Outspoken Arab commentators lament anti-Israel & anti-U.S. lies

July 04, 2005

* Even for those with limited time, I recommend reading the summaries of the second and third articles in this dispatch, which provide rare exposes by Arab commentators of the depth of Arab media lies

* Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari: “Iraqi women are murdered but this is not described as terrorism, the innocent Iraqi child is killed but this is not terrorism according to the media”

 

CONTENTS

1. “Iraqi PM slams Arab media” (Al Bawaba, June 29, 2005)
2. “Mideast: Where the media are the enemy” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, June 24, 2005)
3. “A childhood friend of Osama bin Laden laments Arab media lies” (By Dr. Khaled Batarfi, Arab News, June 12, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

“ARAB MEDIA ARE STILL HOSTILE AND BIASED”

In an accusation that could also be leveled against much of the mainstream western media in relation to reporting on Iraq and Israel, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has publicly questioned why the Arab media do not refer to the crimes committed daily against the Iraqi people are as “terrorism”. Jaafari, a Shi’ite who became prime minister following January’s election, is one of the first high profile politicians in the Arab world to question the role of the Arab media.

KHALED ABU TOAMEH

In a dispatch last year titled How Arafat intimidates Palestinian journalists and deludes Western ones (June 11, 2004), I asked “When was the last time you saw Khaled Abu Toameh invited on BBC or CNN? He is a talented journalist who has an excellent understanding of the western media, the Arab media and the continual misreporting from the Middle East by the western media.”

Below, I attach a new article by Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Palestinian journalist, who is also a subscriber to this email list. Abu Toameh outlines some of the misconceptions Palestinian journalists have of the Israeli press – such as the belief that Israeli journalists are linked to the Israeli security forces.

Abu Toameh also draws attention to the fact that last month Palestinian Authority Information Minister Nabil Sha’ath revealed that many Palestinian publishers, editors and journalists had for years received funds from Yasser Arafat and the PA.

Abu Toameh also looks in depth at the situation for journalists in Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Jordan.

“THE ARAB MEDIA KEPT TELLING US THAT ALL OUR TROUBLES ARE DUE TO ZIONIST CONSPIRACIES”

The third article below is by Dr. Khaled Batarfi, a childhood friend of Osama Bin Laden. Dr Batarfi, who is a columnist at the Saudi-based daily paper “Arab News,” criticizes the role of the Arab press, going back to the lies they spread about Israel during the 1967 Six Day War. He foresees a better situation in future, concluding that the “inevitable big bang will happen” as the citizens of Arab countries will demand an honest media.

Dr Batarfi says: “By most standards we are very much atop the list of the worst offenders together with the likes of North Korea and Zimbabwe.”

This article caused much debate among the readers of Arab News and Dr Batarfi published some of these responses a week later. Those can be seen at
www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=65623&d=19&m=6&y=2005

***

I attach three articles, with summaries of the two longer ones, for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

Tomorrow, I will send a dispatch which examines some more positive trends in the Arab media, and suggests that in some ways Arab journalists are growing bolder, and beginning to openly criticize the ruling Arab government authorities.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

(This is the full article.)

IRAQI PM SLAMS ARAB MEDIA

Iraqi PM slams Arab media
Al Bawaba
June 29, 2005

www.albawaba.com/en/news/185623

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari criticized Arab media, accusing them of being biased and hostile to his country. In an interview published by the London-based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Jaafari said, “Arab media are still hostile and biased, especially the satellite Arab televisions.”

He stressed that crimes are committed in Iraq, but the Arab media don’t refer to them as acts of terrorism. “The brave Iraqi policeman and soldier are killed, but this is not called terrorism, pure Iraqi women are murdered but this is not described as terrorism, the innocent Iraqi child is killed but this is not terrorism according to the Arab media,” he added. The Iraqi leader conveyed that Arab channels ignore the fact that many Iraqi women are murdered after being raped by the “enemy of the Iraqi nation.”

[Tom Gross adds: The American press agency UPI also reported these comments but revealingly, UPI completely omitted from its report the Iraqi prime minister’s criticism of the media for avoiding the word terrorism.]

 

MIDEAST: WHERE THE MEDIA ARE THE ENEMY

“Mideast: Where the media are the enemy” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, June 24, 2005)

... Palestinian and Arab journalists are facing an unprecedented campaign of intimidation and murder.

The claim that Israeli journalists are linked, in one way or another, to the security forces, is not surprising. Many Palestinian journalists tend to think that the Israeli media is not different from their own media, which continues to serve as a mouthpiece for the Palestinian Authority. They believe that the Israeli government and security forces appoint editors and reporters in Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv and other media outlets, as is the case under the PA and most of the Arab governments.

PA Information Minister Nabil Sha’ath last month dropped a bombshell in the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah when he revealed that many Palestinian publishers, editors and journalists had for years received funds from Yasser Arafat and the PA.

The claim that Arab journalists working for the Israeli media had been executed as “collaborators” is completely untrue. In fact, almost all Israeli newspapers and radio and TV stations hire Arabs who serve as stringers, analysts, consultants and reporters. Some of these Arabs happen to be Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who feed the Israeli media with valuable information which would never be permitted to appear in the Palestinian media...

Hardly a day passes without a disturbing report from Arab capitals about the targeting of journalists...

Human rights activists in Lebanon say journalists have been suffering from horrific experiences of kidnapping, torture and murder for decades...

Egyptian journalists say Mubarak is preparing a clean sweep of all government-appointed editors ahead of this year’s controversial presidential election. Mubarak, they add, is planning to run for yet another term and wants to make sure that important editors support his move...

Earlier this month, Libyans were shocked by the gruesome murder of journalist Dhaif al-Ghazal. The journalist, who was an outspoken critic of corruption in Libya, was arrested by state security agents last month. His mutilated body was discovered at the beginning of this month...

A majority of Jordanian journalists are unhappy with their country’s protection of civil liberties and freedom of expression, according to a recent survey. The independent Center for Protection and Freedom of Journalists interviewed 100 Jordanian journalists in the poll...

 

A CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF OSAMA BIN LADEN LAMENTS ARAB MEDIA LIES

“A childhood friend of Osama bin Laden laments Arab media lies” (By Dr. Khaled Batarfi, Arab News, June 12, 2005)

... The Arab conscious is getting more and more sophisticated and wise. The state media is not. They still sell the same lies and try their best to make us believe them. They want us to believe that some Arab leaders are re-elected because their nations have no better men or women for the job. Arab governments are doing like no other for their people. Our education is the best. Our democratic system is the envy of the world. Security is great not because most Arabs live under police regimes and emergency laws, but because of our wise, strong and honest leaders...

Then came the Internet and Satellite TV. Then came CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera. Others followed and suddenly the truth can’t hide behind the smiley anchors’ faces anymore. The public eye and mind went past the newsroom curtain and the Dear Leader’s portraits to rich sources of information and explanations. So what the media answer would be?

Surprise, surprise! More lies, more going. No one believes? Who cares! There is a whole industry of perception manufacturing. Where would all these people go? How would this entire infrastructure be dismantled? Better leave things as they are, hoping somebody, somewhere still has faith… The inevitable big bang will happen... soon enough.

 



FULL ARTICLES

MIDEAST: WHERE THE MEDIA ARE THE ENEMY

Mideast: Where the media are the enemy
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Jerusalem Post
June 24, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1119580298205&p=1074657885918

At a symposium entitled “The Military and the Media in Israel” held in the Gaza Strip last week, a number of Palestinian journalists and academics who regard themselves as experts on Israeli affairs talked about the role the Israeli media allegedly plays in “serving the occupation.” One of the “experts,” Adnan Abu Omar, told the audience that journalists working in the Israeli media had to have a security background. He said there were three types of Israeli journalists: Jews who had served in the security forces; Druse who belonged to elite IDF units and Arabs who needed special permission from the Shin Bet to work as journalists. Some of these Arabs, Abu Omar added, had been executed by Palestinians on charges of “collaboration” with Israel.

Another “expert,” Saleh al-Na’mani, claimed that Israel was the only country in the world where the media was subjected to military censorship. He further claimed that some newspapers in Israel had to appear with blank pages after the military censor banned most of their stories.

Notwithstanding the fact that most of the findings of the “experts” are simply unfounded, it’s worth noting that the symposium was held at a time when Palestinian and Arab journalists are facing an unprecedented campaign of intimidation and murder.

The claim that Israeli journalists are linked, in one way or another, to the security forces, is not surprising. Many Palestinian journalists tend to think that the Israeli media is not different from their own media, which continues to serve as a mouthpiece for the Palestinian Authority. They believe that the Israeli government and security forces appoint editors and reporters in Haaretz, Maariv and other media outlets, as is the case under the PA and most of the Arab governments.

PA Information Minister Nabil Shaath last month dropped a bombshell in the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah when he revealed that many Palestinian publishers, editors and journalists had for years received funds from Yasser Arafat and the PA.

The claim that Arab journalists working for the Israeli media had been executed as “collaborators” is completely untrue. In fact, almost all Israeli newspapers and radio and TV stations hire Arabs who serve as stringers, analysts, consultants and reporters. Some of these Arabs happen to be Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who feed the Israeli media with valuable information which would never be permitted to appear in the Palestinian media.

The organizers of the symposium chose to ignore the plight of the majority of Palestinian journalists who are pressing for a free and independent media under the new regime of Mahmoud Abbas. True, the Palestinian media has made significant achievements towards independence and freedom in the post-Arafat era, but most Palestinian journalists agree that they still have a long way to go.

Sadly, the symposium also ignored repeated assaults on Palestinian journalists by armed thugs and members of the PA security forces. In recent years, two senior editors, Hisham Makiyyeh, director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, and Khalil Zaban, publisher of a Gaza-based weekly, were gunned down in the streets of Gaza City. The assassins have never been caught.

Nor was there any mention of the campaign waged against editors and journalists throughout the Arab world.

Ironically, this campaign coincides with growing US pressure on Arab governments to implement reforms and democracy.

Hardly a day passes without a disturbing report from Arab capitals about the targeting of journalists.

Following are some examples that illustrate the dangers and challenges facing Arab newsmen.

**Lebanon**

Sameer Qaseer, an anti-Syrian columnist, was murdered when his booby-trapped car exploded in Beirut.

Human rights activists in Lebanon say journalists have been suffering from horrific experiences of kidnapping, torture and murder for decades.

In 1958, journalist Naseeb al-Matni was assassinated for his writings against the Lebanese president. Another victim was Salim al-Lowzi, who was kidnapped in 1980 on his way from the Beirut airport. His body was found inside the trunk of his car, and his fingers had been burnt by acid. In the same year, another two prominent journalists were assassinated: Riyad Taha and Yahya al-Hazoori.

In 1985, Samir Salaam, editor-in-chief of Al Fihris magazine, was killed along with his wife and his two sons in his home. The publisher of the daily al-Hayat newspaper, Kamel Marwa, was shot to death in his office in 1966.

And in a more recent case of harassment, Youssef al-Huweek, who is in charge of the Al-Diyar daily, was prosecuted for “insulting” the Lebanese president.

**Sudan**

Earlier this month, the English language daily Khartoum Monitor was served with a suspension order by the Sudanese government. In a letter to the acting editor of the Khartoum Monitor, the authorities ordered the withdrawal of the newspaper’s license for publishing an interview with an ex-minister who accused the government of practicing a form of slavery.

Since 2003, journalists writing for the Khartoum Monitor have been subjected to systematic and ongoing intimidation and arrests. One of them, Edward Ladu Terso, was detained and held without charge following an article he wrote about the history of Islam in Sudan.

In the same year, Nhial Bol, the managing editor of Khartoum Monitor, was forced to flee from Sudan to Kenya after he was subjected to constant arrests and detentions. He was also the target of a failed assassination attempt following his reports about human rights abuses by the security forces and slavery.

The Committee to Protect Journalists lately expressed concern about official harassment and threats against Sudanese editor Mohammed Taha Ahmed, who is on trial on charges of running an article allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Newspapers and religious leaders have attacked the editor for publishing the article. The National Press Council, Sudan’s official press regulator, imposed a three-day suspension on the paper, and the state prosecutor brought charges against Ahmed, who could face the death penalty if found guilty of apostasy.

**Egypt**

During last month’s protests against a referendum providing limited democratic rights, Egyptian security officers helped a group of men who attacked and abused tens of women, mostly journalists. Some of the female journalists were robbed, stripped and sexually abused.

The protest took place in the center of Cairo. The demonstrators were protesting “democratic reforms” proposed by the government and seen as cementing President Hosni Mubarak’s hold on power.

Some of the female reporters had their clothes torn off, were groped or otherwise humiliated. Several were hospitalized, according to the press freedom group Reporters sans Fronti res. The women were being targeted “because they are both journalists and women in a country where their rights are far from guaranteed,” the group said in a statement. Pro-government journalists claimed the next day that the women had voluntarily taken off their clothes in public.

Ibrahim Seada, editor of a major state-owned newspaper, resigned earlier this month, accusing the government of undermining his position. Seada, editor-in-chief of the weekly Akhbar al-Yom for over 15 years, blamed the government for contributing to what he called the chaos threatening state newspapers.

Egyptian journalists say Mubarak is preparing a clean sweep of all government-appointed editors ahead of this year’s controversial presidential election. Mubarak, they add, is planning to run for yet another term and wants to make sure that important editors support his move.

In another recent case, journalist Ahmed Izzaddin was sentenced in absentia to two years of prison for defaming an Egyptian minister. The journalist is said to be in hiding until Egypt’s new criminal code – excluding prison terms for media offenses – is approved in parliament.

**Libya**

Earlier this month, Libyans were shocked by the gruesome murder of journalist Dhaif al-Ghazal. The journalist, who was an outspoken critic of corruption in Libya, was arrested by state security agents last month. His mutilated body was discovered at the beginning of this month.

Amnesty International said Ghazal’s hands had been tied behind his back, his fingers had been cut off, he had bruises and stab wounds to the body, and he had been shot in the head. Before his arrest, Ghazal had apparently received anonymous death threats which he believed were a result of his writings about corruption and the need for political reform.

**Morocco**

A leading Moroccan journalist and strong critic of the monarchy was fined and banned from journalism for 10 years recently for an article he wrote on the disputed Western Sahara territory. Ali Lmrabet was ordered to pay $5,800 by a Rabat court for defaming a little-known association based in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.

**Syria**

Earlier this week, the Syrian government ordered the closure of a daily newspaper for criticizing a senior Ba’ath official. According to The National Center for Defending Press Freedoms in Syria, the paper, Al-Mabki, was shut down for criticizing the governor of the city of Homs. The center said in a statement: “We received with big shock the news about canceling the license of Al-Mabki newspaper, which we regard as an arbitrary action. Such a move contradicts the principles of freedom and deals a blow to the small hope that Syrians have for a free press.” In recent months, Syrian authorities revoked licenses of five new private publications.

Amnesty International has also been calling for the release of human rights activist and writer Ali al-Abdullah, who is being held in solitary confinement following a talk he gave in an unauthorized discussion forum. Abdullah, a journalist and active member of the Committees for the Revival of Civil Society, the Human Rights Association of Syria, was arrested at his home in Qatana, near Damascus, last month.

**Tunisia**

The government-controlled media has been waging a smear campaign against prominent Tunisian journalist Sihem Bensedrine. According to a press release from the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, the campaign was aimed at sullying the reputation of Bensedrine in response to a report she had written on “misinformation in the Tunisian media.” In addition to accusations of treason and allegiance to foreign powers, Bensedrine was referred to by government newspapers as a prostitute. One paper threatened that she would be “crushed under our heels.” The paper also accused the journalist of “selling her conscience and her behind and other things too – to foreigners in general and to Zionists in particular.” Scores of human rights activists, political activists and former high-ranking officials are being referred to in the state-run media as traitors and foreign and Israeli agents and sex maniacs.

**Jordan**

A majority of Jordanian journalists are unhappy with their country’s protection of civil liberties and freedom of expression, according to a recent survey. The independent Center for Protection and Freedom of Journalists interviewed 100 Jordanian journalists in the poll.

Results showed that 62.5 percent of the journalists described press freedoms in the kingdom as “poor and barely acceptable,” while only 3.1 percent said they were “excellent.” Two years ago, three Jordanian journalists were sentenced by the kingdom’s State Security Court to prison terms ranging from two to six months. Their crime: defaming the prophet Muhammad.

 

A CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF OSAMA BIN LADEN LAMENTS ARAB MEDIA LIES

A childhood friend of Osama bin Laden laments Arab media lies.
Arab Media: Our Faith, Their Lies
By Dr. Khaled Batarfi
Arab News
June 12, 2005

www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=65244&d=12&m=6&y=2005

When the “Voice of Arabs” radio told us triumphantly in the 1960s that Nasser’s Egypt had the strongest army in the region and could throw Israel in the sea if they choose to, we believed. When young, revolutionary, the Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi promised to be the unifier of the Arab world after the death of Nasser, we believed. When Baathists and Arab nationalists carried the “One Arab nation with eternal message” slogan, we believed.

Then came “Al nakbah” (the disaster) of June 5, 1967, when the one army of Israel destroyed not only the “mighty” Egyptian Army but also the Jordanian and Syrian. The Egyptian radio went on with the lies for days. According to the famous anchor Ahmad Said and his colleagues, the Israeli Air Force was losing tens of aircraft daily. This was when most Egyptian jet fighters were destroyed on the ground as though they were sitting ducks. The Egyptian media also claimed that American and British aircraft had joined the Israelis. Needless to say, all were sheer lies.

Many of us knew better afterward. Still, too many continued to believe, even today.

The Arab media kept telling us that all our troubles are due to Zionist conspiracies. They explained to us that we had to prepare for the liberation of Arab occupied lands. Sacrifices had to be made. Freedom, democracy, economic prosperity, good education and all kind of luxuries had to wait. Many believed. Many were skeptical. And as the wait got longer, the prison larger, the civilization gap with the rest of the world wider, more started to get skeptical. Resentment followed.

The new generation, born in a different world, was the most restless. They want to live like their peers in other parts of the world. Satellite TV, the Internet and other modern communication tools gave them an open, unfiltered window. They could see that what they lack others take for granted: Market-oriented training, secured, rewarding jobs, a wife and a home. Some expects even more: Travel, entertainment and (why not?) a car. They resent the military draft. They hate having to serve years in draconic conditions with little or no pay. It feels worse when they see that the rich and powerful can evade it.

The Arab conscious is getting more and more sophisticated and wise. The state media is not. They still sell the same lies and try their best to make us believe them. They want us to believe that some Arab leaders are re-elected because their nations have no better men or women for the job. Arab governments are doing like no other for their people. Our education is the best. Our democratic system is the envy of the world. Security is great not because most Arabs live under police regimes and emergency laws, but because of our wise, strong and honest leaders.

Besides, who said we are poor? Look at Somalia and Liberia and see how lucky we are! Better times are coming. We only need to be patient and work with the government to fight corruption and build a better society. Praise our leaders and pray for them to survive the challenges and win over the enemies and live long enough to get us all into heaven on earth. So don’t listen to the lies our enemies are spreading. Accusation of corruption, lousy management and nepotism are all baseless. Let’s stand together united with our leadership to prove to the envious world that we are truly one, united, strong Arab family.

Then came the Internet and Satellite TV. Then came CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeerah.

Others followed and suddenly the truth can’t hide behind the smiley anchors’ faces anymore. The public eye and mind went past the newsroom curtain and the Dear Leader’s portraits to rich sources of information and explanations. So what the media answer would be?

Surprise, surprise! More lies, more going. No one believes? Who cares! There is a whole industry of perception manufacturing. Where would all these people go? How would this entire infrastructure be dismantled? Better leave things as they are, hoping somebody, somewhere still has faith.

Meanwhile, the elite will continue to benefit, the flaws will still be there, and the ship will go on sinking. The people’s knowledge of the truth will grow larger, their patience will get thinner, and the pot will be more and more boiling. The inevitable big bang will happen ... soon enough.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.