“We get reaction from media scholar Robert McChesney to news that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is reportedly considering suing The New York Times after it ran a major report on his past treatment of women, and has vowed to make it easier to sue news organizations. Lawsuits are not the solution, McChesney says. “Instead, it is to broaden it, enrich it, create new voices and fund new voices so we actually have the diverse marketplace of ideas.………”
Democracy Now! headlines this as: Trump Vows to Sue New York Times in Latest Show of Disregard for Freedom of Press.
What is the fuss? This happens all the time in the Middle East, and not just in the Arab states or in the Gulf states. Governments, prosecutors, even foreign embassies now sue any journalist, politician, or just plain citizen for insulting some king, prince, or dictator.
Often on the Gulf, foreign Arab embassies pressure host governments to sue and prosecute their local critics. They mostly like to sue and arrest anyone who posts on social media, since they can’t completely own and control this type of media.
Just recently, Turkey‘s dour Islamist strongman Erdogan even managed to intimidate Germany to prosecute a German cartoonist who mocked him. In Germany! Instead of Turkey adapting to European standards of freedom of expression, the Germans were forced to adopt the Turkish standards.
Donald Trump is just being Arab-ized and Islam-ized.
M Haider Ghuloum
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.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) tasked with trying those charged with assassinating Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005 said Thursday it had summoned two editors and two media organizations for contempt. “Karma Mohamed Tahsin al Khayat from al-Jadeed TV, as well as the station’s parent company New TV S.A.L., have been summoned to appear before the STL on two counts of Contempt and Obstruction of Justice,” the Tribunal said in a statement posted on its official website………….”
This Hariri (STL) court is now trying to muzzle Lebanese media that oppose it and report its credibility issues. It is a court that has been around for many years, and has been clearly suspect as a political instrument of foreign policy, and occasionally as a political instrument in internal Lebanese feuds. It is seen by most Arabs as a convenient sword to be waved over Lebanon whenever it is convenient. Just the leaks about its suspects have changed over the years according to Middle East political winds: Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, back to Syria, then several combinations of these ‘usual suspects’. Now it is getting in the business of muzzling the press (whatever you think of the press in question).
Does the STL have the power and jurisdiction to silence its opponents and detractors in Lebanon and other places? Can they call citizens of any country to punish them? Apparently its judicial bureaucrats seem to think so.
A Kenny G Holiday
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?
“Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are making transnational attempts to shut down a site belonging to the United States’ largest Arab-American newspaper, al-Watan. The UAE’s Telecom Regularity Authority has sent a letter to watan.com’s German hosting company demanding the site be shut down, alleging that it is owned by the ‘Global Muslim Brotherhood Union’. The site’s founder Nezam Mahdawi denies this, claiming that they are being targeted due to reporting of human rights violations in the UAE……………..”
They charge the newspaper of being part of a ‘Global Muslim Brotherhood Union’, whateverthefuck that is.These Abu Dhabi shaikhs must think they can buy their way through anything. And why not? they see that the Western governments would do anything for money, for fat contracts. They can see that all the Western talk of freedom and democracy in the Middle East applies only to regimes that are not friendly to the West. They can see nobody that talks of liberating the UAE and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain from their despots.
I suspect they may have been behind past attempts to block rival Middle East television networkst.
Bashar Al-Assad (June 17 TV interview): when the nation is in crisis, the president’s job is even more important, and must remain to solve it. (I don’t know about this thing of “must remain to solve it”: the Saudi king returned home from Morocco last week and their market immediately crashed as he landed).
Ahamdinejad: (no tweets from his account for month, very uncharacteristic, unless he violated the TOS. Could he have gone online incognito?).
Ali Khamenei (June 17) dissing the US Electoral College system, calling it gerrymandering (a surprise use of an American political term): @khamenei_ir How is it possible 2 become US president with fewer votes…..?“
Khamenei has also been waxing nostalgic this month about his youth, and about sports, from mountain climbing in Iran to volleyball (presumably not Beach Volleyball). Which makes you wonder: does he know something the public doesn’t, yet?
Hassan Rouhani (June 17): @HassanRouhani #Rouhani’s Opposition to the Bomb: The Iranian President-Elect’s 2006 Letter to TIME via @TIMEWorld”. Benyamin Netanyahu immediately opined that he is opposed to this Iranian opposition to the bomb. Said he smelled a whiff of anti-Semitism, retroactively. Said he ought to be bombed just for saying it.
Saudi King Abdullah: (Wish tha Twitter?= WTF is Twitter?) And who is this Gerrymandering thing the Iranian Rafidhi turban-head cleric was talking about up there?
Saudi Mufti: This is evil. Spit out and ask forgiveness, otherwise you’ll never see hide nor hair of them virgin houris. Instead the flames of hell shall caress your walnuts.
Nuri Al-Maliki: I gotta learn about real longevity from the PM of Bahrain.
Psst, Nuri: It’s the family and the mercenaries and the Saudi troops, stupid!
Morsi: @MuhammadMorsi Evoked blood in the same sentence as Nile waters (it is common Arab political bullshit to insert blood into a political statement). Jumped on the Syrian war while kissing up to Sudan’s Al-Bashir. We shall aid the Syrians with words, liberate Nile headwaters or switch to our blood for irrigation, regain the Sudan (without al-Bashir), and drive the Israelis……….. mad trying to figure me out.
Hip Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal: They say I ain’t no leader, but I own Twitter………. almost.
Neck of the woods
Tuesday Nov. 13, 2012: The following tweets by the Bahrain Ministry of Interior (responsible for: police, security, mercenaries, looting, arrests, tear gas, shootings, torture, prisons, courts) were discovered:
Ministry of Interior @moi_bahrain
Our countries expose to a colonial onslaught that uses the names of human rights, freedom or democracy
Ministry of Interior @moi_bahrain
We expect those who deal with us to respect our civilized values and Islamic concepts that are based on respect for human rights.
Ministry of Interior @moi_bahrain
A need 4GCC National Security List of individuals, organizations &countries outline a clear &definitive security strategy 2deal with threats
Ministry of Interior @moi_bahrain
GCC Interior Minister signed a security agreement to promote coordination and cooperation
Ministry of Interior @moi_bahrain
GCC Interior Ministers condemned recent bombings in Bahrain that resulted in severe injuries and death to both civilians and police.
Forget the nonsense about ‘colonialism of human rights organizations’.
I found the third tweet (from the top in red) the most disturbing. It tells me where they are heading, these potentates on my Gulf. It says: “GCC National Security List of individuals, organizations &countries”. Meaning they will create a common list of names of individuals, organizations tweepes, bloggers, etc. I suspect a majority of the people of Bahrain will be on that proposed “dangerous” list. With the twin goals of killing dissent and spreading fear in the citizenry. But, alas, the fear is mostly gone these days.
Neck of the woods
“The supreme administrative court in Bavaria state argues that Press TV must not use satellite services for broadcast in Germany. The surprising ruling comes just months after a Munich court ruled twice that Press TV can broadcast on SES Astra platform in the country. The Munich media regulatory body, BLM, had taken Press TV off the satellite platform in April. It said Press TV lacked the necessary license. Press TV lawyers subsequently took legal action against the BLM and won the case. BLM appealed but its plea was rejected by the Munich administrative court. The issue was then referred to the state court in Bavaria that ruled in favor of taking Press TV off the air. Press TV says the German government seeks to silence the alternative channel’s voice. It says the ban was meant to stop the channel’s extensive coverage of Germany’s social and economic issues. The channel has also covered the growing public anger in Germany over that country’s military involvement in Afghanistan. …………….”
Press TV is the main Iranian English-language television news network. It gives out the Iranian government position on regional and world events. It is in the same position as, say, Alarabiya which gives the Saudi government position on regional and world events. In some ways it is like the BBC or VOA, certainly a bit less independent. Last January the British government banned Iran’s Press TV, a surprising thing since the network’s programming is relatively mild. Perhaps the network was banned because its programs seemed too reasonable, not the usual expected rabble-rousing that would turn off people.
Soon later, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a show of supreme chutzpah, complained loudly when the Iranians in March blocked a British propaganda program aimed at Iran. The Iranian regime normally blocks many foreign networks and websites: they certainly are not strong believers in free speech. But the British are ‘supposed’ to be. At the time I called it in one of my posts here Mutual Hypocrisy.
Now the Germans are becoming too sensitive when someone else criticizes them, although again it is the Iranians who don’t allow free speech in their own country. Yet this is the West, that is the East, and the twain are not supposed to meet in censorship. And I had thought that free speech in Europe covers all sources of speech. What a silly notion.
“French President Nicholas Sarkozy means well. In the wake of horrific antisemitic murders reportedly pulled off by a Qaida-trained killer, Sarkozy is proposing to lock up frequent visitors to pro-terrorist websites. However understandable, the move would cripple open source attempts at understanding terrorism trends without stopping terrorists. “Anyone who regularly consults internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison,” Sarkozy argued to a political rally in France on Thursday. “What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too.” But terror porn doesn’t work like kiddie porn. For one thing, visitors to jihadist websites like the al-Shmukh forum aren’t just terrorist wannabees. They’re also lurking terrorism researchers or, um, journalists like us. And there’s law enforcement and intelligence officers monitoring them to discern the next moves of potentially dangerous people. ………….”
No doubt Sarko is electioneering. He is in a tough race against the socialist Francois Hollande, and he always veers to the right when in trouble, just like any good Republican candidate in the USA. Going to a Jihadist website doesn’t make one a Jihadist or an enabler, just like going to white supremacist websites doesn’t make one a white supremacist. There is, besides the legitimate research and information value, the entertainment value in both these types of sites.
Europeans have been doing this ‘censorship’ more often lately. They have blocked and banned television networks and now websites. Yet they feign outrage when one of our dictators or despots does the very same thing, especially if that dictator or despot is not one of their allies. This is what an American would call “sanctimonious European bullshit”. Yet there is plenty of it on this side o the Atlantic as well (you know that if you follow the political campaigns this year).
“Britain has condemned Iran for blocking a website aimed at explaining the United Kingdom and its policies to Iranians. Foreign Secretary William Hague said Sunday that barring the British government’s “UK for Iranians” site — three days after it was launched — proves “the Iranian authorities fear their own citizens’ interaction and involvement with the outside world.” Britain says Iran blocked the site on Saturday.………”
Blocking websites and radio stations and television networks is a reprehensible form of censorship and thought control. Conventional, but incorrect, wisdom in the West has it that it is expected of the Iranians to block website and other media outlets, and that the British don’t do such things. But they do, as do other Europeans although not nearly on the scale as some Middle East regimes like the Iranians (and others).
Odd for the British foreign minister to complain about the Iranian regime blocking the British website. It was only a two months ago that the British government blocked the Iranian television network Press TV from being seen in the country (it was banned last January). It is, as William Hague would say, as if the “British authorities fear their own citizens’ interaction……“
In American-ese: what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
It is spelled h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y in Britain as well, and both the British and the Iranians have plenty of it.