Thursday, July 29, 2004
Arab media expert: There are "no professional journalists" in the Arab world
From London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute: This is a provocative column written by media expert Dr. Mamoun Fandy, who argues that the Arabic media has been lax in covering the war in Iraq and other stories because Arab "newsroom culture" reflects societal values such as heroism, masculinity and anti-imperialism instead of journalistic values such as objectivity and giving voice to diverse segments of the population. "It is interesting to know why Arab journalists have not succeeded in conducting hundreds of interviews with people who knew Saddam up close, or with entire families that were victims of the Saddam era," Fandy writes. "Weren't some 300,000 Iraqis buried in mass graves? Or is this, too, an American lie? Didn't [the victims] have families and relatives who can be interviewed, or aren't their pain and their lives important?"
I definitely think the Arab journalists we heard from at the 11th World Editors Forum in Istanbul would disagree with this analysis, as would many American liberals. After all, it was the U.S. press' focus on the horror stories of Saddam's regime that replaced a deep pre-war accounting of the WMD charges and faulty intelligence. However, I like what Fandy has to say about the relationship between the Arab media and Arab politicians:
"Senior Arab officials do not respect the press as a means for conveying information. The responsibility for [conveying information] lies partly with the journalist and partly with the senior government official. The journalist's part is that no [Arab] journalist can make the official respect him. An official's respect for a journalist can come only from the journalist's respect for his own profession... The journalist can make the official respect him if he is well-versed in the subject about which he is talking - and doesn't just position the microphone in front of the official and let him say whatever he wants...
"But even our officials behave differently [than officials in the West]. Instead of rebutting the author of an article by [writing another] article, he picks up the telephone and talks to the newspaper's owner to [have him] silence the author."
Source: London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute
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