dubbed cartoons.

Some of the discussion programmes broadcast on the satellite KurdSat TV which is also run by Hero Talabani, have been produced by Khak TV. The new and well respected programme called the Third Eye, which is a discussion programme between three to four people from different backgrounds, including officials, writers, journalists and activists, has been initiated by Khak TV. Presenter of the programme Ranj Sengawi said in an interview that some of the "hot critical issues" raised in the discussion will not be broadcast on the KurdSat TV station, because they target local viewers only (interview with Sengawi on April 2006 in Sulaymaniyah).

The channel broadcasts its programmes from 1800 to 2400 local time (1500 to 2100 gmt).

Perwerdayi TV

Perwerdayi TV (educational TV) was established in 2002 by the then Ministry of Education of the PUK-led regional government.

The channel broadcast its programme from 1800 to 2230 local time. It carries mainly educational programmes in Sorani Kurdish.

Yekgirtu TV channels

Kurdistan Islamic Union, the third largest political party in the Kurdistan Region, runs eight channels in different cities and towns of the Kurdistan Region, including Arbil, Sulaymaniyah and Duhok as well as Kirkuk. They are available via terrestrial transmitters.

The Arbil Yekgirtu TV channel began its transmission on 16 March 1995, while the Sulaymaniyah one began on 1 July 1996. Duhok TV channel began in 2004. According to the managing editor of the weekly newspaper Yekgirtu, the authorities in Duhok were reluctant to give permission for the channel. "It was first based in Mosul and later moved to Duhok because of the security situation." (Interview with the managing editor, 21 March 2006).

Yekgirtu TV channels broadcast their programmes from 1700 to 2400 local time. All the channels are sponsored by the Kurdistan Islamic Union. However, the channels "manage to raise money" through advertising.

According to Yekgirtu's managing editor, the Arbil channel is the most popular of the Yekgirtu TVs and has the biggest audience. People in Arbil refer to the channel as "the satellite of poor people".

Yekgirtu carries regular news bulletins three times a day in Kurdish, in both Sorani and Kurmanji dialects, as well as in Arabic.

The channel seems to put an emphasis on educational, social and children's programmes. Criticizing the governing parties for corruption and poor services is one of the reasons why the station is popular not only among the masses, but also among intellectual elites who find it more objective than the official media (interview with a group of independent secular writers, January 2006, Arbil).

The channel has a religious call-in programme through which viewers participate in discussing issues and inquire how to deal with certain problems from an Islamic point of view. Yekgirtu TV relays the Friday prayer ceremony live. The channel carries regular films dubbed by Iranian-run Sahar Universal TV Network.

Yekgirtu TV channels, especially in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah, have evolved greatly and have worked to attain a more professional look and programmes of good quality.

Komal TV

Komal TV is run by the Kurdistan Islamic Group. It is available on terrestrial transmitter in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah.

The Arbil-based station began its transmissions on 20 January 2003 and the Sulaymaniyah one on 31 May 2001.

In addition to its regular news bulletins, the channel carries a number of religious, social, domestic and educational programmes in Sorani Kurdish.

Azadi TV

Azadi is owned by the Kurdistan Communist Party. It is available on terrestrial transmitter in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah. It began its transmission on 23 November 1992 in Sulaymaniyah and in December 1993 in Arbil.

Azadi, like Yekgirtu, is known for relaying critical views on the governing parties and on official media; however, it is less popular than Yekgirtu.

The channel seems to emphasize domestic, regional and international news. It carries cultural, political and social programmes in Sorani Kurdish.

Socialist TV

The station is owned by the Kurdistan Socialist Party. It broadcasts its programmes in Kurdish, and is available both in Sulaymaniyah and Arbil. The channel began broadcasting at the beginning of the 1990s. The station stopped its broadcasts during the fratricidal confrontation between the KDP and the PUK and started again on November 2005 in Arbil.

The channel carries news bulletins, cultural and social programmes in Sorani Kurdish.

Zahmatkeshan TV

Zahmatkeshan TV is run by the Kurdistan Toilers Party. It is available via terrestrial transmitters in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah. It started broadcasting in Arbil on 21 March 1992 and stopped on 31 August 1996, following the fratricidal war between the KDP and the PUK.

The station restarted its transmission in January 2005 in Arbil and in March 1996 in Sulaymaniyah.

The channel carries news bulletins, cultural and social programmes in Sorani Kurdish.

Parezgaran

Parezgaran TV is sponsored by the Conservative Party, which is led by Surchi tribal leaders. It is transmitted in Sulaymaniyah and Arbil in Sorani Kurdish.

Turkoman TV

Turkoman TV is run by the Iraqi Turkoman Front party and broadcasts its programmes in the Turkoman language.

Conclusion

According to a survey on the local TV stations in the Kurdistan Region which was carried out by the Mukryani Centre for Publication and Distribution (MCPD), there is public interest in the local TV channels. Among the channels, Yekgirtu TV channel comes out as the top station; it reaches an audience of 16.5 per cent according to the survey conducted among 485 families in the Arbil region and 27.42 per cent in Duhok. Yekgirtu TV channel is the top channel watched in the Duhok region followed by the satellite TV KurdSat and PUK local TV. In the Arbil and Sulaymaniyah regions, the three satellite networks, including Kurdistan TV, KurdSat and Zagros TV reach the biggest audiences.

Harem TV emerges as the second most popular TV station in the Arbil region. The results of the MCPD survey say that Harem TV reaches an audience of 18.35 per cent among 485 families.

Besides the TV channels, there are a number of radio stations which have a great influence on public opinion. Arbil and Sulaymaniyah each have 15 radio stations broadcasting programmes mainly in Sorani Kurdish. According to the MCPD, the most popular radios in Arbil are Ashti Radio (Peace Radio) which is run by the Kurdistan People's Democratic Movement; Dangi Hawler (Voice of Arbil) and Dangi Kurdistan (Voice of Kurdistan).

In Sulaymaniyah region, Nawa radio, which was founded by a US company on January 2005, is the top station in terms of popularity, followed by the Kurdistan Islamic Union Yekgirtu radio.

In addition to TV and radio stations, the print media in the Kurdistan Region are highly popular among the university and intellectual elites. The most popular newspapers include the weeklies Hawlati, Midya and Aso (Awena was not founded when the survey was carried out). The KDP daily Khabat and the PUK Kurdistani Nuwe come first among the most read daily papers.

The survey by MCPD reveals that Al-Jazeera TV and MBC channels are popular in the Kurdistan Region, followed by the Kurdish satellites TV channels including KurdSat, Kurdistan TV and Zagros.

Please note that during the time this survey was carried out, the recently founded Iranian Kurdish satellite TV stations Rojhelat, Tishk and Komala did not exist.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 15 May 06

16/05/2006 Iraq: Public radio available on the web

The main radio service of the Iraqi Media Network (IMN), Republic of Iraq Radio, is now available on a live audio stream from the organization's website at www.iraqimedianet.net.

The website is available in Arabic, English and Kurdish. The audio stream is accessed via a button on the Arabic and English home pages - these pages and the Kurdish home page also have "Online Streaming" links to two IMN radio and three IMN television audio/video streams, but these links are currently inactive.

The Iraqi Media Network is a public broadcaster set up by the Coalition authorities in the wake of the 2003 Iraq war. Operating nationwide, it runs two radio networks (Republic of Iraq Radio, Holy Koran Radio), three national TV channels (Al-Iraqiyah 1, Al-Iraqiyah 2, Al-Iraqiyah Sports), and the "Al-Sabaah" newspaper.

Source: BBC Monitoring research in English 16 May 06

SAUDI ARABIA

15/05/2006 Saudi king tells journalists to "reduce" violence reports

Saudi King Abdallah has called on Gulf journalists to refrain from reporting violence unless confirmed by a minister. Speaking at a Riyadh meeting with Gulf journalists, reported by Saudi TV, the king said: "We want you to reduce these things and the [reports] about unconfirmed incidents". He told journalists "not to listen to foreign press at all, particularly with regard to Islam or Arabs". "Your credibility is the most important thing", the king added. He said he did not expect the standoff between Iran and the US over Tehran's nuclear program to lead to a military showdown. He described the situation in Iraq as "frightening," saying "killing, blood, and atrocities have all become daily events. This is not acceptable". Concerning the poor, the king said he had ordered investment fund to be set up to assist those on limited income. The following is text of report by Saudi TV carried on 15 May; subheadings inserted editorially:

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Sa'ud, may God protect him, met today at the Royal Office in Al-Yamamah Palace members of the Gulf Journalists Union who participated in the second meeting of the union's secretariat, which ended its meeting in Riyadh today.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques welcomed the members of the Gulf Journalists Union in their homeland the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

[King Abdallah] I welcome you to your second homeland. God willing, all goodness will come from this meeting, which joins our ranks as people of the Gulf and as Arabs. I want to hear from you what happened and the things you agreed upon.

Reporting

[Unidentified speaker] The Gulf Journalists Union was established last year and is headquartered in Bahrain. Last year's meeting was the founding meeting. In today's meeting [members] agreed on the general list, and discussed the union's goals in establishing a cooperative media in the Gulf in addition to the traditional needs such as cooperation, training, and development. However, the main goal is to establish a cooperative Gulf media that is able to face any tendencies from outside the region.

[King Abdallah] I am pleased to see good people, thank God, to serve their religion and homelands. There are good parties in the press and other parties that God knows more about them. God willing, you are of the good parties. I want [to speak] about some pictures that appear in some newspapers [sentence incomplete]. Brothers these [the pictures] are not from within us in the end. One must think whether he accepts that his daughter, sister, or mother or wife appear in such shape. No doubt nobody accepts that. Why [words indistinct] expose the youths, whom as you know now lend themselves to their whims while the soul craves for bad deeds. We want you to reduce these things and the [reports] about unconfirmed incidents. Someone says this and another says that and people write about them. This is in addition to [reports] about your homelands [words indistinct]. Someone writes something trivial and then adds to it, this is improper. If he says something to a minister or contacts one and says we heard such and such, there is some [sentence unfinished]. However, if one only rejoices [in someone else's misfortune], this is not good. May you never see any calamity. That is what to tell you and I want to hear your opinions. Do not listen to the foreign press at all, particularly with regard to Islam or Arabs. Do not listen to them, because Islam is glorious, with God's help and with the sons of Islam, and you are from them. We are not concerned by their talk, [word indistinct]. They know that we know and they know us. However, they want to cheat on us, but no one, blessings to God, can eclipse Islam, never. They know that. I urge you to preserve your faith, patriotism, and morals, which are the most important things. The most important thing is the human being's credibility. Even if you count a person's children and wives, if he does not have credibility, he has no value. The press is even more [word indistinct] in this regard. Your credibility is the most important thing. This is what we hope for you, and God willing all of you have this. However, I am prepared to tell you that you have such [qualities] and more. Your hard work, faith, morals, credibility and patriotism, these are the most important things. Thank you. I want to hear something from you.

[Unidentified journalist] May God enhance the glory of Islam under you.

[King Abdallah] May God enhance the glory Islam by the sons of Islam. [word indistinct].

[Unidentified journalist] [words indistinct] Gulf journalism to repulse this targeting. We hope as journalists to be as good as you believe we are.

[King Abdallah] I did not want to clarify this, but you already did. As the Gulf being a target, no doubt you already know that. It is a target, but God willing, the Gulf's sons will be together for goodness and the Gulf has never neglected our Arab brothers, thank God.

[Unidentified journalist] [word indistinct] The Gulf press is at the forefront of Arab journalism. All the Arab press according to figures and documents is far away from the Gulf press, whether with regard to technical issues, [words indistinct] and the trained cadres working there. What is happening in the kingdom and the Gulf is far from what we saw 30 years ago. Others are looking up to the Gulf now.

[King Abdallah] Thank your God. Thank you. This is all God's Grace. Your Gulf is in good shape and we hope that one day our brothers in Yemen will join us, God willing. No doubt that, whether we want it or not, Yemen is part of the Arab and Islamic nations and part of the Gulf. However, the funds will cover something, and then step by step [sentence unfinished].

[Unidentified journalist] Next week we meet in Yemen.

[King Abdallah] If God is willing. Yemen is the origin of Arabs.

[Unidentified journalist] You were a good follower of the Gulf press and naturally the kingdom's press. The brothers, I believe, will listen to your opinion with regard to the Gulf press and what is published in order to know where are they going and the steps that they need to take in the future.

[King Abdallah] First, faith, patriotism, morals, and credibility. These are the things that I wish this for every Muslim, you are already like this. You are the reflection of your people, so stand by them. No doubt truthfulness is good.

Iran

[Unidentified journalist] There has been some tension within the past two days, escalation between the United States and Iran. What do you expect with regard to this issue, do you expect that it will reach the extent of a military clash, that is another war in the Gulf?

[King Abdallah] I do not believe that. I believe that calm will prevail. They know that Iran knows its rights and duties, towards the homeland and towards the world. The United States is also like that.

[Unidentified journalist] The kingdom is at the forefront of the economies of the region and it is considered the leader in the economic renaissance in the entire region. Anything that affects the Saudi economy affects the economy of the region as whole. If the shares in the Saudi Stock Exchange go up, the same thing happens in the other stock exchanges. We in the press are sometimes blamed: if we write about the positive aspects, we accused of exaggerating matters, and vice versa. So we do not know which road to follow.

[King Abdallah] Moderation; we want a balanced approach in the market. Good will be achieved, God willing. Praise be to God. I thank my God, I thank my God, I thank my God. It is a blessing from God for us, for the people of the Gulf, and for the Arab world, and some parts of the Muslim world. Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. We need to act calmly, and good will come our way, God willing. Some brothers are concerned or alarmed [words indistinct]. I will tell you a secret, I am going to set up a fund to help those with limited income, we do not want to say the poor; one does not like this word. The fund will be set up by the state for those with limited income and their families [words indistinct]. I am concerned about that group of people in particular. As for businessmen, they manage their own businesses.

[unidentified journalist] It is noted that the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] has made a number of achievements in the past period, but the peoples' aspirations exceed these achievements. Ordinary people want to see further cooperation and also want to feel the benefit of the GCC. Is there a new formula to develop the GCC's performance so as to reflect positively on the peoples? Will the council adopt new resolutions on movement of goods among GCC countries?

[King Abdallah] We, this country of yours... all of us represent one unit. Without doubt, all that is between us [words indistinct]. Our lands were destroyed, our money was lost, and we made losses and continue to do so, but Kuwait - with God's help - is now glorious [presumably a reference to the results of Saddam Husayn's invasion of Kuwait]. The Gulf is indivisible. Every Gulf person must remember this. It is an integral part of the Arab nation, and an integral part of the Muslim nation. This is the reality. May God bless you and grant you success. Any question or anything?

Terrorism

[unidentified journalist] The Kingdom's efforts in the war against terrorism have been, thanks be to God, a great success and have led to the elimination of this phenomenon, praise be to God. The media are, of course, a weapon in your hands. All the journalists here and out there are looking forward to hearing your views on this matter. How do you think the media should play their role to confront this phenomenon which is alien to our Gulf, Arab, and Muslim societies?

[King Abdallah] By God, as far as I am concerned, the media have not been negligent. The Media have not been negligent. The Media have not been negligent in fighting this [words indistinct]. The Media have not been negligent. The best example of this is what took place in the Coordination Council. You must have heard about what took place in it, I mean at the Riyadh conference on the war on terrorism. We agreed to everything; all countries agreed on this centre. And this is, O brothers, because the speed of communications is the best weapon against terrorism. And here we are talking from our own experience. Information is the most important thing. This centre, the setting up of which we have proposed to the world, has yet to be implemented, and that despite the fact that everyone said yes to it in principle. This consultative [body] was proposed by brothers [words indistinct], and we decided that it should be set up in Bahrain. This centre is to gather information. Information is the enemy of terrorism. Information is paramount - you must not take like [word indistinct]. We tell some brothers something, we remind them of it later but they still fail to give us [what we asked them for] until the following day. This is unacceptable when it comes to information. Information is [the best weapon] to fight terrorism. God willing, this centre will be set up in Bahrain; everyone is free to join it. As far as we are concerned, we are already in it. All Gulf [states] are in it and helping to set up. Foreign powers are free join in - this is very important.

Iraq

[unidentified journalist] The situation in Iraq - may God protect you - has ramifications on the region. How do you see it?

[King Abdallah] Frightening, frightening, by God frightening. First of all, our brothers in Iraq, [change of thought] I am sure you are all finding it difficult, actually not just yourselves but every human being - not just Muslims and Arabs, every human being is finding it difficult to watch the butchery, the killing, and the chaos. O brothers, [words indistinct] Everyone of us used to shiver, shudder, and have goose bumps when he sees blood but not anymore because killing, blood, and atrocities have all become daily events. This is not acceptable. We are hoping, we hope that God will help Iraq overcome this cloud. We beseech God to guide its good people to cooperate in the interest of Iraq. As far as we are concerned, we are happy to help in anything that serves the interest of Iraq. This is all I had to say to you. I wish you success, and I hope that you could convey my greetings to my brothers in the Gulf and in Yemen, as well as in every Arab and Muslim country. Thank you.

Source: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia TV1, Riyadh, in Arabic 1800 gmt 15 May 06

15/05/2006 King Abdallah tells journalists to "reduce" violence reports

Saudi King Abdallah has called on Gulf journalists to refrain from reporting violence unless confirmed by a minister. Speaking at a Riyadh meeting with Gulf journalists, reported by Saudi TV, the king said: "We want you to reduce these things and the [reports] about unconfirmed incidents". He told journalists "not to listen to foreign press at all, particularly with regard to Islam or Arabs". "Your credibility is the most important thing", the king added. He said he did not expect the standoff between Iran and the US over Tehran's nuclear program to lead to a military showdown. He described the situation in Iraq as "frightening," saying "killing, blood, and atrocities have all become daily events. This is not acceptable". Concerning the poor, the king said he had ordered investment fund to be set up to assist those on limited income. The following is text of report by Saudi TV carried on 15 May; subheadings inserted editorially:

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Sa'ud, may God protect him, met today at the Royal Office in Al-Yamamah Palace members of the Gulf Journalists Union who participated in the second meeting of the union's secretariat, which ended its meeting in Riyadh today.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques welcomed the members of the Gulf Journalists Union in their homeland the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

[King Abdallah] I welcome you to your second homeland. God willing, all goodness will come from this meeting, which joins our ranks as people of the Gulf and as Arabs. I want to hear from you what happened and the things you agreed upon.

Reporting

[Unidentified speaker] The Gulf Journalists Union was established last year and is headquartered in Bahrain. Last year's meeting was the founding meeting. In today's meeting [members] agreed on the general list, and discussed the union's goals in establishing a cooperative media in the Gulf in addition to the traditional needs such as cooperation, training, and development. However, the main goal is to establish a cooperative Gulf media that is able to face any tendencies from outside the region.

[King Abdallah] I am pleased to see good people, thank God, to serve their religion and homelands. There are good parties in the press and other parties that God knows more about them. God willing, you are of the good parties. I want [to speak] about some pictures that appear in some newspapers [sentence incomplete]. Brothers these [the pictures] are not from within us in the end. One must think whether he accepts that his daughter, sister, or mother or wife appear in such shape. No doubt nobody accepts that. Why [words indistinct] expose the youths, whom as you know now lend themselves to their whims while the soul craves for bad deeds. We want you to reduce these things and the [reports] about unconfirmed incidents. Someone says this and another says that and people write about them. This is in addition to [reports] about your homelands [words indistinct]. Someone writes something trivial and then adds to it, this is improper. If he says something to a minister or contacts one and says we heard such and such, there is some [sentence unfinished]. However, if one only rejoices [in someone else's misfortune], this is not good. May you never see any calamity. That is what to tell you and I want to hear your opinions. Do not listen to the foreign press at all, particularly with regard to Islam or Arabs. Do not listen to them, because Islam is glorious, with God's help and with the sons of Islam, and you are from them. We are not concerned by their talk, [word indistinct]. They know that we know and they know us. However, they want to cheat on us, but no one, blessings to God, can eclipse Islam, never. They know that. I urge you to preserve your faith, patriotism, and morals, which are the most important things. The most important thing is the human being's credibility. Even if you count a person's children and wives, if he does not have credibility, he has no value. The press is even more [word indistinct] in this regard. Your credibility is the most important thing. This is what we hope for you, and God willing all of you have this. However, I am prepared to tell you that you have such [qualities] and more. Your hard work, faith, morals, credibility and patriotism, these are the most important things. Thank you. I want to hear something from you.

[Unidentified journalist] May God enhance the glory of Islam under you.

[King Abdallah] May God enhance the glory Islam by the sons of Islam. [word indistinct].

[Unidentified journalist] [words indistinct] Gulf journalism to repulse this targeting. We hope as journalists to be as good as you believe we are.

[King Abdallah] I did not want to clarify this, but you already did. As the Gulf being a target, no doubt you already know that. It is a target, but God willing, the Gulf's sons will be together for goodness and the Gulf has never neglected our Arab brothers, thank God.

[Unidentified journalist] [word indistinct] The Gulf press is at the forefront of Arab journalism. All the Arab press according to figures and documents is far away from the Gulf press, whether with regard to technical issues, [words indistinct] and the trained cadres working there. What is happening in the kingdom and the Gulf is far from what we saw 30 years ago. Others are looking up to the Gulf now.

[King Abdallah] Thank your God. Thank you. This is all God's Grace. Your Gulf is in good shape and we hope that one day our brothers in Yemen will join us, God willing. No doubt that, whether we want it or not, Yemen is part of the Arab and Islamic nations and part of the Gulf. However, the funds will cover something, and then step by step [sentence unfinished].

[Unidentified journalist] Next week we meet in Yemen.

[King Abdallah] If God is willing. Yemen is the origin of Arabs.

[Unidentified journalist] You were a good follower of the Gulf press and naturally the kingdom's press. The brothers, I believe, will listen to your opinion with regard to the Gulf press and what is published in order to know where are they going and the steps that they need to take in the future.

[King Abdallah] First, faith, patriotism, morals, and credibility. These are the things that I wish this for every Muslim, you are already like this. You are the reflection of your people, so stand by them. No doubt truthfulness is good.

Iran

[Unidentified journalist] There has been some tension within the past two days, escalation between the United States and Iran. What do you expect with regard to this issue, do you expect that it will reach the extent of a military clash, that is another war in the Gulf?

[King Abdallah] I do not believe that. I believe that calm will prevail. They know that Iran knows its rights and duties, towards the homeland and towards the world. The United States is also like that.

[Unidentified journalist] The kingdom is at the forefront of the economies of the region and it is considered the leader in the economic renaissance in the entire region. Anything that affects the Saudi economy affects the economy of the region as whole. If the shares in the Saudi Stock Exchange go up, the same thing happens in the other stock exchanges. We in the press are sometimes blamed: if we write about the positive aspects, we accused of exaggerating matters, and vice versa. So we do not know which road to follow.

[King Abdallah] Moderation; we want a balanced approach in the market. Good will be achieved, God willing. Praise be to God. I thank my God, I thank my God, I thank my God. It is a blessing from God for us, for the people of the Gulf, and for the Arab world, and some parts of the Muslim world. Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. We need to act calmly, and good will come our way, God willing. Some brothers are concerned or alarmed [words indistinct]. I will tell you a secret, I am going to set up a fund to help those with limited income, we do not want to say the poor; one does not like this word. The fund will be set up by the state for those with limited income and their families [words indistinct]. I am concerned about that group of people in particular. As for businessmen, they manage their own businesses.

[unidentified journalist] It is noted that the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] has made a number of achievements in the past period, but the peoples' aspirations exceed these achievements. Ordinary people want to see further cooperation and also want to feel the benefit of the GCC. Is there a new formula to develop the GCC's performance so as to reflect positively on the peoples? Will the council adopt new resolutions on movement of goods among GCC countries?

[King Abdallah] We, this country of yours... all of us represent one unit. Without doubt, all that is between us [words indistinct]. Our lands were destroyed, our money was lost, and we made losses and continue to do so, but Kuwait - with God's help - is now glorious [presumably a reference to the results of Saddam Husayn's invasion of Kuwait]. The Gulf is indivisible. Every Gulf person must remember this. It is an integral part of the Arab nation, and an integral part of the Muslim nation. This is the reality. May God bless you and grant you success. Any question or anything?

Terrorism

[unidentified journalist] The Kingdom's efforts in the war against terrorism have been, thanks be to God, a great success and have led to the elimination of this phenomenon, praise be to God. The media are, of course, a weapon in your hands. All the journalists here and out there are looking forward to hearing your views on this matter. How do you think the media should play their role to confront this phenomenon which is alien to our Gulf, Arab, and Muslim societies?

[King Abdallah] By God, as far as I am concerned, the media have not been negligent. The Media have not been negligent. The Media have not been negligent in fighting this [words indistinct]. The Media have not been negligent. The best example of this is what took place in the Coordination Council. You must have heard about what took place in it, I mean at the Riyadh conference on the war on terrorism. We agreed to everything; all countries agreed on this centre. And this is, O brothers, because the speed of communications is the best weapon against terrorism. And here we are talking from our own experience. Information is the most important thing. This centre, the setting up of which we have proposed to the world, has yet to be implemented, and that despite the fact that everyone said yes to it in principle. This consultative [body] was proposed by brothers [words indistinct], and we decided that it should be set up in Bahrain. This centre is to gather information. Information is the enemy of terrorism. Information is paramount - you must not take like [word indistinct]. We tell some brothers something, we remind them of it later but they still fail to give us [what we asked them for] until the following day. This is unacceptable when it comes to information. Information is [the best weapon] to fight terrorism. God willing, this centre will be set up in Bahrain; everyone is free to join it. As far as we are concerned, we are already in it. All Gulf [states] are in it and helping to set up. Foreign powers are free join in - this is very important.

Iraq

[unidentified journalist] The situation in Iraq - may God protect you - has ramifications on the region. How do you see it?

[King Abdallah] Frightening, frightening, by God frightening. First of all, our brothers in Iraq, [change of thought] I am sure you are all finding it difficult, actually not just yourselves but every human being - not just Muslims and Arabs, every human being is finding it difficult to watch the butchery, the killing, and the chaos. O brothers, [words indistinct] Everyone of us used to shiver, shudder, and have goose bumps when he sees blood but not anymore because killing, blood, and atrocities have all become daily events. This is not acceptable. We are hoping, we hope that God will help Iraq overcome this cloud. We beseech God to guide its good people to cooperate in the interest of Iraq. As far as we are concerned, we are happy to help in anything that serves the interest of Iraq. This is all I had to say to you. I wish you success, and I hope that you could convey my greetings to my brothers in the Gulf and in Yemen, as well as in every Arab and Muslim country. Thank you.

Source: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia TV1, Riyadh, in Arabic 1800 gmt 15 May 06

16/05/2006 Saudi king stresses "importance of credibility" in media reports

Text of report in English by Saudi news agency SPA websit

Riyadh, 16 May: The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abd-al-Aziz has underlined the importance of credibility in press works and said anything which lacks credibility is worthless. "The credibility of the press is an essential matter," he said in an address during a meeting here on Monday [15 May] with members of the Gulf Press Federation, who are participating in Federation's second General Assembly, now in progress in the Saudi capital.

During the reception, Turki Al-Sudeiry, chairman of the Federation, and who is also the editor-in-chief of Al-Riyadh Arabic newspaper, briefed the Monarch on the activities of the Federation.

In his address, King Abdullah expressed happiness for meeting the members of the Federation, but he voiced criticism over some disgraceful photographs and some inaccurate reports which are published in some newspapers. The King said "we should never listen to the biased reports of the foreign press notably when these reports are full of hatred towards Islam and Arabs". "Moreover, I do urge for adherence and commitment to your belief and morals and to remain sincere to your nation," he added.

Responding to questions raised by newsmen, King Abdullah said "the Gulf region is a target for certain quarters". He expressed hope that Yemen would one day join the Gulf states, and said Yemen is an indivisible part of the Arab nation and the Gulf. "Moreover, Yemen is the origin of the Arabs."

On the ongoing escalation between Iran and the USA, the King said "I do not think that matters will lead to a military confrontation" and added "Iran is aware of its right as well as its national and international duty, and America also knows this".

King Abdullah said "we are concerned with the environment, because in case of any unhappy development not only Iran but also the Gulf region will be harmed". "I do believe that Iran has wise men who take into account the interest of their own country as well as the interest of others," he added.

The Monarch underscored the importance of moderation and said it is good in all cases even in the case of the stock markets, and added "we should behave quietly". He hoped that the investors will be aware of how to deal with (fluctuations) in the stock market.

The King made it clear that he is planning to establish a fund for persons who are of limited income. "This fund will not allow persons to deposit in it more than 500,000 Saudi riyals." He said the fund will work for two years, if it gains profits then the depositors will benefit, otherwise their capitals will be preserved.

The King said he had dispatched persons abroad about 25 days ago to brief others on this matter. "Despite the fact that the capitals owners will say the idea may be difficult to be carried out, yet I am determined on carrying it out," he noted.

King Abdullah urged the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states to further enhance cooperation in confronting challenges facing them. "But, we should not forget the important fact that the Gulf is an indivisible part of the Arab and Muslim nation," he said.

He lauded the significant role played by the press in combating terrorism, and said it is capable of playing an important role in this respect.

At a GCC Consultative Meeting, King Abdullah said it was agreed to establish a Centre of combating terrorism in Bahrain. The centre will be a proper channel to confront terrorism, adding that information plays a key and vital role to counter and expose terrorism, he said.

The King said the situation in Iraq is fearful, and expressed sorrow over the deteriorating situation there. "It is hoped that the Iraqis will cooperate for the sake of their own country, and we will be ready to do anything that may serve the interests of Iraq." "What happens in Iraq will have an impact on us, and you, the pressmen, be careful and alert about information you may receive," he said. "Your enemy is keen on dividing your ranks," he added.

The reception was attended by Minister of Culture and Information Iyad Madani.

Source: SPA news agency website, Riyadh, in English 0000 gmt 16 May 06

16/05/2006 Saudi king criticizes inaccurate reporting at media gathering

Text of report in English by Saudi news agency SPA website

Riyadh, 16 May: The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah Bin Abd-al-Aziz has underlined the importance of credibility in press works and said anything which lacks credibility is worthless.

"The credibility of the press is an essential matter," he said in an address during a meeting here on Monday [15 May] with members of the Gulf Press Federation, who are participating in Federation's second General Assembly, now in progress in the Saudi capital.

During the reception, Turki Al-Sudayri, the Chairman of the Federation and who is also the editor-in-chief of Al-Riyadh Arabic newspaper, briefed the Monarch on the activities of the Federation.

In his address, King Abdallah expressed happiness for meeting the members of the Federation, but he voiced criticism over some disgraceful photographs and some inaccurate reports which are published in some newspapers.

The king said "we should never listen to the biased reports of the foreign press notably when these reports are full of hatred towards Islam and Arabs".

"Moreover, I do urge for adherence and commitment to your belief and morals and to remain sincere to your nation," he added.

Responding to questions raised by newsmen, King Abdallah said "the Gulf region is a target for certain quarters".

He expressed hope that Yemen would one day join the Gulf states, and said Yemen is an indivisible part of the Arab nation and the Gulf. "Moreover, Yemen is the origin of the Arabs."

On the ongoing escalation between Iran and the US, the king said "I don't think that matters will lead to a military confrontation' and added "Iran is aware of its right as well as its national and international duty, and America also knows this."

King Abdallah said "we are concerned with the environment, because in case of any unhappy development not only Iran but also the Gulf region will be harmed."

"I do believe that Iran has wise men who take into account the interest of their own country as well as the interest of others," he added.

The monarch underscored the importance of moderation and said it is good in all cases even in the case of the stock markets, and added "we should behave quietly".

He hoped that the investors will be aware of how to deal with (fluctuations) in the stock market.

The king made it clear that he is planning to establish a fund for persons who are of limited income. "This fund will not allow persons to deposit in it more than 500,000 Saudi riyals."

He said the fund will work for two years, if it gains profits then the depositors will benefit, otherwise their capitals will be preserved.

The king said he had dispatched persons abroad about 25 days ago to brief others on this matter. "Despite the fact that the capitals owners will say the idea may be difficult to be carried out, yet I am determined on carrying it out," he noted.

King Abdallah urged the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states to further enhance cooperation in confronting challenges facing them.

" But, we should not forget the important fact that the Gulf is an indivisible part of the Arab and Muslim nation," he said.

He lauded the significant role played by the press in combating terrorism, and said it is capable of playing an important role in this respect.

At a GCC Consultative Meeting, King Abdallah said it was agreed to establish a Centre of combating terrorism in Bahrain.

The centre will be a proper channel to confront terrorism, adding that information plays a key and vital role to counter and expose terrorism, he said.

The king said the situation in Iraq is fearful, and expressed sorrow over the deteriorating situation there. "It is hoped that the Iraqis will cooperate for the sake of their own country, and we will be ready to do anything that may serve the interests of Iraq."

"What happens in Iraq will have an impact on us, and you, the pressmen, be careful and alert about the information you may receive," he said, adding "your enemy is keen on dividing your ranks," he said.

The reception was attended by minister of culture and information Iyad Madani.

Source: SPA news agency website, Riyadh, in English 16 May 06

SAUDI ARABIA

10/05/2006 Saudi Arabia: Electronic newspaper Ilaf, ban rumoured to be lifted

Text of report by Fahd al-Shuway'ir in Riyadh entitled: "Rumours about lifting ban on electronic newspaper Ilaf", published by Saudi newspaper Al-Jazirah website on 10 May

A rumour is circulating that the ban imposed on electronic newspaper Ilaf, which is owned by Saudi media figure Uthman al-Umayr, six months ago will be lifted according to arrangements made by quarters that were responsible for blocking it.

Colleague Sultan al-Qahtani, who is in charge of Saudi affairs in Ilaf, has said the imminent return of Ilaf will be a natural result of ongoing reform in the kingdom. Asked whether this ban has had an effect on the popularity of the paper, Al-Qahtani said: "We have lost a piece of the cake, but not all of it, since Ilaf is an international paper read worldwide."

As for the consequences of this ban on the website and its earnings, Al-Qahtani said: "It has had some consequences of course but we have new interactive projects in store that will have a good financial return in the future." He added: "We are also planning to increase communication with the new generation of the 21st century that consider the internet their language and medium."

Ilaf was blocked in Saudi Arabia after an article by one of its readers caused various local problems, for which the paper apologized and removed from its website minutes after posting it. According to Al-Qahtani, this was possible due to "fast pace of the electronic press".

Source: Al-Jazirah website, Riyadh, in Arabic 10 May 06

18/05/2006 Western media misquote king's remarks on women's pictures - Saudi paper

Excerpt from report in English by Sumayya Jabarti in Jedda headlined: "[Saudi King] Abdallah did not ban women's pictures?"]by Saudi newspaper Arab News website on 18 May; subheadings inserted editorially

Once again the wire services and international news agencies got it wrong by misquoting Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah. The agencies had said that the king had banned publication of women's pictures in the local media while talking to senior Gulf journalists in Riyadh on Monday [15 May]. At that meeting, King Abdallah was airing his views on pictures published in the media.

He pointed out that the publication of provocative pictures of women was not in line with the Kingdom's way of life.

The king said, "There are photographs published in some newspapers ... and one needs to think if one would want one's daughter, sister or wife to appear like that. Of course, no one would."

King Abdallah was referring to pictures which are used for the sake of sensationalism. At no point during his meeting with the editors did the king warn local media against publishing pictures of Saudi women, as reported by the news agencies. The wire agencies completely misinterpreted and misrepresented the king's views.

A senior official from the Ministry of Culture and Information also denied reports that the king had banned publication of women's pictures in the local media. "King Abdallah has not issued any royal decree against the publication of women's pictures in Saudi media," the official told Arab News.

The official, who heard Abdallah speaking to the journalists, said: "The king was referring to indecent pictures in general and not women's pictures in particular. He didn't allude to women at all."

A Gulf editor who was present at the meeting said that the king was misquoted. "This is exactly what the king was advising against - sensationalism," he said.

King Abdallah has always called for responsible and objective journalism. During his meetings with Saudi editors in chief the king has stated that he believed in constructive criticism and that he was a friend of the media. "King Abdallah didn't talk about stopping publication of women's pictures," said the editor in chief of a leading Saudi daily who was present at the Riyadh meeting. "What's being reported about what the king said is totally inaccurate," he added.

"There is no such ban and the evidence is that all Saudi newspapers continue to publish pictures of Saudi as well as non-Saudi women," he pointed out.

He added, "The king has actively involved women in the various delegations that accompanied him during his recent foreign tours. He also appeared in pictures with Saudi women, which have been published by the media."

In his speech, King Abdallah also warned the media against "hurting the country" in comments that appeared to refer to a stock market crash that began earlier this year. "I ask you to go easy on ... unclear issues based on rumours and not to write things that hurt your country," he said.

"Some correspondents just want to stand out and they go too far. If he has something, he should go to the relevant minister to clear up the picture. Others just want to laugh at misfortune and that's not our way." [Passage omitted]

Source: Arab News website, Jedda, in English 18 May 06

IRAN

19/05/2006 Hamas to launch radio, paper and satellite network - Iranian agency

Text of report by Iranian Fars News Agency website

Tehran, 19 May: The information dissemination representative of Hamas in Tehran has said: The Islamic Resistance Movemement (Hamas) will set up satellite and radio networks as well as a newspaper in the near future.

Speaking to Fars, Ahmad Hamdan said: Hamas does not have a newspaper exclusively for itself, but many newspapers express its viewpoints and opinion. However, in the future, we will express our opinion in Hamas newspaper.

He said: We have specific plans for the circulation of Hamas newspaper and how to publish it. But in view of the current developments, we cannot reveal the financial sources of the newspaper now.

Hamdan added: Hamas's satellite and radio networks will be launched after the necessary planning and reviewing the financial aspects.

The Hamas representative in Tehran elaborated on the movement's internet websites and said: At the moment, we have a few active internet websites, the most famous of which is Shahid Izz-al-Din al-Qassam website for Palestine. The website publishes all its material in seven languages and has millions of hits everyday.

He said: Many regional newspapers and news agencies use the Palestinian information centre as their news source.

Hamdan added: In the future, internet websites in cultural, social and political fields will be set up. The websites will not carry the name of Hamas but will express its views and opinions.

He said Hamas media were strong and unique, adding: Hamas considers its media as a winning and strong card in influencing public opinion. The media have a pre-designed and comprehensive plan and will perform rationally.

Hamdan referred to the campaigns by the Islamic Resistance Movement and Hamas during the elections, saying: This [the result of the elections] is the main reason to claim that Hamas has a good and comprehensive information dissemination plan.

He described Hamas's position in the Lebanese press as unique, adding: We have a special place in the Lebanese and Arab media and their media have focused most of their activities on Hamas.

Hamdan also referred to Hamas's position in the Iranian media, adding: Most of the Iranian media, including news agencies and newspapers have a flavour of Palestine without even having direct links with it. Hamas will have more cooperation with Iranian media soon.

Source: Fars News Agency website, Tehran, in Persian 1233 gmt 19 May 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

17/05/2006 West Bank and Gaza: Hamas deputies say government should control state media

Text of report by Akram al-Lawh in Gaza headlined "Two Hamas Deputies Call For Placing Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation and Wafa Under Government Control; They Affirm Government Established a Division To Monitor Radio Stations and Electronic Sites", published by Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah on 17 May

A number of media personnel, scholars, intellectuals and reporters working with local, Arab and international mass media have called for the media to abide by professionalism and objectivity in the work of the media, owing to the sensitivity of the current situation. They affirmed that the contradiction and ambiguity in the media's vision are due to the absence of official spokesmen for the government institutions and ministries.

Participants in a symposium organized by Al-Thurayya Media Organization in Gaza City, titled "Mass Media: Between Objectivity and Misleading," emphasized that broadcasters should look for truth and not hide it. They added that all truth should be published to the masses and that local stations should be mirrors that reflect everything in the arena, negative or positive, even if it does not conform to the vision of a certain party or group.

The chief of the Prime Minister's Office, Muhammad al-Madhun, said: "These days, the mass media are ahead of many of the authorities because the journalist has a great ability to change and influence public opinion." He added: "The media reflect the culture in which we live. It should be a national reality that aims to serve the national cause and should exercise neutrality and objectivity."

Al-Madhun added: "Our people are experiencing a period of information that is dominated by a partisan culture, the lack of any control over the mass media, a weak performance on the part of the government mass media and the inability of the journalists' syndicate to carry out its tasks." He pointed out that this contributes to the appearance of negative aspects, such as cursing, defamation, causing unrest and media exaggeration for the sake of promoting the party and belittling the government's performance, in addition to total dependence on Israeli news and sources. Al-Madhun called for accuracy, credibility and objectivity in publishing any news. He also mentioned that there is a government division for monitoring all mass media and local and Arab electronic sites.

Yahya Musa, a Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council Member, said: "The media constitute part of the national security for any country." He added that we are suffering from government media and affirmed that these media should contribute to creating a feeling of commitment to the cause with a mission towards unity. He also pointed out that the mass media could have a margin everywhere, but that our Palestinian media should have a committed and national stance.

Yahya also pointed out that attaching the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation and the official news agency to the Office of the President created a state of constant dispute with the government.

Musa believes that mass media are among the important issues and should be placed under the Ministry of Information so that the Legislative Council can hold the minister to account, since it has no authority over the president. He pointed out that there is information lawlessness, and he called for the need to hold those responsible for it to account and to control this lawlessness.

Fatah spokesman Abd-al-Hakim Awad said: "The mass media greatly affect our domestic front. Our mass media played a role under very difficult and harsh circumstances in facing occupation."

He condemned the recent accusations that today's mass media are playing a different role because the opinion they express does not appeal to some. He said: "No one can use mass media in favour of a special partisan stance. Likewise, it is not possible to separate the mass media from what is taking place in the internal Palestinian arena. Each side is linked to the other."

Awad added: "For its news, the Youth Radio [Gaza-based Al-Shabab Radio which broadcasts in the name of the Fatah Movement] depends on reliable, professional and objective sources. It avoids the fabrication of news, and before it publishes any material, it is scrutinized very carefully." He also pointed out that it is not possible to judge the news from one perspective.

Sayf-al-Din Shahin, Al-Arabiya satellite channel reporter in Gaza, said: "We simply considered the latest events in the Gaza Strip between Fatah and Hamas as just skirmishes. We were able to inform the Arab viewers of the situation. We reported matters as they are on each side, and we measured them with a gold balance." He also pointed out that every person has his/her own likings and political mood, but these should be disregarded as much as possible. He affirmed that the satellite channels reported the events as they were and with objectivity, but that this matter was subject to discussion through evidence and proof.

Shahin added: "Responsibility for all the events lies not with the mass media, but with those who filled the Palestinian public from their narrow group perspective, and it also lies with all the factions. The issue is not related to reporters, because if we do not report some news, it will be reported by the local stations." He pointed out that in the fervour of internal struggles, politicians used to compete to debate each other on the satellite channels.

The head of the BBC's office in Gaza said: "The media should be an independent authority. I do not agree with Legislative Council member Yahya Musa, who calls for exercising control over the media, which should not be attached to the government or the presidency and should be independent." He added: "Any radio station is keen to reach the greatest number of people. If it does not reach this goal, it should disappear. We are not on the frontline to change the reality of the struggle in the Palestinian street."

Abu-Shammalah disapproved of the use of terms like "informed sources, a responsible source, private sources, Palestinian sources or medical sources." He affirmed that this contradicts professionalism, objectivity and proper press work. He said: "This may be due to the lack of designated spokesmen for the ministries or institutions. However, the institutions and parties should appoint spokesmen, and media institutions should quote these official persons."

Abu-Shammalah added: "It is not the responsibility of any radio station or newspaper to hide the facts. They should look for these facts, follow them up, and publish them all for the people to see. I do not agree with hiding these facts. Each fact should be communicated to every citizen, who should judge for himself."

It is worth noting that the first session was concluded by presenting a report containing audio selections by reporters from private radio stations. The report, as a whole, aimed at monitoring the terms, which the report called inciting, used by the various radio stations.

Awad commented on the report by saying that it did not take the positive aspect of the media into consideration. He affirmed that it is not possible to separate between the media and what happens in the street. He added: "It is important that we seek to rectify the roles, focus on mistakes, and try to evaluate and correct them, rather than ignore them."

Abu-Shammalah said the report should have identified the source from which the recordings were made. He added that even the language used by the reporters was not sound, "if we had discussed what we heard, it would have been useful. These issues should be discussed. With respect to the voice excerpt from Al-Hurriyyah radio station [pro-Fatah] discussing the issue of medical referrals for treatment abroad, the report considered it inciting against the government."

Dr Mahmud Khalifah, director-general of publications in the Ministry of Information, expressed his rejection of the opinion of Yahya Musa, who wanted the media to be censored. He affirmed that the ministry has no censors for the media. He added that Musa's suggestion to place the official mass media under government control was not practical, because these institutions have never been under the information minister in any government. He also called for calling a spade a spade.

Khalifah inquired: "If we need censors, what is the role of the Publications Law, which would need to be amended in order to be in harmony with such suggestions?"

Khalifah added: "The report by Al-Thurayya Organization is not objective. It is absolutely misleading." He affirmed that the local radio stations should mirror everything in the arena, negative or positive.

Source: Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Ramallah, in Arabic 17 May 06

AFGHANISTAN

15/05/2006 Afghanistan: US Army sponsors new radio in Zabol Province

A radio station sponsored by the US Commander's Emergency Relief Programme has opened in the southeastern province of Zabol, the US Defence Department's Defend America website reported on 15 May.

The station, called 936 AM, cost approximately 200,000 dollars and took six months to complete. Its programmes will include talk radio, music and a message board which will be available to local residents.

At the opening ceremony, held in Qalat on 20 April, 200 portable radios were given out to those present and children were shown how to tune to 936 AM.

Source: Department of Defense Defend America website in English 15 May 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

21/05/2006 West Bank and Gaza: Hamas official denounces attack on Al-Jazeera cars

Text of report by Palestinian news agency Wafa website

Nablus, 21 May: Mr Adnan Asfur, political leader and Hamas spokesman in the West Bank, denounced today what has been committed against the office of Al-Jazeera satellite Channel Television in the West Bank city of Ramallah; namely setting its cars on fire.

In statements to the press, of which Wafa received a copy, Asfur considered the attack on Al-Jazeera office as an attempt to silence the truth spoken by the free media, explaining that media outlets that go for freedom of expression and convey the truth to the public should be respected and honoured not threatened and attacked.

Asfur hoped that the attack was accidental and not planned by parties that run after personal gains, pointing out that if the attack was deliberate, the freedom of speech and media in Palestine are entering a dangerous stage.

While calling on all legal sides to investigate the reasons behind this incident, Asfur called on the journalists association to activate its role in protecting and defending journalists, which is a duty that should be performed regardless of any factional interests.

Source: Palestinian news agency Wafa website, Gaza, in Arabic 1315 gmt 21 May 06

AFGHANISTAN

23/05/2006 BBC Monitoring assessment of Taleban website

The site was first observed on 20 June 2005 at http://www.alemarah.com. The site disappeared after a few months. Called Voice of Jihad (Pashto: Da Jehad Zhagh), it was once again observed in April 2006 at a new address http://www.alemarah.cjb.net. On 21 May the site moved to http://www.alemarah.org.

The website declares that it is run by the Cultural Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The site has also got an Arabic page (Sawt al-Jihad) and an English page. The Arabic page is updated regularly but is not as extensive and does not update as regularly as the Pashto page. The English page cannot be accessed. The new site has more content than the previous one and is updated regularly, with the news section updated practically on a daily basis.

Homepage

The site's homepage carries a verse from the Koran, a photograph (based on the topic of the week) and links to the following pages:

· Messages from the leadership

· News

Interviews

Newspapers and magazines

Picture gallery

Martyrdom-seeking operations

Afghanistan in world's press

Poetry and literature

Films and songs

Books

Articles

Messages from the leadership

Messages by Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar on various occasions. Last updated 30 March 2006.

News

Brief news reports on fighting in various provinces of Afghanistan. Last updated 22 May 2006. The page also has a link to the Taleban constitution. The link is, however, not working. The page also carries the names and contact details of Taleban spokesmen. The official spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is Abdol Hay Motma'in. His two deputies are: Dr Mohammad Hanif, spokesman for southeast and northeast regions, telephone numbers 008821689855148 and 009379095541, email address gran@inbox.com, and Qari Mohammad Yusof Ahmadi, spokesman for northwest and southwest regions, 008821621527652, email address alfarhad2005@yahoo.com.

Interviews

Video interviews with a number of Taleban members some of whom have been released from the coalition forces' detention centres. Last updated 12 March 2006.

Newspapers and magazines

Links to a number of pro-Taleban journals mainly published in Pakistan:

1. Morchal (Trench): Published by the Cultural Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

2. Tsrek (alternative spelling Srek - meaning "Trail")

3. Tora Bora

4. Mojahed Zhagh (Voice of Mojahed)

5. Zamir weekly

Picture gallery

Among the pictures shown are those of US soldiers, wounded children, soldiers searching women and children, scenes of destruction.

Martyrdom-seeking operations

Video testimony of suicide bombers. Last updated March 2006.

Afghanistan in world's press

This page is under construction.

Poetry and literature

Poems about jihad, Islam and patriotism.

Films and songs

Films of military operations, bomb making and roadside bombings, video and audio of unaccompanied songs in Pashto about Islam and jihad.

Books

List of books about Islam and jihad which is, however, difficult to access.

Articles

This page offers list of articles about Islam and jihad.

Contacts

The following e-mail addresses are listed:

alemarah@alemarah.net

alemarah1@yahoo.com

Source: BBC Monitoring research in Dari and Pashto 23 May 06

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MIDDLE EAST

22/05/2006 (Corrected) Saudi-owned paper views blogging in Middle East

(Changing the language in the sourceline from Arabic to English. A corrected version of the item follows:)

Text of article in English by Diana Mukkaled (see note below) headlined "Governments versus bloggers: the battle continues", published on London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat website on 22 May

In the past year, I have written twice about the growth of the blog phenomenon on the internet and its spread in Western societies. Weblogs are becoming a prime source of news, information and opinion, reflecting the writer's particular standpoint.

In the Middle East, misconceptions about the phenomenon appear to be diminishing as the number of Arabic blogs rises. These online journals contain personal thoughts and concerns, and feature a discussion of the author's political worries and the problems her or she faces in daily life.

As blogs grow in numbers and influence, Arab states have become worried.

A number of bloggers have been arrested in Bahrain, Syria and Tunisia. Throughout the recent conflict between the Egyptian government and the judiciary, bloggers have expressed their solidarity with the judges on the internet. When the security forces arrested a number of protestors who took to the street in support of the judges, six of those detained were renowned bloggers. They included Alaa Ahmad Said al-Islam, who started a blog with his wife Manal.

Remarkably, even after Alaa and other protestors were detained by the Egyptian security forces, they were able to tell the world about their arrest through their blogs. It remains to be seen how they were able to smuggle out their writings from jail; perhaps they were able to send messages via mobile phones. Alaa's online entry about the incident proved very popular, propelling his blogs into one of the most vital pages on the internet, filled with opinions and counter-arguments, in a free environment that no other medium can replicate.

The detention of Egyptian bloggers created an electronic turmoil that is no less important than the demonstrations in the streets of Cairo. Egyptian bloggers have received numerous messages of support but have also been mocked and derided.

Alaa and other Egyptian bloggers' popularity reflect the inability of government to control or restrict communication between individuals and the exchange of ideas and opinions. In these circumstances, one has to feel grateful for modern technologies as well as the sheer determination of activists and young people in using these technologies to overcome surveillance, arrest and detention.

While the police did not hesitate to use force and beat Egyptian protestors and bloggers, this has only made them more determined and reaffirmed the importance of weblogs.

[In a biographical note Al-Sharq al-Awsat added: "Diana Mukkaled is a prominent and well respected TV journalist in the Arab world, thanks to her phenomenal show `Bil Ayn al-Mojarada' (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries around controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satellite channel Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, covering both the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli `Grapes of Wrath' massacre in southern Lebanon. Daring to do superb investigative work in Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen and Iraq (prior to the collapse of Saddam's regime) and dedicating entire episodes of `Bil Ayn al-Mojarada' to issues such as `honour crimes' in Jordan, Diana has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time magazine in 2004. Diana writes a weekly column for Al-Sharq al-Awsat Media Supplement, where she discusses current affairs in Arab and world media.]

Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, London, in English 22 May 06

22/05/2006 Saudi-owned paper views blogging in Middle East

Text of article in English by Diana Mukkaled (see note below) headlined "Governments versus bloggers: the battle continues", published on London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat website on 22 May

In the past year, I have written twice about the growth of the blog phenomenon on the internet and its spread in Western societies. Weblogs are becoming a prime source of news, information and opinion, reflecting the writer's particular standpoint.

In the Middle East, misconceptions about the phenomenon appear to be diminishing as the number of Arabic blogs rises. These online journals contain personal thoughts and concerns, and feature a discussion of the author's political worries and the problems her or she faces in daily life.

As blogs grow in numbers and influence, Arab states have become worried.

A number of bloggers have been arrested in Bahrain, Syria and Tunisia. Throughout the recent conflict between the Egyptian government and the judiciary, bloggers have expressed their solidarity with the judges on the internet. When the security forces arrested a number of protestors who took to the street in support of the judges, six of those detained were renowned bloggers. They included Alaa Ahmad Said al-Islam, who started a blog with his wife Manal.

Remarkably, even after Alaa and other protestors were detained by the Egyptian security forces, they were able to tell the world about their arrest through their blogs. It remains to be seen how they were able to smuggle out their writings from jail; perhaps they were able to send messages via mobile phones. Alaa's online entry about the incident proved very popular, propelling his blogs into one of the most vital pages on the internet, filled with opinions and counter-arguments, in a free environment that no other medium can replicate.

The detention of Egyptian bloggers created an electronic turmoil that is no less important than the demonstrations in the streets of Cairo. Egyptian bloggers have received numerous messages of support but have also been mocked and derided.

Alaa and other Egyptian bloggers' popularity reflect the inability of government to control or restrict communication between individuals and the exchange of ideas and opinions. In these circumstances, one has to feel grateful for modern technologies as well as the sheer determination of activists and young people in using these technologies to overcome surveillance, arrest and detention.

While the police did not hesitate to use force and beat Egyptian protestors and bloggers, this has only made them more determined and reaffirmed the importance of weblogs.

[In a biographical note Al-Sharq al-Awsat added: "Diana Mukkaled is a prominent and well respected TV journalist in the Arab world, thanks to her phenomenal show `Bil Ayn al-Mojarada' (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries around controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satellite channel Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, covering both the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli `Grapes of Wrath' massacre in southern Lebanon. Daring to do superb investigative work in Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen and Iraq (prior to the collapse of Saddam's regime) and dedicating entire episodes of `Bil Ayn al-Mojarada' to issues such as `honour crimes' in Jordan, Diana has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time magazine in 2004. Diana writes a weekly column for Al-Sharq al-Awsat Media Supplement, where she discusses current affairs in Arab and world media.]

Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, London, in Arabic 22 May 06

PAKISTAN

19/05/2006 Pakistan: New managing director takes charge at state television

Text of report by Pakistani newspaper Dawn website on 19 May

Ashraf Azim has assumed charge as new managing director of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). Soon after assuming the office the new managing director announced to revive the quarterly General Managers Conference of PTV and vowed to use all his capabilities to improve the standard of PTV programmes.

According to a press release issued here, Ashraf Azim addressed the directors of the PTV and asked them to play a vibrant role to improve the performance of their concerned departments.

He expressed his determination to set new tradition in media and said the PTV would provide healthy entertainment to the viewers which would also reflect the country's civilization.

He also held a meeting with the employees of the PTV and said experienced employees of the organization were a valuable asset for the PTV. He said his doors would remain open for all employees as it was the duty of all to work collectively for the betterment of the organization.

The newly-appointed managing director of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV), Ashraf Azim, on Saturday [20 May] said a housing scheme for PTV employees would shortly be launched.

Addressing the Central Employees Union of the PTV, he said negotiations for a housing scheme for the corporation's employees were under way and they would soon hear good news. He said his topmost priority was the progress of the organization and sought cooperation of the employees in this regard.

Source: Dawn website, Karachi, in English 19 May 06

SAUDI ARABIA

16/05/2006 Saudi Arabia: Fifth TV channel to cover major events live

Text of report by Saudi newspaper Al-Jazirah website on 16 May

The Culture and Information Ministry is preparing to announce a fifth Saudi channel to specialize in broadcasting live feeds of activities taking place throughout the Kingdom. This channel will be a surprise in its resources and mechanism.

There are also development plans that include current Saudi channels, including plans to introduce modern technology and programmes at the level of aspirations that can compete with the best satellite channels and attract more viewers.

A number of ministry officials are currently focusing on the comprehensive development plans that Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani is attaching great importance to so as to achieve the awaited development transformation.

Source: Al-Jazirah website, Riyadh, in Arabic 16 May 06

WEST BANK & GAZA

18/05/2006 Gaza poll shows Al-Jazeera "most objective" TV channel

Text of report by Palestinian newspaper Al-Risalah on 18 May

Al-Mustaqbal Research Centre has conducted a public opinion poll in the Gaza Strip for the Al-Thariya Media Institution, in which it gauged the popularity of the local radios, television channels and news websites. The poll indicates that the residents of the Gaza Strip believe Al-Jazeera to be the most objective television channel in relaying Palestinian news.

Some 28.2 per cent of the participants said that Al-Jazeera carried Palestinian-related news in the most objective fashion, while 26.5 per cent replied that Al-Manar was the most objective. The rest of the results are as following: Al-Arabiya, 24.7 per cent; Al-Alam, 7.9 per cent; Abu Dhabi TV, 6.5 per cent; Al-Hurra 3.2 per cent; Palestine TV, 2 per cent; and ANB, 1 per cent.

With regard to the stations that are believed to be the least credible, the results were as following: Al-Arabiya, 42.7 per cent; Palestine TV, 24.7 per cent; Al-Hurra, 19.8 per cent; Al-Jazeera, 3 per cent; Al-Alam, 2.8 per cent; the Egyptian Satellite Channel, 2.2 per cent; MBC, 1.2 per cent; Al-Manar, 2 per cent; Israeli television, 1.4 per cent.

Approximately 77.9 per cent of the respondents said they do not use internet news sites, while 16.2 per cent said they do. Of those who replied that they access news sites, 46.9 per cent said Al-Jazeera.net is the website they access the most.

The poll was carried among a randomly-selected group of 605 people from throughout the Gaza Strip, of whom 49.4 per cent are university graduates, and 43.6 per cent unemployed.

Source: Al-Risalah, Gaza, in Arabic 18 May 06

22/05/2006 Palestinian court summons UK-Arab editor after Abbas sons' complaint

Text of unattributed report from Ramallah, headlined "President Abbas's sons file complaint against Abd-al-Bari Atwan; court issues subpoena", carried by Palestinian Ramattan News Agency website

The Ramallah Magistrate's Court has issued a subpoena against renowned Palestinian journalist Abd-al-Bari Atwan in the wake of a complaint filed against him by Yair and Tariq Abbas, the sons of President Mahmud Abbas. The subpoena, a copy of which reached the Ramattan News Agency, is dated 15 May; carries the serial number 788-2006; and specifies the offence as a misdemeanour. Named in the subpoena is Abd-al-Bari Atwan, a resident of Ramallah in the West Bank and editor in chief of Al-Quds al-Arabi. The newspaper is published in London, where Atwan resides these days. The court set its next session for 26 June and pointed out that if Atwan does not attend personally, he will be subject to the provisions of the Judiciary Law.

No information is available on the nature of the complaint against the famous Palestinian journalist, who is known for his sharp criticism of the PNA and its leaders.

Source: Ramattan News Agency website, Gaza, in Arabic 22 May 06

22/05/2006 Palestinian president's sons file complaint against Al-Quds al-Arabi editor

Text of report by Palestinian Ramattan News Agency website

The Ramallah Magistrate's Court has issued a subpoena against renowned Palestinian journalist Abd al-Bari Atwan in the wake of a complaint filed against him by Yair and Tariq Abbas, the sons of President Mahmud Abbas.

The subpoena, a copy of which reached the Ramattan News Agency, is dated 15 May; carries the serial number 788-2006; and specifies the offence as a misdemeanour.

Named in the subpoena is Abd al-Bari Atwan, a resident of Ramallah in the West Bank and editor-in-chief of Al-Quds al-Arabi. The newspaper is published in London, where Atwan currently lives. The court set its next session for 26 June and pointed out that if Atwan does not attend personally, he will be subject to the provisions of the Judiciary Law.

No information is available on the nature of the complaint against the famous Palestinian journalist, who is known for his sharp criticism of the PNA and its leaders.

Source: Ramattan News Agency website, Gaza, in Arabic 22 May 06

IRAN

27/05/2006 Iran press: Government should build confidence via "trusted" media

Text of editorial: "'Confidence-building by the media, an absolute necessity!'", published by the Iranian newspaper Aftab-e Yazd website on 27 May

If we say that the dominant approach of the nation-wide mass media in Iran is unique it would not be an overstatement. For instance, in many instances our national media embark on condemning the anti-Iranian statements by a foreign official without the people being informed about the exact text of those statements. Moreover, Iran's preparedness in the face of certain conspiracies is talked about while those conspiracies have not been explained meticulously for the people.

The selective, and, of course, inept publishing of the statements of certain foreign officials is among the other indications that distinguish certain domestic media from their foreign competitors. That method of reporting began four years ago when there were rumours of America attacking Iraq and was intensified following the heightening of Iran's nuclear case and it continues to this day.

In addition to that the "mistaking of analysis and aspirations for news" [punctuation as published here and throughout] constitutes a further problem that can be seen abundantly in the Iranian media. The high-volume reporting of the statements of Saddam government's spokesman until the last moments before the fall of Baghdad is the most blatant example of that in recent years. It seemed that the diminishing trust of the people in the domestic media in following the news about that war would provide a salutary lesson for the publishers and managers of the media but subsequent events showed that there is no resolve to change the approach and as before most news items, speeches and interviews are to passed through a filter produced by a certain group and then published generally.

The amplification of the statements of Bush's rivals on the threshold of the American presidential elections without paying attention to the fact that regardless of the differences of opinion between Bush and his rivals over any issue they concurred on opposing Iran; the excitement over the preliminary comments of certain foreign politicians that ostensibly supported Iran and the amplification of the acknowledgment by officials of other states are among the points that the people of Iran have witnessed time and time again in various media, including the national media.

Moreover, recently the people have heard this sentence on numerous occasions for a national medium: "Foreign media were obliged to publish the text of Dr Ahmadinezhad's letter [to George Bush]." All those instances demonstrate that those mass media that are at the service of Iran's rivals and opponents have properly realized the characteristics of the communication era. They also show that the leaders of the big countries, while acknowledging the role played by the media, have made and continue to make extensive efforts to win public trust and utilize it on sensitive and critical occasions.

What is certain is that those media themselves have certain filters during sensitive and critical occasions for regulating news in line with their own interests. However, they have reduced "sensitive and critical occasions" to a minimum and with the exception of specific instances they endeavour to make their audience not need to refer to other media by timely reporting.

If the scandal of Abu Ghurayb prison and the inhuman behaviour at Guantanamo Bay were first reported by the American media it was not because the instigators of the Abu Ghurayb prison scandal had suddenly "found religion" and were allowing the reports in order to atone for what had happened. On the contrary, it was because they have recognized the characteristics of the communication era and know that trying to hide the facts will not succeed.

The reporting of the Iranian president's letter to George Bush also can be assessed in line with that and should not lead to imaginings in our country. The confessions of Blair and Bush yesterday about their great mistakes in Iraq also have no other reason besides what has been mentioned above. In fact they want to prove to the people of their own countries - and even the public opinion on other states - that the media and governance systems in those countries will convey the facts to the people and any fact - even if it is to the detriment of the highest officials - will be conveyed to the people by the great media of those counties before they face revelations from other media.

Of course, one cannot disregard the domestic competition within those countries for revealing certain issues. For that reason, in general policies that are understood by all the parties and politicians of those countries - including the Iranian issue - they will conceal certain facts from the people as much as they can. However, even the concealment exercise is carried out with subtlety and with efforts aimed at confidence-building with respect to the media.

Blair's and Bush's confessions yesterday can be assessed in line with that. If we examine the confessions carefully we will become concerned instead of being pleased. That is because at the same time as those confessions, the media affiliated to America, Britain and their allies have been busy depicting an untrue image of Iran. Their extensive propaganda aimed at depicting Iran's nuclear programme as dangerous acquire new dimensions every day.

If our enemies adopt extreme adroitness in promoting their tyrannical and unfair objectives why do we not let adroitness override propaganda and media methods in our pursuit of our inalienable rights? Certain domestic events and the nuclear crisis are two arenas that reveal more than ever the need of the Iranian administration and governance for mass media that are trusted by the public. Neglecting that can entail irremediable costs for the country and the ruling system.

Source: Aftab-e Yazd website, Tehran, in Persian 27 May 06

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Copyright 2006 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the
Adham Center for Electronic Journalism, the American University in Cairo and the Middle East Centre, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, UK
E-mail: TBS@aucegypt.edu