The Big Pharaoh
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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Is Al Arabiya Born Again?
I am starting to sense a slight change in the coverage of the satellite news channel Al Arabiya. It is becoming a little bit less supportive of terrorism in Iraq and a little bit more supportive of the new government's efforts to bring security. While ferocious anti-Americanism will always run in the veins of any Arab media, I somehow sense that this is not in Al Arabiya's top priorities anymore.
Recent talk shows interviewed several Iraqi government officials who talked about the hope they want to install in their people and their plans to make Iraq a success. A show host went on to provide his personal wishes for the success of the Iraqi government in bringing security to the country. Recently, Al Arabiya also interviewed liberal thinkers such as Ahmed El Robaie and Abdul Rahman El Ansari. Today they had a news report on the new Iraq civil defense force where they interviewed an Iraqi female officer who looked brilliant in her uniform and stylish eye glasses.
My guess is that Al Arabiya might be going through a slight reevaluation phase after the appointment of the brilliant Abdul Rahman El Rashid as the channel's general manager. El Rashid was the editor in chief of my favorite London based newspaper El Sharq El Awsat (The Middle East). I mentioned before that this paper is neither pro-America nor anti-America but it is pro-Iraq. The paper tries very hard not to be biased and it hosts different editorial columns from the awful Islamist Fahmi Hewaidi to progressive thinkers such as Egyptian Mamoun Fandi and Kuwaiti Ahmed El Robaie. El Sharq El Awsat is the only paper that I'm willing to spare a couple of pounds to buy.
Nevertheless, I am not claiming that Al Arabiya suddenly became an angel. It is the second most watched news channel in the Middle East and El Rashid will have to sprinkle some doses of anti-Americanism and "bravo terrorists" in its coverage just so that his channel won't appear to be very different from the mouth of horror Al Jazerah.
One of El Sharq El Awsat and Al Arabiyah's drawbacks is that they are both linked to the Saudi royal family. In other words, just as Al Jazerah can't mess with Qatar, El Sharq El Awsat and Al Arabiyah have their own red line that they're not allowed to cross: Saudi Arabia. 


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