The enthusiasm that brought together Arab Information Ministers, the Arab League and official and parliamentary media committees in several Arab states to stand up against a bill proposed by US Congress targeting a group of Arab satellite TV stations was truly striking. The bill that angered the Arabs and is now waiting for the signature of President Obama calls for taking punitive measures against satellite television stations that nourish anti-US sentiment including a host of “resistance” television stations whether in Lebanon, Palestine or Iraq.
The majority of official bodies of Arab opinion and media groups have held meetings and issued reports and recommendations to confront the US proposal. However, the paradox lies in the mechanism used in this confrontation and the identity of those who endeavour to prevent a potential US embargo.
It is a good time for doctrinal and official Arab media that is seeking, on account of several political accords, to regain power, re-establish authority over Arab satellite TV and consolidate certain ways of thinking and particular visions after it was disturbed by expressive impulsiveness over the past few years.
In Lebanon, for instance, the parliamentary media committee launched a campaign against the proposed US bill in true Lebanese style. This committee is headed by an MP from Hezbollah, which is the prime target of the US bill. If this ban is imposed, it will affect Hezbollah’s mouthpiece, Al Manar television. Hezbollah has no problem with preventing the media from moving around freely and covering incidents taking place in territories under its influence based on the pretext of protecting the resistance. It was this same party that embarked upon closing down and burning the headquarters of a Lebanese (not American) satellite TV station two years ago without even being questioned by anyone on the Arab or international level.
As for the Arab League – which has not moved a muscle following countless hate campaigns against Arabs – it also ignored the ferocious media war that quickly developed into serious riots following a football match between Egypt and Algeria. The Arab League did not call for a reassessment of the Egyptian and Algerian media; it did not even warn that what happened was a breach of sovereignty and incitement of hatred.
Those who look for examples of failures and blunders in the Arab media will find plenty. The increasing entanglement between the media, politics and ideology makes the media move further and further away from its paramount role as a key mechanism for promoting awareness and freedoms.
The proposed US bill belongs to a [certain] ideology and the main body comprises of those who reject it. Advocates of an open door policy have to be more convincing by providing role models in that domain. There is a lot that makes us hesitant to respond to the reaction against the US bill. Those who argue against the bill must first deliver a convincing performance and this campaign cannot be launched by a media and political entity that has little credibility as far as respecting freedoms are concerned.