Friday, February 08, 2008

"Major Arab-media crackdown planned"

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).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't displease everybody:

The meeting in Tunis came up with a number of good ideas. It proposes a pan-Arab designation of all propaganda that favours terrorism as a distinct crime of incitement.

Although it is up to every individual state to choose the wording of the legislation required, it is clear that most Arab states wish to clamp down on sermons, radio and television programmes, and other media products that encourage terrorism and violence in general.

More importantly, perhaps, the ministers agreed to combat fund-raising for terrorist operations. This is easier said than done as suspect fund-raising operations are often conducted through charities whose good work is a cover for money laundering.

Amazingly, none of the Arab states has a proper piece of legislation regarding charities that they regard as a private activity motivated by religious beliefs. As a result, a charity that might be banned in one country can appear in another or resume life under a new name.

The ministers realised that the war on terror is global and that the Arab states cannot win without coordinating with other affected nations.

This is why they approved a Saudi proposal to set up an international centre to combat terrorism. That, however, would require a definition of terrorism acceptable to a majority of the members of the United Nations, something that has eluded them for almost a decade.

Eventually, nothing may come out of all the good intentions expressed in Tunis. Nevertheless, the good news is that the Arab states are no longer in denial. They now admit that they are threatened by a terrorism they had believed concerned "the infidel" only.

"Terrorism is a global cancer," By Amir Taheri

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't some way in the world be found that coverage from London could be published in English?

7:12 AM  
Blogger badger said...

(1) The first comment above is verbatim from the article the commenter links to, which is by Amir Taheri, of Benador Associates (Perle, Krauthammer et al). (Taheri was the author of the memorable and but made-up story about Iranian Jews having to wear special yellow insignia, and before that the made-up story about the Iranian UN ambassador having been involved in the 1979 Tehran kidnappings, when in fact the person was in San Francisco at the time, and so on (see the above link for more details about the looney-tunes career of Taheri under the aegis of the Benador outfit). It is thrilling to think that the Benador publicists have noticed missing links.

(2) The issue isn't that this is from London. Asharq al Awsat (where Taheri, for instance, writes) is also from London. The issue is that the expression of consistent opposition to US policy that Al-Quds al-Arabi represents isn't allowed in establishment America. It's as simple as that.

7:53 AM  
Blogger annie said...

so much for free press being the cornerstone for a free society. what good is democracy is there is no freedom of speech?

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks badger - interesting.

Nice you get noticed be Benador though I doubt they will offer you a gig.

I have some thoughts up on a new phase of the resistance starting right now and would like to know your opinion about it. Would be nice to have some confirmation.

11:19 AM  
Blogger JoshSN said...

The Catholics called it the Index of Banned Books. The goal was to stifle Protestantism, but they threw in a bunch of other stuff they always found annoying.

Well, possession of certain pamphlets will be illegal, how about certain websites? In America I think the only websites you can't go to are the ones with child pornography.

Since it takes, with credit card, less than an hour to put a webpage which is globally visible, anyway.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benador Associates is also a zionist site Par excllence (richard perle among the board of directors) Amir Taheri has been exposed more than once to be a warmonger looking for personal profit only and AL Sharq Al Awsat where he has a column Belongs the Buddies of Bush , the evil AL Soud of Saudi Arabia (who share the same ideals )

5:13 AM  

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