Category Archives: Arab Media

A Tour of Middle East Media………..

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Here is a summary of what Middle East media seem to focus on in recent days (besides ISIS cutthroats and daily terrorism):

  • Saudi media and its reporters and columnists always write and say: (1) how bad and dangerous Iranian policy is; (2) how wise are the policies of the Saudi King and his son and crown prince; (3) how they seek to liberate Syria, Yemen, and Iraq for freedom, democracy, and the American Way of Life; (4) how the whole world is grateful for the polygamous wisdom of the princes.
  • Iranian media much of the time report: (1) how bad and dangerous are Saudi policies; (2) how wise are the policies of Iran; (3) how the West and Zionists (not the Wahhabis) have created the sectarianism that plagues the Middle East. How otherwise all Muslims would live in peace and harmony, how all the kings, princes, dictators, and mullahs can get along if left alone. (4) They also report a lot (like every week) about their most recent domestic weapons development that they claim can match anything the West sells their neighbors across the Persian Gulf.
  • Qatari media and their reporters try to be subtle, unsuccessfully. They mostly report on how wise Qatari policies are. They only hint at how dangerous Iranian policies are and how stupid Saudi policies and their surrogates are.
  • UAE media and their reporters mostly focus on: (1) how dangerous the Muslim Brotherhood are, (2) how wise the Abu Dhabi ruling brothers are, and (3) how they should control the Strait of Hormuz (no doubt through their mercenary forces hired from Colombia and Australia).
  • Egyptian media now focus on blasting anyone who questions president Al Sisi. Occasionally they warn of Muslim Brotherhood “terrorism”, and repeat Al Azhar warnings that Shi’as might be spreading their ideology in the heart of Cairo.
  • Israeli English media are obsessed with Palestinians (naturally), Hezbollah, and are now paying attention to ISIS. They seem to be disengaging a bit now from Iran. They are also somewhat typically Middle Eastern and Arab in their ethnic focus: they seems obsessed with which Hollywood Oscar celebrity or Nobel Prize winner is Jewish (there are so many that it shouldn’t be news anymore). They also seem to have forgotten what a pre-Likud era was like.
  • In Turkey, the pro-regime media are obsessed with real or imagined insults to “national pride”, WTF that be, and with persistent Armenian ghosts, and how the Russians (and maybe the Iranians and Lebanese) messed up their plans for the liberation and Islamization of Syria.
  • Lebanese media are concerned with who will become a figurehead president, and now increasingly with the threat of Jihadi terrorism. They also always seem concerned with which country can make the largest platter of hummus or Kenafa. And also with Amal Clooney’s latest attire.
    Alles klar?

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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A Dummy’s Haiku Guide to Free Speech in the Middle East: from Islamic to Nomadic to ……..

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About Free Speech…
Can it be free at a price?………..
Tell our leaders…….

So what is this “free speech” that many constitutions claim to allow but few actually do? Especially in the Middle East:

  • The Arab League considers free speech, to the extent that it considers anything seriously, as whatever each existing government in power wants it to be. Especially those regimes with deep pockets.
  • In Egypt, free speech is whatever does not criticize the president and insult the armed forces (apparently there is some difference), or mentions Mohammed Morsi without adding the term “deposed” as a prefix. Or anything that does not point out that Egypt (or even Cairo) are not, as the natives and a few Arabs claim, Mother of the World.
  • Al-Azhar sheikhs in Cairo define free speech as their interpretation of the  Holy Quran, the Hadith, and more importantly whatever the current president of the country says.
  • Less stable and more violent Arab countries have a more flexible definition of free speech. In Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, free speech is more nomadic: it depends on which part of the country you are in (and on who you are). Which might be considered by some as an improvement over what it is in other Middle East countries.
  • In Somalia, Sudan, and Djibouti, also considered “Arab” countries, you ask anyone about free speech and he or she might respond: WTF is that?
  • Free Speech in the whole “Persian-American” Gulf region will be covered in the next post, right after this one.
  • Western powers consider free speech in the Middle East as whatever encourages the ruling avaricious oligarchs to spend more money on weapons of death and repression.
  • Ist das klar?

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Saudis Tighten Grip on Middle East Media: from Newspapers to Satellite TV……….

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The editor of an Arab web newspaper reports on how the Saudis are tightening their grip on Middle East media. Oddly, he himself helped that by reportedly selling his previous newspaper to the Qataris. That came after years of reports that the paper was in fact financed by the Qatari potentates.

Saudi Arabia, like other Persian Gulf potentates, has tightened its grip on Arab media over the past decade. The Gulf princes and potentates have bought previously independent publications like Asharq Alawsat and Al-Hayat and Al-Quds Al-Arabi and various Lebanese and satellite TV channels. They also own Alarabiya and AlJazeera networks. Among many others. The Qataris and the Emirati potentates (Middle East Online) also own their own share of Arab media.

Yet independent anti-Saudi networks have persisted and continue to provide some alternatives to the Wahhabi narrative. They find vast Arab audiences who do not cotton up to official or controlled semi-official media. Now the Saudis have the hit upon the practice of forcing Arab satellites to ban channels they do not own or like. One such satellite, ArabSat, is located in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has recently forced ArabSat to bloc unfriendly Arab networks from using it to broadcast. The kingdom owns about 40% of the capital of the ArabSat. These blocked channels have originated from various Middle East countries. Yet in this day and age it is impossible to completely bloc undesirable networks. The Internet is a great equalizer for now.

What will be next? Arab royal control and restrictions on international Social Media like Twitter and Facebook? Highly unlikely since they can buy a company but they can’t buy the American ingenuity that creates the likes of these social media. And they can’t keep their client accounts. They can try to establish their own social media, but the Iranian mullahs once threatened the same until they realized the futility of it.

Stay tuned………….
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Media Wars: Can Saudis and Qataris Buy the Hearts and Minds of the Arab World?……….

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“As with its military operation in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is throwing a great deal of money and resources into media backing for the government of President Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. In short order, it has helped equip and launch two satellite TV channels supporting the exiled president, as well as an alternative version of Yemen’s official news agency. Meanwhile, TV channels sympathetic to the Huthi movement are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their broadcasts via satellite as the main regional operators suspend their transmissions…………… At the regional level, the two leading pan-Arab TV news channels – the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya and Qatar’s Al-Jazeera – have put aside their differences over Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood and are both running a similar anti-Huthi, and sometimes anti-Iranian, line on Yemen, as is the Abu-Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia…………..”

The Yemenis can defeat, truly trounce, the Saudi forces and their hired allies in any battle. But they don’t have a chance in the media war, almost nobody in the region does. The potentates certainly have not held back on spending money on acquiring old Arab media and establishing new ones. Nobody in the Middle East has such unrestricted access to financial resources, and they have been buying.

Two undemocratic anti-democratic absolute tribal dynasties now dominate the Arab media, both old media and new media. The two Wahhabi regimes, the little one in Qatar and the bigger one in Riyadh are almost in control of much Arab media narrative. Their message is heavily sectarian, not always subtle, the best way to divert attention away from royal corruption and the natural human demands for freedom and self determination. The two Wahhabi financial powers seek to dominate the majority non-Wahhabi Sunni Arab minds while marginalizing and often demonizing Shi’a Arabs (and non-Arabs).

Can they win, nay buy, the hearts and minds in the vast Arab region that extends from Baghdad to Morocco? They can only influence some minds, but they can’t win,  nor buy, any hearts. Hearts cannot be bought. The princes and potentates can’t win any outside their own domain.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Prince Al-Waleed Suspended in Bahrain……….

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“Alarab, the pan-Arab news channel, was suspended from broadcasting from its home in Bahrain on Monday, just hours after it went on air.
The station said on its official Twitter feed that coverage was halted for “technical and administrative reasons,” and that it hopes to be back on the air soon. It went live on Sunday afternoon……….”

It is located in Bahrain, although like other Saudi networks it is owned by a prince, Prince Al-Waleed. Bahrain is now a Saudi appendix, and the new King Salman may not be finished with his palace coup against his relatives. So you can reach your own conclusions……
This AlArab network is/was supposed to compete with Alarabiya (also Saudi semi-official network) and Al-Jazeera (Qatari official).
Stay tuned….

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter

Gulf Creative Thinkers and Oligarchs Hail Field Marshal Al Sisi……..

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Egyptian official daily Al Ahram quotes a Kuwait newspaper that Generalisimo Field Marshal El Presidente Al Sisi met in Cairo with a delegation of businessmen and “thinkers” from Kuwait.

Now I know we have some “thinkers” back home, but I never knew we had dedicated full-time, 24/7 thinkers who did nothing but think. And what better topic to think of than the greatness of Generalisimo Field Marshal El Presidente Al Sisi?

Mr. A. Al Babtain, a big businessman and president of Al Babtain Institute for “Creativity”, of course led the delegation of businessmen and, er, full-time “thinkers” who like to tag along with businessmen on travels to visit Al Sisi in Egypt.

He, Al the businessman, reportedly did not surprise Generalisimo Field Marshal El Presidente Al Sisi by telling him that the great trust the Egyptian people have shown Generalisimo Field Marshal El Presidente Al Sisi extends to the whole wide wonderful Arab world (although it may not sell in Peoria). That he is universally admired and loved, even if he can’t sing worth a lick. No opinion polls needed, no free and fair elections necessary.

In the spirit of meeting these “thinkers”, Al Sisi must also be thinking something like: “Wow, being president is neat. How else could I get to meet full-time 24/7 Gulf ‘thinkers’ and oligarchs in one meeting“.

Odd, though this Insitute of Creativity. I had thought “thinkers” only thought and never created anything besides thoughts (and maybe a couple of mundane regular everyday things that I should not mention here).

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Two-Front War on the Gaza Ghetto: Role of the Bloody Arab Hands ………

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Gaza is facing a two-front war, and the people of Gaza are facing two determined enemies. This has been the case for years. World media is pre-occupied with only one front of this newest Gaza-Israeli war. But this has always been a two-front war, with the people of Gaza and their Hamas fundamentalist rulers facing two hostile enemy fronts. We all know about the northern-eastern front with Israel, but the other front helps weaken the Gazans and directly helps the Israeli assault. 

The second front, the southern front with Egypt should be considered worse from an Arab point of view. Egypt has always been part of the strategy to defeat Hamas by starving out the people of Gaza in their ghetto, a ghetto created largely by Arab regimes collaborating with the Israeli government blockade. Generalisimo Field Marshal Al Sisi, new Mubarakist leader of Egypt, is tightening the screws on Gaza even as his Israeli allies are bombing and shelling the hell out of them. Even as much of Arab media, mostly controlled by Persian Gulf princes and potentates, focus on the northern front with Israel, preferring not to shed any light on the role of the Likudnik Egyptian regime in the Israeli strategy.

When it comes to the suffering of the Palestinian people of Gaza and shedding their blood, the culprits with bloody hands are not only Israeli forces, but Arab dictators and tribal princes from Cairo to Riyadh.


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Saudi Media Way: How to Keep Journalists Out of Prison, Keep RSF and Fox Happy………


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I read last week that Saudi royal celebrity Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal is delaying the start of his new Arabic television news network (Al-Arab). It was supposed to start broadcasting this year, but has been postponed at least until sometime in 2014. Like that other Saudi semi-official network, Alarabiya, it will be stationed outside the kingdom. Only state television and radio can operate inside Saudi Arabia. Al-Waleed has picked Bahrain to house his new network: news and tear gas go together these days. But don’t expect his network to cover the nearly three years old Bahrain popular uprising that continues just outside its future studios. Al-Waleed also famously owns part of News Corp, which makes him part owner of Fox News and Sarah Palin and the Cheneys. Fox is also the most Islamophobic U.S. network; perhaps Islamo-phobic but apparently not so Wahhabi-phobic.
Saudi princes and their kin and retainers control all the “Saudi” media inside and outside the kingdom. They have also bought and control much of the media in the eastern part of the Arab world, including Lebanon and the Gulf, as well as almost all Arab media that operate from Europe. The controlled media is now like petro-money, their main tool of regional and even international policy.
Saudi daily newspaper Asharq Alawsat, different editions of which are published in Riyadh and London, is often described by Western media and pundits as “pan-Arab” or ‘independent” or “independent pan-Arab”. It is none of the above: it is owned by Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, hardly independent or pan-Arab. Saudi daily Al-Hayat, different editions of which are published in Riyadh and London, is also often described in the West as “independent” or “pan-Arab” or both. It also is none of the above: it is owned by former deputy defense minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan al-Saud, hardly independent or pan-Arab. Alarabiya network is owned and operated (from Dubai) by an in-law of the Saudi royal family.
Ever wonder why you never read about a Saudi journalist being arrested in the kingdom? Unlike most Middle East countries, unlike Egypt and Iran and Iraq and Tunisia where journalists often spend time in prison? That is because of the system of pre-emptive censorship (they call it self-censorship): all media publications are approved before publication. Anything that is not considered kosher or halal by the regime is never printed: that way nobody goes to prison. Not that it is likely that anything controversial will ever be published anyway by the cowed writers and journalists. All local media are owned by the princes, their in-laws, or their retainers and partners among the business elites. They are all basically state-owned and state-controlled media.
That explains why Saudi Arabia often gets better ratings from NGOs like Reporters Without Borders, RSF, than other Middle East countries. You see: nobody is “allowed” to go to prison for what they publish because nobody is allowed to publish anything that might land them in prison. Who said conformity is not always good?


Tzipi Livni’s Sex: Intimacy with Arab Leaders, Scientific Shaikhs, and the Secret Fatwas……….


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                         Neck of the woods                    No. Highly unlikely

“A leading Egyptian daily falsely claimed that former foreign minister Tzipi Livni conducted sexual relations with Arab officials during her years as a Mossad agent in an attempt to entrap them, and used what it said was a 2009 interview with The Times of London as ostensible proof. The article in Al-Masri Al-Youm, an independent and widely read Egyptian daily, was headlined: “Livni: I had sex with Arabs in return for ‘political concessions.’” It featured prominently in the paper’s Saturday print edition and was still leading its website on Sunday afternoon. The article went up on Al-Masry Al-Youm’s website Friday night and was its most widely read story over the weekend. It had garnered 20,000 Facebook shares and 1,800 tweets as of Sunday morning, and was quoted extensively in Egyptian and Arab media. Sources close to Livni told The Times of Israel that “this report is ludicrous and crazy.” Needless to say, they said, the story was without foundation. “There are apparently those who fear Livni’s return to politics, where she will strengthen Israel’s standing domestically and internationally,”
the sources said………………”

The idea that Tzipi Livni slept with Arab politicians and leaders in exchange for information and other benefits is taking hold in Arab media and in the wild Arab imagination. Sexual repression does lead to wilder imagination. I think secretly she must be considered to be still “hot” among some of the region’s potentates and opinion makers (hey, it’s a matter of personal taste).
The normally not excitable Al-Quds Al-Arabi headlined an article today (November 10, 2012):
“Arab leaders in Livni’s bed”. The piece quotes a London Times interview in which she allegedly admitted having used sex against (or is it with) Arab leaders and scientists. It seriously wonders which leaders were among the chosen (or is it ‘targeted’) ones.
Personally I don’t know if Tzipi Livni slept with any Arab potentates for her country. As for ‘scientists’ I can’t think of any scientific information that we in our region have that the Israelis need. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of information, but I was talking of the ‘useful’ kind. Most of the ‘scientists’, especially in the Gulf region, are called “ulema” which also doubles as clerics or religious shaikhs (or scientists). BY that measure, any Mufti or Imam is a “scientist”.
Maybe they gave Tzipi information about how they reach their famous secret fatwas that make no sense to anyone else, especially me.

Power and Risks of the Political Cartoon: Humorless Iranians, Humorless Arab Despots……


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“Fish and chips, sandpaper lips and a rainy pavement.
Soho lights, another night thinking of you.
Black cat, sat on a wall, winks at me darkly.
Suggesting ways and means that I might win a smile,
as you leave the place where you work until 12.30
and the policemen nods as you pass along his beat.
Sweaty feet, troubled brow we’re all in the same game, lady.
Life’s no bowl of cherries it’s a black and white strip cartoon…….”
Jethro Tull

An Iranian cartoonist has been sentenced to be 25 lashes for a caricature of a local MP, the semi-official Ilna news agency has reported. Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, MP for Arak, took offence to a cartoon published in Nameye Amir, a city newspaper in Arak. The cartoonist, Mahmoud Shokraye, depicted Ashtiani in a football stadium, dressed as a footballer, with a congratulatory letter in one hand and his foot resting on the ball. Iranian politicians, including Ashtiani, have been recently criticised for interferring in the country’s sports………. Shokraye was subsequently sued by the MP for having insulted him. A court in Markazi province, of which Arak is the capital, sentenced the cartoonist to 25 lashes – an unprecedented punishment for an Iranian cartoonist……………

Cartoons are the cleverest way to needle Arab (and Iranian) rulers and “almost” live to tell the tale. But they have their risks: you never see a cartoon of the Saudi king or princes anywhere inside Saudi Arabia, and you never see a cartoon of the most senior Iranian clerics anywhere inside Iran (Ahmadinejad is neither a senior cleric nor a prince). Some of the more audacious artists have paid with their lives, others have been attacked, imprisoned, and maimed.
For years the great Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali needled the Fatah leadership of Yassir Arafat (as well as Israel) from the relative safety of Kuwait. He created the character of ‘Hindhala. The PLO reportedly applied pressure for him to be deported from Kuwait in the 1980s. Within a short time from his arrival in a second exile in London he was shot in the face and killed. Openly, some Arab media, as hypocritical then as now, claimed the Mossad had killed him. Everybody I asked knew that he was killed by Fatah operatives on order of Arafat. Then there was Syrian Ali Farzat who was attacked last year and nearly crippled most likely by thugs affiliated with the Syrian regime. No doubt there are many others I am not aware of. There is a clever Brazilian cartoonist (Carlos Latuff) whom the Bahrain rulers (and the Saudi security) would love to get their hands on. I doubt Carlos will be visiting Manama or Riyadh anytime soon. (Don’t even think about it: if they let you in that means they have a trumped up charge ready, like drugs or worse. Remember Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Gizawy. Remember Labanese TV magician Ali Sabat who is on Saudi death row for “sorcery”).
Back to Iran: twenty five lashes for a civil case and not a criminal case, and for a mere lowly politician, an MP! I suspect this sentence is very likely against some article of their own constitution (as are other travesties). I wonder what he would get if he had depicted someone higher, much higher and I mean much higher, than that MP? I am not talking about Ahmadinejad.