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