UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Military

International Information Programs
Office of Research
Issue Focus
Foreign Media Reaction

Commentary from ...
Europe
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere
February 18, 2004
AL-HURRA TV: ARABS SAY 'COSMETICS' WON'T CHANGE 'UGLY' U.S. POLICIES

February 18, 2004

AL-HURRA TV: ARABS SAY 'COSMETICS' WON'T CHANGE 'UGLY' U.S. POLICIES

KEY FINDINGS

** Al-Hurra TV's debut draws widespread derision, mistrust and criticism from Arab media.

** "Sweet" words and pictures cannot cover the U.S.' "bad policy" and "double standards."

** Skeptics deplore another American "propaganda machine" and expect Al-Hurra "to fail."

** A minority praises the media competition, chiding the "angry" Arab reaction as "naive."

MAJOR THEMES

U.S. must change policies; can't 'beautify an ugly face with cosmetics'-- Most Arab media say U.S. Mideast policy and "blind support for Israeli schemes" will be the bane of Al-Hurra. Reflecting the prevailing sentiment, the West Bank's official Al-Hayat Al Jadida declared: "Launching newspapers, radio stations and TV channels will not improve an ugly policy," and the independent Jordan Times reiterated that "no amount of sweet words and pretty pictures will change the reality of Israeli occupation." Invoking U.S. "double standards," some berated the debut's "scanty coverage" of Israel's "ongoing holocaust in the Gaza Strip and West Bank." Both independent and state-run papers called for the U.S. to "make a comprehensive review of its policy toward the region"--the cause of "the escalation of Arab hatred toward the U.S.'"

Seen as a U.S. 'propaganda tool,' Al-Hurra expected to serve up unpalatable programs-- Skeptics throughout the region portrayed the U.S. effort "to improve its image" variously as "psychological warfare," "brainwashing" and an "attack" on the Arab world. Because the U.S. does not "treat Arabs fairly," a Saudi writer argued, "manipulating facts in a world where everyone has access to information is not going to help America obtain its goals." Jordan's influential Al Rai was typical in denouncing the "invasion" as part of a "new war" that uses "not the blind American war machine but rather thoughts and ideas." As the "mouthpiece" of the Iraq occupation, the network will be viewed with "suspicion," an Egyptian daily added.

Just as Sawa and Hi before it, Hurra 'will never succeed'-- If Al-Hurra's "raison d'etre" is to compete with Arabic satellite TV, it faces an "uphill battle" to compete with Al Jazeera and Al Arabia. Arab writers resented the "arrogance and condescension implied by the project." A Jordanian daily ridiculed the endeavor's "futility": Al Hurra, like the U.S. Radio Sawa and Hi magazine, will be "an entertaining, expensive and irrelevant hoax." Saudi Arabia's independent Al Quds Al Arabi compared the effort to the tactics of "totalitarian Arab and socialist states during the Cold War," and a Qatari columnist predicted that "Arab curiosity in Al-Hurra will fade...because the Arab viewer has a heritage of hatred to whatever is American."

Rejecting Al-Hurra is 'naive'-- One notable op-ed by a prominent Kuwaiti writer defending the new channel ran in Saudi pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al Awsat as well as in papers in Kuwait and the West Bank. Reproaching the "angry reaction" and "agitated mindset" of the Arab press, the writer welcomed "one more color to add to the kaleidoscope of freedom," but cautioned that Al-Hurra can "only succeed if it does not become the mouthpiece of American foreign policy."

EDITOR: Irene Marr

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 43 reports from 15 countries, February 11-18. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

MIDDLE EAST

WEST BANK: "A New Satellite Channel"

Independent Al-Quds ran an op-ed by Ahmad Rabiya'i asserting (2/18): "Angry reactions in a number of Arab papers against 'Al-Hurra,' terming it an American conspiracy to 'brainwash' Arabs, are nave and an indication of a volatile, immature mentality.... In the age of satellites and live transmission of events, with the official Arab media taking backward steps... 'Al-Hurra' will never do well if its basic mission is to improve the American image, or if it loses its credibility. Stations that employ political propaganda fill the Arab airspace but no one is interested to watch. However, if this new station opens a healthy dialogue where all opinions meet together, it will serve as a net plus to existing channels and will also promote competition...and encourage other stations to reduce reporting that resembles political speechmaking."

"A Reading Into The Democratic American Project"

Ahmad Majdalani noted in independent Al-Ayyam (2/18): "Arab rulers, like their peoples, were surprised by a project presented by the American administration to the G-8 called 'Greater Middle East'. As the American administration was announcing its democratic reform plan for the 'Greater Middle East,' which it will discuss with the EU while disregarding the aspirations, regimes and institutions of the region's people, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld launched a...campaign against the 'Al-Jazeera' and 'Al-Arabiya' satellite channels, accusing them of harming American interests in Iraq.... In the meantime, the so-called American-made 'Al-Hurra' was launched with American funding and guidance as a means to improve the U.S. image. The main concern here is that the American administration might be determined to establish a one-sided media outlet that disregards other viewpoints."

"Al-Hurra (The Free One) Or The Slave"

Hafez Barghouti commented in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (2/17): "The U.S. has been working hard to improve its image in the Arab world. It has developed a new Middle East plan to present to the G-8 Summit. It has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to promote its policies through launching newspapers, radio stations and satellite channels, including the most recent one called 'Al-Hurra,' a name that doesn't really reflect its content, at least far as its inaugural broadcast is concerned. Nonetheless, all these attempts will surely fall short of improving the U.S. image.... As long as Al-Hurra forbids mentioning the word 'Palestine' in its broadcasts, it would be more fitting to call this station 'The Slave' [as opposed to the Free One]. At any rate, this station will never gain anything but hatred.... The Americans realize all this but turn a blind eye to it. Launching newspapers, radio stations and TV channels will not improve an ugly policy.... [Such media outlets] aim to brainwash the people of the region against their principles, traditions and cultures.... The quickest way to improve America's image is to end the [Israeli] occupation."

"Al-Hurra: A Dry Channel"

Fuad Abu Hijleh stated in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (2/16): "I made sure to watch 'Al-Hurra' on its first day of transmission. It started with an attack against us Arabs, accusing us of being underdeveloped and weak with no will to establish and manage modern, objective media.... According to Al-Hurra, we ought to love our executioners and to find justifications for their crimes. We are also expected to be convinced that our future is contingent upon our loyalty to the U.S. and its Congress and to the Zionist lobby inside the administration...and thus we have to boycott Al-Jazeera because it takes our side.... What Al-Hurra said about the official Arab media and the latter's troubling lack of professionalism is undeniably true, but it is due to the fact that these media are supported by governments that enjoy American protection provided by the Congress."

"American Arabic TV Gives Scanty Coverage To Palestinian Plight"

A commentary in the Hamas-affiliated website, Palestinian Information Center WWW, stated in English (2/15): "Occupied Jerusalem - A U.S.-financed Arabic TV station launched yesterday has given only scanty coverage to the Palestinian problem and Israel's ongoing holocaust in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. On its first day, al-Hurra devoted only a few sound bites of its 16-hour broadcasts to Palestinian affairs, including the ongoing construction by Israel of the gigantic apartheid wall. Moreover, next to nothing was said about the wall's devastating effects on Palestinians and the fact that it managed to reduce Palestinian population centers to virtual detention camps. Al-Hurra also ignored the ongoing rampageous home demolitions in the Gaza Strip, suggesting the station is a mere carbon copy of Jewish-controlled American media. Al-Hurra director, Muwafaq Harb, has promised that the station 'will be free and objective and cover all views.' Al-Hurra employs mainly Americanized Lebanese Christian journalists and has a number of correspondents in a number of Arab countries. The bulk of the materials broadcast Saturday were American documentaries promotional-advertisements. The raison d'etre of al-Hurra is to compete with such Arabic satellite Televisions as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya. However, media experts have opined that al-Hurra is facing an uphill task of stemming the tide of anti-Americanism in the Arab world which stems mainly from America's embrace of Jewish Nazism and Israeli occupation of Arab land. One Palestinian journalist opined that al-Hurra would seek to make an extremely ugly face look less ugly or even beautiful, an impossible task, he said. On Saturday, an Arab Knesset member, Ahmed Teibi, described al-Hurra as 'a cosmetic effort to beautify America's ugly face.' An ugly face will remain ugly no matter how much cosmetics you put on it"

"Democratic Change, How And Why?"

Naji Sharab wrote in independent Al-Quds (2/11): "As everyone knows, since the September 11 events, the U.S. has been imposing tremendous pressure on the Arab countries, in general, and the Palestinian Authority [PA], in particular, to carry out extensive 'reforms' to their political institutions and to rebuild the structures of their political authorities.... A few questions that must be raised here are: would it serve [the democratization process] to replace these regimes with armed forces?.... Should we ourselves take the initiative to apply a democratic system or wait for others to lecture us about democracy?"

EGYPT: "Lamppost"

Ahmad Hasan noted in state-owned, aggressive Al-Akhbar (2/15): "'It will be like a lamppost in a media market that provocation and distortion dominate.' With these words Norman Pattis, Al-Hurra TV network's chief, introduced himself and his team without shame or scruple to millions of the Arabs and the Muslims in what is known now as the Greater Middle East. For the knowledge of those who do not know, the network started transmitting its programs yesterday for 14 hours a day to extend to 24 hours in the coming weeks. If the team and the location of the network are still unknown, its objective is known. It has been announced openly and clearly maybe to the point of cheekiness that the network aims to improve the image of the United States in the Arab and Islamic world and change the thoughts of viewers in this area of the world. The objective might be legitimate in normal circumstances. But to work to achieve such objectives at a time the U.S.administration announces that the U.S. policy is to change ruling regimes with or without force and reform and discipline peoples through promises or threats, makes it necessary to view the network in suspicion. Besides, this Hurra [Arabic for the free one] network comes into existence in circumstances totally unrelated to this word. I do not refer only to the environment it will work in but also to the entire world order and even to the United States that has turned into a police state whose security laws might pass in their ugliness those in developing countries. The network also comes into existence during the completely unjustified U.S. occupation of a sovereign country, and it being the mouthpiece of the occupation attaches to it a stigma that cannot be removed."

"Al-Hurra Challenges Al-Jazeera"

Ashraf al-Ashri explained in state-owned weekly Al-Ahram (2/14): "In line with the rule that the devil is in the details [in details are the tricky and dangerous sides of anything], the U.S. administration is currently undertaking in total secrecy a number of daily experiments before starting the new Al-Hurra TV channel that will transmit political news in Arabic.... The channel is considered an objective and balanced answer in the Arab world to media organs like Al-Jazeera TV channel in Qatar which White House officials accuse of inciting anti-American sentiment in the Arab region. Al-Hurra's work-team that will transmit its programs from the U.S. state of Virginia is a combination of American managers and well-known Arab journalists.... Even if the channel draws agreeable reaction some specialists doubt that such a reaction would be big enough to justify the $62 million cost of the first year of operation. Al-Hurra's administration says that its transmission will be wherever there are viewers of Al-Jazeera and Arabiya channels that are a chronic headache to the United States... Al-Hurra's administration fears it might meet with the failure of previous U.S. media projects. They, however, hope they will manage to draw Arab appreciation, especially as the channel employs a news manager and editor of Arabic stock besides prominent journalists who until recently worked for some Arab media institutions."

SAUDI ARABIA: "The American Al-Hurra Satellite Channel"

Independent, nationalist London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi stated (2/17): "The USA yesterday made its debut into the media scene with force by unveiling a station that addresses Arabs in their own language, just like the totalitarian Arab and socialist states during the Cold War.... The American Al-Hurra [TV channel] will meet the same fate that met the Israeli channel that was buried and the other official Arab TV stations."

"New Satellite Station"

Ahmad al-Rub'i held in pan-Arab London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat (2/17): "The angry reaction by the Arab press against...Al-Hurra--seeing the channel as an American plot to 'brainwash' the Arabs--is a naive reaction which indicates an agitated mindset drowning in conspiracy theories.... The Al-Hurra channel will not succeed if its mission is to put a fine gloss on America's face or if it loses its credibility. The Arab airwaves are filled with many stations spewing out political propaganda and no-one watches them. But if the new station opens a healthy dialogue and represents all views it will constitute an addition to the stations and the satellite channels that already exist.... Any nation that fears a satellite channel, irrespective of its colors and source, is a frightened and retrogressive nation. A self-confident nation must regard such an event as one more color being added to the kaleidoscope of freedom, which we need just as we need wholesome air."

"America Directs Its Media Attention To The Arab World"

Riyadh's conservative Al-Riyadh editorialized (2/16): "We do not want to be prejudiced towards the new American channel Hurra TV channel.... The establishment of Hurra TV is an attempt by America to devote its entire media, psychological and political powers to gain an Arab blessing; however, Arabs have already determined that the U.S. does not have any good intentions toward the Arab world, nor does it deal fairly with Arab issues.... America is fully aware that creating a positive impact on Arab countries is near to impossible. But, the U.S. believes in moving step-by-step.... Manipulating facts in a world where everyone has access to information is not going to help America obtain its goals, especially when Arabs are sensitive about those goals and strongly believe that the U.S. is an enemy, not a friend, a plotter, not an adviser."

"Cheers To Hurra; Arabs Are Uncovered"

Abdulaziz Al-Jarallah maintained in Riyadh's conservative Al-Riyadh (2/16): "Arabs at this critical moment do not have the ability to refuse the Hurra TV, or to stand up against U.S. Congressional initiatives. However, Arabs could have what is more valuable than rejecting Hurra TV, and that is the development of their own domestic media institutions to give them a role in political, economic and social decisions.... The Hurra TV is dealing with our issues, but we know our own issues better. Here's the logical way of dealing with this--either we accept the changes in the world around us, or we stand still. The Arab World is finding itself isolated and remote from its geographical surroundings."

"Improve America's Image? Or Justify Its Plans?"

Jeddah's moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (2/15): "An American-financed, Arabic-speaking TV satellite station aired yesterday for the first time. This station is, according to U.S. plans, responsible for improving the U.S. image in the Middle East. Congress has allocated $30 million in this year's budget for the project. Arab viewers will receive this TV station with great skepticism and doubts of its real intentions, because it contradicts the present U.S. policies in the region. America is supportive of Israel's occupation in all its form, and there is the issue of the occupation of Iraq. These are all things that provoke Arab anger against America. Double standard U.S. policies will be a major problem for this TV station."

"Skepticism Of The American Initiative"

Walid Choucair observed in London-based pan-Arab Al Hayat (2/13): "The U.S. Department of State's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) stared out with a staff of three employees before Secretary of State Colin Powell announced it last year. Today, it staffs around twenty people...and they oversee the spending of a budget of $250 million allocated by Congress for 2004.... Some Arab countries were responsive to this initiative; others were partially and timidly responsive; a third group was expected to be severely skeptical and critical of MEPI... It is impossible for both sides, even for America's major allies, to fully accept the program.... What justifies the partial rejection of the initiative is the atmosphere in which Arab democratic leaders have indulged themselves. It is an atmosphere of searching for further ways of reinforcing Human Rights, the role of civil society, fighting corruption, and developing accountability. Part of the rejection of the initiative might be the financing of the modernization of education, introducing technology, programs to enlarge women's contribution in political life, reinforcing parliamentary skills, and other programs that might tamper with national sovereignty and independence. There are strong justifications for the initiative's total rejection. Some of the program's objectives attempt to address the gap caused by the absence of political life within Arab societies, especially youth and middle and rising classes that are eager to express their opinions.... If Washington wishes this initiative to establish 'pressure groups' for its own interests it is likely that this initiative will face rejection."

JORDAN: "Freedom In A Tube"

Independent, English-language elite Jordan Times declared (2/16): "So, the 'Free One' is launched and the region braces itself for a wave of change as the masses realize the error of their fundamentalist ways, the benign nature of the massive U.S. military presence in the region, the justness of the Israeli and U.S. occupations of Arab land, and that walls indeed make good neighbors. Or perhaps not. Regardless, Feb. 14, Valentine's Day (coincidence?), saw the launch of America's latest effort in the hearts and minds campaign in the Middle East, the satellite TV station Al Hurra, with the brief to promote the values of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. While the effort has already been panned by commentators across the region, there is one thing to say for it: it is eminently more rational to promote such values by argument and example, the things responsible media can provide, than by brute military force. There the positives end and the problems begin. One problem is credibility, without which any serious media outlet is nothing. While the station insists that it will be editorially independent, it is sponsored by the U.S. government, rendering it immediately suspect.... Another problem is the arrogance and condescension implied by the project. It is condescending because it seems to assume that the people of the region do not understand the U.S., nor the principles of democracy and freedom. It is arrogant, because it is saying that if only they did, they would fall in line behind the most belligerent American foreign policy this region has ever been exposed to. Which of course brings us to the third and most important problem with the project: its futility. No amount of sweet words and pretty pictures will change the reality of an Israeli occupation, soon in its 37th year, or the chaos in Iraq, both of which can be directly attributed to American policy. No one here is going to be convinced of America's benign intentions as long as these issues remain unresolved. It all seems so obvious, at least to most of the people of this region, that, to borrow the phrase of an American cultural icon, 'doh!'"

"USA's Al-Hurra TV Channel"

Dr. Fahd Al-Fanik asserted in independent, pro-government Al-Ra'y (Internet version, 2/17): "Does Al-Hurra have the capability to convince us [Arabs] about the fairness of the U.S. policy towards the Palestinians?... Those managing Al-Hurra claim that their channel will contribute to creating democracy in the Arab world. These are false claims, and as long as it serves the interests of the USA we know that the USA is an ally of dictatorial and corrupt regimes."

"The Democracy Of Killing And Racism"

Khaled Mahadin commented in semi-official, influential Arabic-language Al-Rai (2/12): "The latest ingenuity of the alliance of the racist Zionism and the racist American Christian right-wing is the encroachment of American democracy upon us. This invasion is part of a new American war, that uses not the blind American war machine, but rather thoughts and ideas, as declared by Rumsfeld and Powell.... Over more than sixty years, the United States was the greatest supporter of fascist, military and totalitarian regimes in the Arab and Muslim world, in Asia, and South America. Because of this support, millions of people were killed here and there, nationalist liberation movements were aborted in dozens of countries, and the United States provided full protection for tens of dictators and murderers. This is why America's talk of invading the Arab world, the Middle East and the Muslim world with what Washington calls democracy is amusing.... We do not think that any sane person in our world could even take America's new call seriously, simply because Washington knows that democracy in the Arab and Muslim world will yield the real enemy of America's interests and plans. Real democracy will not bring into power regimes and leaderships that accept to work under the American umbrella, or take its orders, or even allow it to wreath corruption, conspiracy and racism against Islam, real Christianity and Arab nationalism.... The American democracy that Washington is calling for as being in our best interest is another form of the destructive invasion that is targeting the Arab homeland and the Muslim world to benefit the Zionist enemy and the Christian right-wing.... The American animosity towards Arabism, Arabs, Islam and Muslims makes this call for democracy another lie in the mountain-worth of American lies."

"The American Public Diplomacy Hoax--Why Do They Keep Insulting us?"

Rami G. Khouri reflected in the independent Jordan Times (2/11): "The American president's intellectual terror ('they hate our freedom') is simplistic, wrong and dangerous, and an inappropriate and ineffective retort to the world views of the criminals who have terrorised and killed thousands of Americans and other nationals.... At many levels today -- Palestine/Israel, Iraq, the war against terror, mass media, public diplomacy, democratic reform, religion and secularism -- Americans and Arabs are interacting, but not communicating. This frustrating reality is about to be sharply aggravated when the United States next week launches its Arabic-language satellite television channel Al Hurra.... Perhaps not since the Emperor Nero blamed the fledgling Christians for Rome's domestic troubles in the mid-1st Century AD has a world power so flagrantly engaged in misguided policies that find scapegoats in others instead of rationally analysing the collective mistakes and responsibilities of all concerned.... By arguing that our region is troubled and violent because Arabs and Muslims hate American values, and then attempting to correct this by launching television, radio and magazine efforts in Arabic, the U.S. government perpetuates a fatal combination of political blindness and cultural misperception that is only going to exacerbate the gap between Americans and Arabs, rather than close it. In public diplomacy as in its Iraq intelligence analysis, Washington suffers from occasional technical incompetence that is then magnified grievously by the distortions of extreme political ideology, woefully inadequate cultural understanding of Middle Eastern societies and a rigid refusal to examine how American foreign policy impacts on Middle Eastern perceptions of the U.S. I predict that if Al Hurra television does offer Arabs and Muslims a better understanding of American society and values, its main impact will be to heighten Arab anger and irritation with U.S. policy in the Middle East -- because the gap between American values and American foreign policy conduct will become even more obvious to newly enlightened Middle Easterners. Al Hurra, like the U.S. government's Radio Sawa and Hi magazine before it, will be an entertaining, expensive and irrelevant hoax. Where do they get this stuff from? Why do they keep insulting us like this?"

KUWAIT: "Do Not Underestimate The Power Of Media"

Sami Abdul Latif Al-Nisif wrote in independent Al-Anba (2/18): "In the view of many Arabs, the launch of the new satellite channel Al-Hurra is the first step in correcting decades of accumulated grievances created by America the 'Great Satan.' Not only can Al-Hurra pull the rug out from under the rest of the Arab satellite channels, but also, it can correct many misconceptions on American foreign policy toward the region and perhaps end the tension."

"Iraqis Electrocuted"

Faisal Al-Zamil wrote in independent Al-Anba (2/18): "It seems Paul Bremer and the Coalition Authority are releasing persons linked to the former Iraqi regime, the same people who tormented the Iraqi people. Many Iraqis were right to be suspicious of America's motives. How can we comprehend the reason behind the release of Saadoun Hamadi and Mohammed Al-Sahaf, who committed crimes against Iraqis and led them into pointless wars, while hundreds of Guantanamo detainees continue to be incarcerated only on reason of suspicion? This silly charade of releasing war criminals, and classifying their leader [Saddam Hussein] a Prisoner of War is a serious turning point which even the families of American soldiers are now questioning."

"A New Satellite Channel"

Dr. Ahmed Al-Rubei, former MP and liberal columnist wrote in independent Al-Qabas (2/17):

"The launch of Al-Hurra satellite channel elicited angry reactions and was labeled an American conspiracy by many Arab news media. This reaction is nave and clear sign of an overwrought mindset. In an age where technology reigns, and where Arab satellite channels are in regress, Al-Hurra can succeed only if it does not become the mouthpiece of American foreign policy. Only if Al-Hurra conducts a healthy and impartial dialogue where all opinions are presented, then perhaps it can open the door for objective analysis and fair competition. Self-Confident nations must look on such an event as an addition of a new color to the spectrum of the colors of freedom."

"Rich And Poor"

Fouad Al-Hashem wrote in independent Al-Watan (2/17): "I predict within one year, the newly launched Al-Hurra satellite channel, will best seventy five percent of all current Arab satellite channels. The finest endorsement for the new channel was articulated when a female employee said she worked at numerous media outlets, but now working at Al-Hurra she was free of the censor."

"A Reading...Into An International Plan"

Dr. Mohammed Al-Rumaih wrote in independent Al-Rai Al-A'am (2/17): "On several occasions, president Bush and foreign secretary Powell spoke of MEPI and both hoped Western states would adopt MEPI as a future working plan toward the Middle East. The philosophy behind this project lies in that instability in the Middle East is threatening the interests of countries such as the United States, and this instability is due to a failure in the development in the Arab world. Most significantly, many Western decision makers believe that Arab leaders are using the unresolved Palestinian problem as a pretext to delay reforms. MEPI plan in general focuses on education, and many of its elements are beneficial and welcome. It is what MEPI fails to mention that is much more significant."

LEBANON: "Bush's Initiative Will Have No Effect On Arabs"

An editorial by Adib Farha in pro-Sunni Al-Liwa (2/17): " We did not reject President Bush's the 'Greater Middle East Project' which calls for the democratization of the area...because we are against democracy.... His call, in principle, is great, however, the problem...is the fact that Bush is planning for the future of our nations without even consulting us about his plans as if he is drawing up projects for countries that have no people.... We are not trying here to underestimate the importance of democracy...however, we do not want the process of democratization to take our attention off important issues...like Israel's continued disregard of international resolutions and the Palestinian cause.... We tell President Bush that his call could have dominated our minds and hearts had it been linked to an American decision to play a fair and a just role...in the Middle East."

"Why Do You Guide Us?"

An editorial by Ahmad Ayyach in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/15): "The question 'Why do they guide us?' is an answer to the question 'Why do they hate us?' which in turn is the basic justification for launching Alhurra channel.... There is no need to say that the question 'Why do they hate us' is the product of pure imagination.... The question should be 'why do they love us?'... The sons of Arab nations look towards the U.S. as the land of fortunes an opportunities.... All our young colleagues who left Lebanon to work for Alhurra have our heartiest congratulations. The thousands of dollars salary they'll receive on a monthly basis in addition to the prospect of getting a U.S. citizenship are two basic reasons to envy them.... It will not be long before they discover that the question 'why do they hate us' is pure imagination...however, they'll find out that they will have to answer the following question 'Why do they hate us in Palestine and in all the dark corners?"

"The Last Stop"

A daily column by Sateh Noureddine in Arab nationalist As-Safir (2/17): "The worst in Alhurra is the fact that it is based on the assumption that Arabs and Moslems are at the same wavelength of that of their rulers, and consequently, it is possible to influence them and change their views easily."

"Based On The Assumption That Arabs Will Change Their Minds Immediately"

A daily column by Sateh Noureddine in Arab nationalist As-Safir (2/16): "It was said, almost in unison, that America does not only need to enhance its image, but also needs to change its policy. Everybody said that Alhurra will not be beneficial...basing their judgment on Radio SAWA's experience in the region...which was not able to compete with any local radio in the region...America really believes that it will be able to penetrate the Arab mind through SAWA, Alhurra, and Hi Magazine...exactly the same way it was able to penetrate the iron curtain that used to divide Europe...The U.S. does not realize and understand the important differences between the Soviets in the sixties and seventies, and the Arab Muslims at the beginning of the 21st Century...In America's view, taxpayers' money is not being wasted. A clear media plan was approved as a result of September 11 on America's highest official levels...and it is based on the assumption that Arabs and Moslems do not know America well, and that as soon as they know the real U.S., they will change their minds immediately.... The Arab space can certainly contain this new Satellite station...it will be an attractive experience, particularly in light of reports about a possible Israeli Satellite TV channel that would be addressing the Arabs in the near future."

"Harb to As-Safir: I chose America...And I Strip The News Story From Any Description"

An article by Rasha Al-Atrash in Arab nationalist As-Safir stated (2/13): "Soon the phone will ring...only seconds and we'll have Muwaffac Harb on the line...while waiting...it was difficult not to be filled with doubts thinking that he might speak in a terse manner...or he might be defensive...or he will criticize the Arab world that has already criticized Alhurra...Muwaffac Harb answered the phone...and we found out that our doubts were not totally misplaced...however, he spoke with great calm, friendliness, and optimism...the kind of optimism that makes you wonder, because this channel which is totally funded by the U.S. Congress, and which will have no commercial on its screens...seems to have been rejected in advance by the Arab street which is...frustrated and angry and targeted, beginning tomorrow, by efforts to correct its understanding of the United States. What kind of miracle will render Alhurra digestible in Syrian, Palestinian, Libyan, Palestinian, Iraqi (even those who celebrated Saddm's fall) and even Lebanese homes (where there are current parties that support Washington and its master?) The philosophy of programming on Alhurra revolves around promoting democracy and freedom through giving accurate information which the Arab citizen will depend on. This is what Harb told Al-Jazeera...Alhurra will not be broadcast in the U.S. because it is in Arabic and because its mission to address the Arab world."

"The Emperor Of Sound And Image And 'Freedom'"

An article by Zeinab Ghosn in As-Safir asserted (2/13): "Who is standing behind the Alhurra project? He is the same person who stood behind Radio SAWA, Norman Pattiz. An unknown name perhaps on the level of the Arab world, but certainly he is not unknown in the U.S. Some describe him as the Ted Turner of the Radio.... [F]ollowing September 11, Pattiz proposed the idea of a establishing a radio that addresses the Islamic world...because in Pattiz's opinion the basic reason for Arab 'hatred' towards Americans is 'because they do not know us.' This simplification of the relationship between the Arabs and the United States shows up frequently in his media statements.... He also talks about the Arab media environment that calls for violence...and gives false news that is subjected to governmental censorship. Consequently, the only solution in Pattiz's opinion is a television and a radio that present to the Arab world an accurate and transparent news story...Pattiz confirms that Alhurra will remain independent...(we are not based on propaganda), however, at the same time he is a member of BBG...which has been promoting American policy since the second world war.... Despite the liberal course of action Alhurra seems to have adopted...its news will never touch upon the bilateral relations between the U.S. and the Arab states which Alhurra is addressing, and it will practice self-censorship in the sense that, for example, it will not broadcast the rap songs that express a wave of anger against the U.S. authorities.... Of course this is just a simple example about the nature of censorship that might be imposed on the 'freedom' and 'truth' that might be practiced in Alhurra and its sisters."

"Will A Good Television Cover For A Bad Policy? Alhurra To Be Launched On Saturday"

Wafiq Ramadan remarked in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/12): "The name of this new station is Alhurra. The name itself is controversial...because no media tool owned by any government has ever been described as hurra (free). It is similar to a bouquet of flowers meant to be given to a beauty to get her attention, but then it was used to strike her down. Alhurra means that other Arab and non-Arab television are not hurra (not free.)...Will Alhurra be able to confront tens of Arab satellite channels? Will it cover events that might embarrass the U.S. Administration? Will it be able to take into consideration local feelings about certain events?... Media is a mercurial mission and Al-Alhurrah has to confront a basic challenge: It will either be able to gain the trust of viewers in its first weeks or live another hundred years, like other media outlets created by USIS, without being watched by anybody.... Officials in Alhurra say that it will present the policy of the United States clearly and effectively and it will also present discussions of this policy--this alone is a great challenge."

MOROCCO: "The 'Arabic' Radio Sawa In Morocco"

Yahya El Yahyaoui observed in Istiqlal party-run Arabic-language Al Alam (2/17): "In fact, the timing of the launching of radio 'Sawa'' following the Anglo-American aggression and direct occupation of Iraq, was the result of two factors in our belief: First was the ugly image Arab citizens had of the behavior of a right-wing, extremist and Zionist U.S. administration following the invasion and destruction of Iraq.... Second is the U.S. administration's inability to communicate its vision about events developing either in Iraq, on the Palestinian issue or about its intentions towards Syria, Iran and the Gulf.... We are fully convinced that radio 'Sawa' aims to infiltrate the Arab media system and reconstruct its form and content.... Neither Radio 'Sawa' (nor its TV channel) can mend by words or pictures what (U.S.) policy-makers have broken with deeds and practices.... U.S. behavior towards Arabs, as well as towards Muslims, has created strong feelings of rejection that cannot be mended by the performance of a radio station (or a TV channel), but only by changes in the form and in content of its behavior.... Radio 'Sawa' is an aggressive station par excellence; why not, since it is the creation of an administration that does not hesitate to humiliate human beings, civilizations and stones in most instances without having the right to do so?"

"Alhurra: U.S. Gift To The Arab World"

Mokhtar Laghziwi noted in independent Arabic Al Ahdath Al Maghrebiya (2/17): "Those who have tuned their ears for a while to radio 'Sawa' have been waiting impatiently for Saint Valentine's Day last Saturday to see how America will win Arab eyes after controlling their ears for quite some time."

"Alhurra Denounced By The People To Whom It Is Addressed"

An editorial in French-language opposition Al Bayane (2/17): "'The launching of the new American TV network in Arabic, Alhurra, aimed at improving the U.S. image in the Arab world, has been received with skepticism and even scorn in this region where anti-Americanism is intensifying with the ongoing occupation of Iraq. The network and its announcers insist on the fact that they are free as if they were telling the Arab audience that it was not free, that it is oppressed and the U.S. would teach the (Arab people) freedom. This is a pretty stupid process,' said the Egyptian analyst Salama Ahmad Salama."

"Fierce American Invasion Of Morocco"

Under the sub-head: "American delegations to recruit young people to work in Sawa radio, the Al Hurra TV channel and Hi magazine," Casablanca's Masadir noted (2/14): "[L]ast week, American delegations arrived in Morocco. They represent the [U.S.] Al Hurra satellite television channel that will be on the air soon, and also the American Hi magazine, published in Arabic in Washington. The aim of the delegation is to recruit two Moroccan teams to work for both the TV channel and the magazine. The American delegates received hundreds of job applications and held preliminary tests for a group of Moroccan youths who wish to join these American information organs. In addition to Al Hurra channel and Hi magazine, there is already the [American] Sawa radio station that has been so far broadcasting its programs on FM frequencies in Casablanca and Rabat....The American delegations that have come to Morocco put forward a condition for those who want to work for the Hi magazine and the Al Hurra channel: Candidates must not be over 30 years of age.... U.S. delegates perhaps believe youths under 30 are favorably amazed by the American way of life, and that they enthusiastically love American music and films, which makes it easy to recruit them to work for the new American media mission now highlighted by American propaganda, and for which huge budgets have been allocated, so that the American presence may become permanent, with the use of audio visual means and a newspaper.... The Moroccan masses, with all their strata and age groups, have enough immunity and steadfastness to resist in the face of the America news media onslaught. These masses are voicing this on every occasion through their information channels that are hostile to the policy of the White House in the Arab world.... This is bound to complicate the plan of the American State Department and the Washington secret services that are using all means to infiltrate the minds of Arab citizens in order to market an angelic picture of today's America.... As the Americans have seen closely during their recent visit, and as former American ambassador in Rabat, Margaret Tutwiller, has warned, Morocco is determined to resist the American propaganda machine; it rejects the White House assertions and does not believe that democracy comes to the Arab world on board American tanks. Will America lose its bet in Morocco and win it in other Arab countries?"

QATAR: "Why Al-Hurra Will Fail"

Mazen Hammad, columnist, semi-independent Arabic Al-Watan (2/17): "When I was searching for Al-Hurra I remembered an old Arab saying which says that "The Hurra (free) woman will never feed herself by prostitution." Our new Hurra TV will never be hungry as long as it is supported by the American Federal Reserve! I believe that after a few days the Arab curiosity in Al-Hurra will fade away and disappear because the Arab viewer has a heritage of hatred to whatever is American. Actually I believe that an Israeli Satellite Channel would be much more successful in attracting Arab viewers because Israel is Israel, but Al-Hurra is Israel's mouthpiece. Al-Hurra will never replace Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya because these two channels have their own place in the hearts and minds of the Arab people. While Al-Hurra is another propaganda tool that will never succeed and will face the same problems of Radio Sawa and Hi Magazine. The first political program that Al-Hurra aired showed how shallow the channel is. How can we accept a TV scene calling for co-existence between the Palestinians and the Israelis when our minds and eyes have seen, every day for the last three and half years, Israeli tanks attack, destroy and kill Palestinians in Jenin, Rafah, Jabalya, and Bethlehem in front of the world's eyes and with the support of the United States? The two goals of Al-Hurra are to polish and clean the image of the United States in the Arab world and to control the horses of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. These two goals will be met only if the United States takes the moral stance in the Arab Israeli conflict and acts as a fair mediator. And, since the President loves speed, as he said in the Daytona car race, we hope the President will love quickly speeding Israel to stop its daily crimes against the Palestinians, quicken the pace of handing over power to the Iraqis, and not hide behind illusions like Al-Hurra. These illusions will bring only more destruction, and more pain, and maybe more leaders like Sharon."

"Al-Hurra the Satellite American Channel"

Jamal Fayez, a Qatari columnist, semi-independent Arabic Al-Raya (2/17): "When I saw my colleague Talal Al-Sada on Al-Hurra I felt so proud. I also felt very proud because Al-Hurra, and before that Al-Arabiya, the Israeli Satellite Channel and soon the French Satellite channel are the outcome of the establishment of the great and most credible channel in the region - Al-Jazeera. There is no doubt that Al-Jazeera broke all taboos seven years ago. It is one of the most important and reliable sources of information, not only in the region - but in the world. However, statements that were issued by Al-Hurra officials asserting that the new channel will be accurate and balanced will be assessed by the Arab viewers. I don't think Al-Hurra will have a real effect on us because channels before Al-Hurra tried and failed, like the Israeli channel. The viewers are not a white paper that will absorb anything. The most important issue will be the content not idealistic pronouncements. I have to admit that establishing Al-Hurra means that the USG has finally acknowledged that Arab public opinion is vital and essential in forming the foreign policy in the world."

"Directed And Controlled Channel"

Ghazi Al-Thibah, columnist, semi-independent Arabic Al-Watan (2/17): "The Arab viewer is not nave - but he is also not a genius; and we should not underestimate people's intelligence! The USG is underestimating our intelligence and our humanity. Al-Hurra and Hi Magazine are media tools, which the Americans are using to penetrate our minds and our values. But how can you penetrate the minds of people who suffer from your strategic ally? And of course I mean Israel. This new channel, which pretends that it represents objectivity and accuracy, is actually the outcome and the product of an administration that does not respect us and wants to dominate our lives and our future. It will be almost impossible to digest Al-Hurra programs and newscasts. The Americans should know that 65 percent of the Arabs are illiterate and will never accept Al-Hurra's approach because it is impossible to penetrate their social code; and it is impossible to be penetrated with what we see as the reason behind our miseries."

SYRIA: "U.S. Needs New Policy On The Middle East"

Chief Editor Fuad Mardoud wrote in the English-language government-owned Syria Times (2/15): "The Bush administration needs to make a comprehensive review of its policy towards the region and to its blind support for Israeli schemes which are the cause for the escalation of Arabs' hatred towards the U.S. The U.S. administration needs to focus its attention on the Middle East with a firm, evenhanded policy that works for the realization of just and comprehensive peace in the region. Washington has to fashion a plausible and principled Middle East policy that takes into account of injustices inflicted upon Arabs during the past five decades."

UAE: "Arab-Israel Conflict Hinders Democracy In Middle East"

Mustapha Karkouti observed in expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News (2/17): "The vast majority of Arabs would be delighted to see the advancement of real democracy into their own countries, whether through self-help or with external aid. Either way, the Arabs will consider themselves the winners. But when the U.S. administration declares that it will support a program to establish democracy in the region, its call keeps falling on deaf ears.... But, when carefully examined, one can see a lot of logic and reason behind the Arab hesitation. First, in its long history of relations with the Middle East, the U.S. has not shown any tangible effort to help the process of democratization in the Arab World.... But some Arabs believe what the administration is really after, is by and large, some form of docility rather than full-fledged democracy. Other Arabs, including traditional and long-standing U.S. allies, suspect that there will not be any such call.... The real issue is not a question of development in the Arab world only, but it is both an issue of development and peace. And as long as the Arab-Israel conflict over Palestine is not solved, the development process will continuously be interrupted and irreversibly set back."

EUROPE

FRANCE: "New Channel"

Right-of-center Le Figaro opined (2/17): "Financed by Congress, the goal of the new station is to enhance America's image in Arab countries and to reduce the influence of al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyah.... The station was received with skepticism and disdain in the Middle East, according to local reporters."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Unfortunate Launch Of American TV Broadcast"

Petr Pesek held in center-right Lidove noviny (2/16): "To say that the new broadcast of Al-Hurra is professionally independent and launch the TV station's broadcast with an interview of President Bush is very unfortunate. The credibility of the station will be impaired by this lapse, and the TV station will be perceived as the mouthpiece of Washington."

TURKEY: "Bush's Great Lie"

Husnu Mahalli reflected in pro-Islamic, intellectual Yeni Safak (Internet Version-WWW, 2/18): "Al-Hurra is the new television program that will carry out America's propaganda directed at the Arabs. The channel began broadcasting last Sunday and aired an interview with President Bush.... Even before the sentences that left President Bush's mouth were completed they were contradicting themselves. But, that did not matter for Bush After all, he is 'the Lord of the Rings' in person. With his classic grin President Bush explains to the Arabs how they should be reformist and democratic. But he did not explain why he always cooperates with backwards, antidemocratic dictatorships in the Arab world. President Bush said he 'was all for peace in the Middle East' and mentioned 'the need to end Palestinian terrorism' but did not explain why he continues to support Sharon, whom the whole world accepts as a murderer.... The principle goal of Bush's 'exalted' effort is to turn this perfected region into completely into an American sphere of interest. Of course the peoples of the Arab and Muslim countries must be saved from the disgraceful situations they are in.... All America has to do is top supporting the antidemocratic, fascist dictatorships governing those countries. Nobody should believe Bush's lies.... When you read between the lines of President Bush' speech you see that Washington's concern is not the liberation or the democratization of the Arabs and Muslims. What concerns it is using the pretext of terrorism he is worrying us with to bring the entire region under America's political, economic and mental control."

SOUTH ASIA

IRAN: "Psychological Warfare"

A broadcast in the Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1 asserted (2/16): "The huge American investment in the establishment of the network itself reveals to what extent America's antagonistic policies against the world of Islam and Arab countries have led to hatred and negative public opinion reaction in the region. This has put America in a situation in which it feels that - in order to confront this problem - it has to establish a vast publicity network. It should also be mentioned that America's tarnished image is not confined to the Middle East.... At any rate, in his interview with this Arab network, Bush tried to explain his foreign policies regarding the Arab world. In his interview, he stressed the importance of reforms in Arab countries. But what does Bush mean by reform? If reform means defending democracy in these countries, it has to be said that, as a matter of fact, America has had no problems so far with countries in the Arab world that have had non-elected states but which have been inclined toward America's policies. Quite the reverse, it has been the most antagonistic toward countries such as Iran, which, at any rate, in terms of democratic standards, has achieved notable success but which has not accepted America's unilateral and hegemonic policies.... Therefore, it has to be said that, if America really and sincerely wants to improve its standing among Middle East nations, the simplest and most effective way is not to escalate the psychological warfare and expand expensive publicity networks, but to change policies, halt that country's support for the Zionist regime, respect the independence of nations, and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Middle East countries."

EAST ASIA

CHINA: "Feature: Satellite Channels Flourish in Post-Saddam Iraq"

Official New China News Agency (Beijing Xinhua) filed from Baghdad (2/16): "Since the ousting of Saddam, the U.S.-appointed interim Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) has been complaining that some of the Arab satellite channels offended Iraq in the way they cover the news or support the former regime. The broadcasting of videotaped messages from Saddam before his capture on Dec. 13 and from leaders of Al-Qaida terror network, including Osama bin Ladin himself, further annoyed the American and Iraqi officials. The US condemnation has recently focused on Qatar-based Al-Jazeera [Al-Jazirah] and Dubai-based Al-Arabiya [Al-Arabiyah]. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has branded both stations "violently anti-coalition" and accused them of turning Arabs against America. Most serious of all, the channels were suspected of collaborating with resistant elements in the country since the media was quicker to be informed of some anti-US attacks than the authority.... The council then started to punish the channels by banning the access of their correspondents into the IGC building. Last Saturday, U.S. President George W. Bush inaugurated the Washington-based American satellite TV station Al-Hurra, or The Free One, which broadcasts in Arabic and attempts to minimize the influence of other Arab channels and improve the U.S. image in the Arab world.... With Al-Hurra, the U.S. administration hopes to counter what Bush has called "hateful propaganda that fills the airwaves in the Muslim world." ##



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list