Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

absent: Western journalists second hand reporting on the Syrian war and the propaganda against the Syrian government

    December 20, 2016   No comments
Eva Bartlett is an independent writer and rights activist with extensive experience in Syria and in the Gaza Strip, where she lived a cumulative three years (from late 2008 to early 2013). She documented the 2008/9 and 2012 Israeli war crimes and attacks on Gaza while riding in ambulances and reporting from hospitals. From June-August 2016, she visited Syria for her fifth time. On her sixth visit, in October and November, she returned independently again to Syria, for one month, during which time she visited Aleppo twice. 
She shares her findings and thoughts about Western media coverage of the war on Syria in this event.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson comments anger the rulers of Saudi Arabia, forcing Downing Street to distance itself from his views

    December 08, 2016   No comments

When the British government is forced to choose between factual truth and political imperatives, it chose politics

The UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated a fact almost universally known by now. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is fomenting sectarian war in the region. Saudi officials were angered by the comments and Saudi media accused British media of having an Iranian bias when reporting his comments.
Saudi rulers’ unhappiness with UK media is not specific to this particular instance. They are threatened by the rise in news stories portraying the Saudi military campaign in Yemen in a negative light. BBC had several programs that put the blame for the horrific conditions of children in Yemen on Saudi Arabia. Moreover, UK media in general is highlighting the hypocrisy of UK government, which criticizes Saudi War in Yemen, but keeps selling weapons that enable the rulers of the kingdom to conduct its destructive war in Yemen.
In its attempt to manage this crisis, especially that UK premiere was a guest during the GCC summit in Bahrain, Downing Street was forced to release a statement distancing itself from Johnson’s views.
Johnson’s comment is just one in many negative statements made by Western leaders, in the last two years, accusing Saudi Arabia of spreading an extremist interpretation of Islam

and supporting terrorist groups around the world. Outgoing U.S. president, Barack Obama made the case against Saudi Arabia in a 90-page long article summarizing his views in The Atlantic. Last summer, German intelligence officials also accused Saudi Arabia of building Islamic centers in the West that promote Wahhabism. The incoming U.S. administration will likely take a harsh stance against Saudi Arabian leaders as well.
In short the Saudi rulers must reform their political and religious institutions to be able to live in peace with their neighbors or risk crippling isolation.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The truth is the first and last victim of wars

    July 02, 2016   No comments

Considering the utterly conflicting reports about a single strike, not a battle or a war, it becomes evident that a truthful narrative about war is elusive and indistinguishable from propaganda. This fact was underscored in the wildly divergent reports about a single attack on ISIL's fighters fleeing the recently liberated city of Fallujah. In the end, the only fact about which we can be certain is this: "Airstrikes destroyed ISIL’s vehicles and killed fighters in a convoy leaving Fallujah." Nothing else reported by even the most reputable news outlets can be ascertained. The event seems to be the same, since the video released by both sides appear to be the same (see below); yet, the details are radically different.
We cannot be sure if U.S. coalition or Iraqi armed forces carried out the attack.

We cannot be sure if the U.S. refused to carry out the attack as requested by the Iraqi armed forces.

We cannot be sure if the U.S. offered ISIL safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if Iraqi forces offered ISIL fighters safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if the Popular Mobilization Forces offered ISIL safe passage out of Fallujah.

We cannot be sure if ISIL convoy consisted of 40 or 700 vehicles.

We cannot be certain if 175 or 250 ISIL fighters were killed.

We cannot be certain if the convoy consisted of only fighters or fighters and their family members.

Yet, all those claims were made and reported in different news outlet. Western media gave credit to the U.S. coalition while Iraqi media gave credit to Iraqi forces. The sample below speaks to the state of journalism and media in times of conflict.

CNN, U.S. media
Ajel; Iraqi media
Alarabiyya; Saudi Media

Nile24; Egyptian media

Nahrain; Iraqi media

RussiaToday, Russian media

ShafaqNews; Iranian media

ShafaqNews Iranian media

SkyIraq, Iarqi media

Friday, January 8, 2016

Journalism and media in Islamic societies in conflict zones

    January 08, 2016   No comments

al-Sharq al-Awasat coverage
Journalism in Arab countries: With the increased violence and potential for sectarian war in the Middle East, one would think that the media and journalists would pay more attention to details, facts, and the language they use to report about the death and destruction in that part of the world. Instead, journalist and the media in general sided with their benefactors or religious/ethnic community, betraying the profession and their duty to objectively inform the public.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which wanted to be the New York Times of the Arab world showed its true identity: the mouth piece of the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Aljazeera, whose funders wanted it to be the BBC of the Arab world, resigned to its limited true function: serving the Qatari ruling family and its political allies—the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey. Alarabiya has become the Fox News of the GCC ruling families. Alahram serves Sisi… and the list goes on. 

Here is an example of the kind of headlines the “professional” journalists at al-Sharq al-Awsat ran recently:

5 nations cut their diplomatic relations with Iran… and the world condemn its violations

It did not cross the mind of Iran that its attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulate in Tehran and Mashhad would open the doors of hell on it, including the cutting of diplomatic ties…

[The headlines and opening sentence sound ominous. But the rest of the news story would make you think that you are reading a satirical piece on The Onion or watching a story on the fake news program, The Daily Show. The 5 countries that cut relations with Iran are:

Saudi Arabia (the country the just executed 4 and beheaded 43 including a religious scholar whose crime was “criticizing wali al-amr [the ruler]”)

Bahrain (the tiny kingdom that serves as a bar and resort for the Saudi princes and princesses)

Sudan (Whose president cannot travel much because he faces arrest for war crimes and genocide)

Djibouti (where the hell is Djibouti)

Somalia (does this country actually has a government?)

Arab journalists’ dereliction of duty during these difficult times will make a grave situation graver. In the past, and during peace time, people of that region were used to the media serving as the propaganda tools in the hands of authoritarian rulers. People did not take them seriously. However, with civil wars raging in a handful of Arab countries, the need for accurate information is compelling and Arab journalists ought to take their responsibilities seriously.

Aljazeera devoted half of its space of its website frontpage to reports about the humanitarian crisis in the town of Madaya, Syria, because it is is "Sunni" town. Aljazeera avoided referring to the other towns under siege for years, as the BBC report shows, simply because those towns are inhabited by Shia. To stoke sectarian passion, Aljazeera used graphic images that did not depict people from Madaya.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Worried for their own security, the rulers of Saudi Arabia expand their own list of “terror organizations” and criminalize dissent

    March 09, 2014   No comments

8 years in prison for tweeting
in support of a demonstration
Days after recalling its top diplomats from Qatar, Saudi Arabia published a list of organizations and activities that are deemed criminal and prohibited Saudi citizens and residents from joining or supporting such organizations. The two events might appear to be unrelated. In reality, the latter decision provides the proper context for understanding the former. Moreover, the list and the logic that produced it are intriguing. Here is a summary of the key points of this document followed by a short analysis.


Any Saudi citizen or resident is prohibited from:

1. Promoting atheistic thought in any form; or raising doubt about the principles of the religion upon which this country is founded.

2. Renouncing the pledge of allegiance (bay`ah) offered to the rulers of this country; or paying allegiance to a party, organization, association, movement, or a person in this country or outside.

3. Fighting or encouraging others to fight in zones of conflict in a foreign country; or issuing religious edicts [fatwas] in support of fighting in outside wars.

4. Showing support for any of these parties, organizations, associations, movements, or groups; or showing sympathies towards them, or promoting their activities and attending their meetings inside or outside the kingdom; this applies to showing support through any and all means of communication including television, radio, print media, social media—visual, aural, written—and the Internet; or sharing and re-sharing of such content; or using the logos and symbols that express sympathies to these entities.

5. Donating to these entities or providing any kind of support—financial or moral—to groups and organizations that are terrorists or extremists; or sheltering anyone inside or outside the kingdom who belongs or supports these entities individuals and groups.

6. Communicating or establishing connections with these movements and groups, or persons who are enemies of the kingdom.

7. Having loyalty to any foreign country or having connection to any foreign country; or establishing connections with any foreign country in order to destabilize the kingdom or break the unity of its people.

8. Aiming to break the fabric of society and national unity; or calling for, promoting, enticing, or participating in sit-ins, demonstrations, or gatherings; or issuing statements in the name of a groups or association in any form that will risk the unity and stability of the kingdom.

9. Attending meetings, conferences, or colloquium that are held inside or outside the kingdom where ideas that may risk the security and stability of the kingdom are promoted or that could result in civil strife [fitna].

10. Criticizing other countries and its leaders.

11. Inciting other countries or organizations to criticize or act against the interests of the kingdom.

It ought to be noted that “the Holder of the Honored Place” [the King] has approved these recommendations and they are adopted in the royal decree 16820 and that these orders enter into effect on March 9, 2014. Violators will be prosecuted for acts from before and after this order was issued. Those still fighting abroad are granted an additional 15 days from the date of this order to reconsider their thinking and return home.

The Interior Ministry is appending a list of organizations and entities that are covered by this order including the organizations call themselves as follows:

Al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Yemen, al-Qaeda in Iraq—Daaesh--, Jabhat al-Nusra, Hezbollah of Saudi Arabia, Muslim Brotherhood, and the Houthi Association. The order applies to any organization that is similar to these groups in their thinking, preaching, and action; and all terrorist organizations as determined by the UNSC and other world organizations. The ministry will update this list regularly.


A simple reading of this document would reveal that the rulers or Saudi Arabia are still far from treating the root cause of the culture of violence they had created in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and now Syria. They are, however, interested in protecting the Saud family’s hold on power and they are using the so-called “global war on terror” as a pretext to criminalize all forms and modes of dissent. In fact, the first victim of this new law is an activist who was sentenced to 8 years in prison. This decree treats those killing civilians on sectarian and theological grounds the same way it treats a student or an academic who attends a class or a conference where views critical of the rulers of the kingdom are expressed.

The document is, in many ways, an official statement about what the rulers of the kingdom fear most and provides an insight into their thinking as it relates to domestic and foreign policy matters. The following can easily be deduced from reading this text.

The rulers of Saudi Arabia…

a.      are fearful of Iran and they are worried that Iran would use the Saudi Shi’as to destabilize the kingdom.

b.     are fearful of the Muslim Brotherhood and countries that support the Muslim Brotherhood (Qatar).

c.      are fearful of dissent and social change.

d.     are fearful of disloyalty: they fear that Saudi citizens  would join the Muslim Brotherhood, non-citizens would fall under the influence of their original countries, and Shi`as would fall under the influence of Iran.

e.      are fearful that the takfiris now fighting in Syria and Iraq will return home better trained and hardened and overthrow them.

f.      are fearful of the uncontrollable nature of the means of communication

g.     are fearful of the “privatization” of religious authority: anyone with a twitter account and large following can be a mufti and no one cares to listen to the official one anymore.  

Since laws are not created in vacuum, this document is also significant in that it represents an official acknowledgement of the role of Saudi Arabia in inciting hate, sectarianism, and violence. It recognizes the role of Saudi religious scholars, donors, and individuals in promoting and sustaining a culture of violence and exporting it to other countries. In this sense, going after hate speech and sectarianism is a step forward: Saudi officials are taking an active role in eradicating supremacist and violent sectarian ideology the same way they took an active role in manufacturing it. The problem is that they are casting a wide net to stifle legitimate dissent and exert even more control over all aspects of people’s lives.

* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

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