Bad Guys Can’t Stand the Truth [Archives:2004/763/Opinion]

August 12 2004

Bad Guys Can't Stand the Truth “All this talk about wanting to spread democracy in the Arab World is no more than hogwash”, said Mamdouh as he and a couple of Yemeni journalists were heading for the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate Meeting of their local branch in Taiz.
“Come on now, Mamdouh”, said Ali, continuing, “We have really come a long way in Yemen from the early days of the Revolution, when all you had was the official version of every event that occurs in the country and the rest of the world”.
Fatima, a television reporter did not fully agree: “But have we really got all the press freedom we need to make us at par with the western countries or even some of the Arab democracies, like Lebanon, which enjoys considerable press freedom? Of course not. Most of the Arab countries have very few private and independent television or radio stations or none at all. Most of the independent newspapers are subject to control by 'voluntary' censorship.”
Ali still felt things were getting better on the press freedom side: “Yeah, but most of this kind of censorship is really for the purposes of morality. We don't want the press to get carried away and start showing photographs of nude people, do we?”
Fatima was not impressed with that argument: “What about the so called red lines that the authorities constantly keep telling us not to cross? The problem here is that these red lines transcend all subject matters. You can't speak against certain officials or bring out the details on corruption. So, how can you say that it is morality that the government is only concerned with? If they were so concerned about morality, isn't corruption and repression of public opinion and the right of the people to know immoral?”
Mamdouh went further: “You can't even get carried away with jokes about government ineptitude or follies. If you become too sarcastic, then you are ruining 'our image' and misrepresenting the true bona fide picture of the government. Come to think of it, you can't even take pictures of government buildings or facilities, because you would be construed as giving away national secrets.”
Fatima recalled an example: “One of our camera men was once picked up for photographing the employees of one government building as they were rushing to get on the bus, which only allowed 10 employees to get on. The rest of the employees had to find other means of going home; although the bus driver is supposed to come back to pick up the other remaining employees, which he doesn't, because he is not given enough petrol. The security staff of the building took the camera from our man and tore out the film, because they said he was photographing the luxury car of the big boss, which implies a security risk for the big boss'. He was not arrested for too long, but it took a lot of convincing to get the security to see the truth of the matter”.
“Look Fatima”, said Ali, elaborating, “the Arab free press is being challenged everywhere. Just to show how democratic Iraq is turning out to be after the 'handover', the Iraqi government rushed to close down the Al-Jazeera Office in Baghdad, because they were showing the tapes of the hostages thee insurgents are holding. Wouldn't it be better if the Iraqi government went after the insurgents to get the release of those hostages, and made as much use of the films supplied to Al-Jazeera or any of the other media channels for clues? Surely it wasn't Al-Jazeera that kidnapped the hostages. Besides Al-Jazeera is exercising all due restraint in not showing any offensive photos or footage of an excessively violent nature. If Al-Jazeera did not show them, the insurgents will certainly find someone else to show them anyway.”
Mamdouh wanted to really show the real reasons behind the Al-Jazeera closure: “Look you guys, Al-Jazeera has simply managed to get the kind of audience attraction that rivals the major right wing press organs, which are distorting the picture in Iraq to satisfy the neo-con-Zionist establishment in the United States. Their reporting has, on the whole achieved a respectable credibility, even among western audiences, who look to Al-Jazeera or other Arab channels; because they know that they are not getting the full picture from western embedded news sources. The fact of the matter is that lies are easy to discern and if you get a whole different picture from Arab journalists, especially with the kind of professionalism shown by Al-Jazeera people, this renders western embedded sources questionable.”
“What about Al-Manar?”, asked Ali, continuing, “The European elements of the international Zionist establishment are working diligently to block European satellite broadcasting of Al-Manar satellite channel, so that Europeans never get to see any of the Arab side in the Arab-Israeli dispute.”
Fatima had more clarification on this: “the European polls have shown that European public opinion has on the whole not looked too favorably to all the media whitewash the Zionist establishment is rigging out in Europe and notwithstanding the funding and the scope of the effort, the Europeans are scrutinizing the facts on the ground in the Holy Land. They know that the Israelis are committing atrocities and have no taste for the Zionist violations of human rights, notwithstanding all the bogus about terrorism the Israelis and their Zionist supporters sing out. Al-Manar is also proving to be a credible professional media organ, with a well proven capability in projecting a reasonable factual presentation of events. Yes, Al-Manar is anti-Zionist, but who should not be anti-Zionist, if they truly believed in human rights and equal justice for all. No, the problem for Al-Manar is that Hezbollah is proving to be an astute adversary of Israel on the ground and in the airwaves, and that is really what is bugging the Zionist establishment. Too put it simply, bad guys at home and abroad just can't stand the truth!”