The Big Pharaoh
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Foretaste of What to Come

I will try as much as possible to give you a foretaste of what to expect the coming Egyptian parliament to be like or to the stuff they will discuss. In doing so, I will refer to examples of countries that gave a little freedom to Islamists. Remember, my first example was Algeria.

Now Bahrain. The liberals there are waging a campiagn against their government's appeasment of Islamists that lead to "banning music concerts, gender segregation at universities, attempts by islamists to segregate males and females in shopping malls". The liberals groups said that there are attempts to curb the freedoms Bahrainis had in the past decades. The campaign is called "We have a right".

Now, as a result of the tremendous power of the Muslim Brotherhood we all witnessed in Egypt elections, it is not unlikely that the government will "bend" and concede some stuff to our beloved Islamists just as the bahrani king is doing. Only God knows what? And only God can save us from that.

Source: Al Arabiya (Arabic)

Al Hurra Under Scrutiny

I am glad that Al Hurra channel's problems are now being discussed. As someone who was yearning for an alternative to the mainstream government influenced Arab channels, I was looking forward for a channel that would be both informative and entertaining and would abstain from the anyone-who-blows-himself-up-has-a-good-excuse-to-do-so rhetoric. However, the channel's performance upon its inauguration was very poor, not because of lack of money, but as a result of tremendous mismanagement and lack of professionalism. Even though there has been some improvements, the channel is still behind in the basic tenants of journalistic professionalism.

The American Prospect has published a full investigative report into Al Hurra and I’m quite surprised by what they found. In addition, the congress (the channel’s financers) is beginning to look closer at how that channel was run and hopefully take corrective actions.

As far as Egypt is concerned, I believe the channel gained ground as a result of its good correspondent here. It’s coverage is now viewed more positively and even Muslim Brotherhood officials, who previously refrained from appearing on an “American funded” channel, are starting to show us their nice faces. The channel is among the first to appear in and report about demonstrations and other political events.

It was shocking to hear that Salama Neimat, one of the most balanced Arab journalists around, was booted off the air simply because he criticized its management. Neimat was a frequent quest on Al Hurra. This is very worrying and it shows that the channel is being run by a small clique who are after their own interests.

I believe heads have to roll at Al Hurra and a more serious management put in place.

American Prospect:

“Mamoun Fandy, a senior fellow in Middle East policy at Rice University's Baker Institute, says that the rules governing the networks have made little difference, and that MBN is operating "runaway stations that need to be brought under control." He also says, "Alhurra looks like the Middle Eastern states it wants to change: It’s run by a small dictator who is totally corrupt" -- although he and other critics concede that they know of no criminal wrongdoing.
Salameh Nematt, who succeeded Harb as the Washington bureau chief of the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, says that the broadcasting executive is "more important in shaping public diplomacy than Karen Hughes,” the former Bush communications adviser who now serves as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Nematt, who used to appear regularly on a weekly Alhurra talk show but was booted off the air after he criticized the network, doesn't conceal his contempt for Harb or Alhurra. “He’s a third-rate journalist who has hired fourth-rate journalists,” Nematt says. “Most of them don’t speak English well, and they don’t know much about the Mideast, let alone America. No serious journalist from the Mideast works there.”
“What Middle Easterners expected was a high-quality American station on the level of American commercial television that had interesting shows like 60 Minutes,’” observes a State Department expert on international broadcasting. “What they got was a third-rate Lebanese station.” As a result, former Ambassador William Rugh, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and author of an influential book on Arabic media, has called Alhurra "a big waste of money.” “It’s an embarrassment,” he says. “The Arab audiences know it’s a poor representation of the American media but nobody in [authority in] Washington knows that it’s poor and the harm it’s doing, tarnishing the image of the U.S.”


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