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[casi] Arab media coverage analysis

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 ' 292 of 297 ' US media outlets, analysts were pro war. I'd guess it was
about proportionally the same for here in the UK , with the usual honourable
exceptions - how often did we hear in bed(ed) journalists saying: ' we are
about to take ..." 'we have just fought ...' or some such garbage.

Media coverage of war on Iraq yielded surprise winner ‹ pundit

Journalist believes Arab press took the moral high ground
By Mahmoud Al Abed
AMMAN ‹ Media coverage of the war on Iraq has given credence to the argument
that Arab media outlets can surpass even their Western counterparts if a
sufficient margin of press freedom is provided, said a leading journalist
As the war unfolded, some truly shocking facts could be gleaned, said the
chief editor of the Arabic daily Ad Dustour, Nabil Sharif, during a lecture
hosted earlier this week by Abdul Hamid Shoman Foundation.
³The air of Western media superiority is gone, as proven by the way they
covered the Iraq war. The Arab media did a very remarkable job, while their
Western counterparts were dependent upon the US defence and state
departments,² the journalist told the foundation audience in a discussion
moderated by the president of the Jordan Press Association, Tareq Momani.
The American media reputation has been deteriorating since Sept. 11 ³due to
the prominence given to national considerations² over press freedom and the
neutral coverage of news events, Sharif observed.
³US media institutions did not regard implementation of the Pentagon's
instructions problematic,² he continued, underlining the ³demonisation of
your opponent² approach that has been adopted by American media following
the attacks in New York City and Washington, DC in 1991.
These outlets now must face the same hindrances they mocked the Arab press
as having, he pointed out. ³In other words, the American media served as a
propaganda machine during the Iraq war and therefore lost their moral high
The low point in the fall of Western ‹ particularly American ‹ media,
according to Sharif, was when the idea of an embedded journalist was
introduced. Embedded reporters could not possibly tell the whole story,
³first because they reported only what they were told, and second because of
the psychological factor,² he explained, referring to the fact that
reporters accompanying coalition forces inevitably sympathise with their
hosts. They could never see the whole story, he maintained.
The Ad Dustour chief cited as one example an embedded US journalist who
recalled later that when he found himself on board a US tank during the
action in Iraq he was completely absorbed, talking about finding and killing
During the period leading up to the war and during the hostilities,
television channels gave priority to guests that had a pro-war stance,
according to Sharif.
He cited a study that revealed some 292 of 297 analysts and commentators on
air for the four major TV networks in the US were supporters of the war on
This ³militarisation² of US media was, in fact, a response to an
increasingly right-wing swing of public opinion, he argued.
But despite the downfall of Western media credibility, the global presence
remains the same simply because of their possession of hi-tech
telecommunication facilities.
Sharif cited studies that indicated 15 US electronics companies dominate 75
per cent of the international telecommunications sector. The IT revolution
has crossed all borders and undermined the authority of the state in
regulating access to information on the Internet and other places.
But in the Arab world, Sharif continued, Arabs have not invested enough
money in media projects to protect the image of Islam and Muslims. Arab
media ministers allocated only $1 million to improve the global impression
of Arabs and Muslims in a recent meeting, he said.
The Arab media is facing significant challenges, said the newspaper editor.
³There is still no political will to set the press free in the Arab world.
In the meantime, officials are reluctant to talk to the media, afraid of
falling into traps.²
Some state agencies assign only a single person ‹ often the minister or the
department's top official ‹ to speak to the media. If that person is not
available, there is no story.
In Jordan, Sharif described the situation for press freedom since 1989 as
³one step forward, two steps back.² The 1997 Press and Publications Law, for
example ³ate up² the achievements of the 1993 law, he said.
Thursday, May 15, 2003

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