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Crisis of Arab media

January 16, 2014 - 6:20:47 am
Jokes apart, there is no specific definition for the term “Arab media”. Reality suggests that there is a media, with different trends and interests, particularly when it comes to issues related to different states. News and issues are tackled to give space to the media on local, regional and international issues, particularly when it wants to avoid sensitive issues within each Arab country.

What unites “Arab media” -- if we use this term metaphorically -- is that since its launch it was linked to the principle of representing the state to society and the individual without any mandate from the public. As a result, the individual melts into society and society subjugates itself to the logic of the state. In this case, the state stands for the political leadership, which is limited to a party,  tribe, sect, group or the person of a leader as described by British novelist George Orwell in his novel 1948. 

The media scene in the Arab world in general is divided into many parts. Some of these parts are subordinate directly or indirectly to the authorities in terms of ownership. Some others are subordinate to internal censorship and internal and external agendas in terms of their content, while some others are subordinate to what major Western media outlets present. All these factors create a contradictory and troubled situation that negatively affects the media’s performance in every Arab state. 

The concept of the media as the “fourth estate” is meaningless in this regard, not to mention any active role played by this sector in the absence of separation of powers between the main pillars of the state, the weakness of effective political participation and the absence of civil society groups.

For this reason, the media has failed to shape strong and effective public opinion, monitor the authorities and enable the individual to be an effective participant aware of his rights and duties and what is happening around him, instead of resorting to conspiracy theories and blaming foreigners for his faults.  

Despite this situation, there are different Arab media experiences, even if they are limited to one or two media institutions. These institutions made a difference and set an example as they became influential internationally, despite their currently retreating role. 

There are media institutions established by political regimes to create a balance between local and foreign media. There are media experiences imposed by circumstances, even as the rest of the Arab media remained in its traditional shape, almost unchanged. Everything was fine even after the Arab uprisings.

There is a proverb: “If you believe in freedom of expression, you necessarily believe in the freedom of expression for views you do not like.” 

The problem is that major Arab media institutions do not believe in this.
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