Friday, February 8, 2008

"Major Arab-media crackdown planned"

From Missing Links

"Arab interior ministers meeting last week in Tunis agreed on what they called an adjustment to their common strategy respecting terrorism, with the aim of criminalizing possession of information or tapes of terrorist groups, or any propagation or incitement [to terror] on the part of any person or media organization. In a similar vein, an Egyptian newspaper yesterday reported that the Egyptian information minister had agreed with his Saudi counterpart to press for revisions to the laws regulating operation of satellite TV stations, at a meeting of Arab information ministers in Cairo next week. The proposed revisions, according to a report in Al-Masry al-Youm, would require the state that is issuer of the station's operating licence to warn the station, and then to issue final closure orders, in the event of the station going beyond the terms of [said] warnings in political discussion programs. (According to the summary by Abdulbari Atwan in his Al-Quds al-Arabi opinion piece today).

And finally, also in the same vein, Atwan notes that pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United States have already resulted in Al-Jazeera completely stopping its coverage of Saudi Arabia and developments there, particularly in the area of activism for democracy, and freedoms, and constitutional monarchy.

Taken together, Atwan says these developments and proposals represent the imminent end of the "honeymoon of the semi-independent Arab media". For instance, under this new regime, the Maliki government will be able to request having any Arab satellite station closed down if it doesn't, for instance, start describing national resistance to the American occupation as "terrorism" and curtail coverage of the national-resistance point of view. Similarly, the Saudi and Egyptian governments would be able to shut down any channels that broadcast any of the statements of Bin Laden or Zawahiri, for example. More broadly, the thrust of this is to return Arab media to "the age of ignorance", where news means praise for the regime, celebration of its exploits, and gratitude for the various benevolent regime projects and solicitude for the well-being of the people. (Atwan says a major recent impetus in this direction was the elation in some Arab circles over the busting of the Gaza-Egypt wall. Egyptian regime-anxiety over this is reflected in a recent round of newspaper-essays criticing those events from an Egypt-sovereignty point of view).

(Of course there are many differences, but American media policy seems to be in some ways the model for where Arab media policy is headed. The proposed criminalization which could extend to news-reporting of AlQaeda statements and other jihadi points of view seems to echo something that has already happened in America; and certainly the conflation of national-resistance with "terrorism" is something that the American media has already well and truly accomplished, and in a much more thoroughgoing way than the Arab world is yet capable of, because in American media there isn't even such a thing as bona fide national-resistance to the Israeli occupation, not to mention the American occupation of Iraq. And of course the "age of ignorance" reference can hardly fail to remind us more generally of the fog of bland stupidity put out by our own regime-friendly media)."

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