The Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has been officially accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
The Chief Prosecutor sought an arrest warrant against al Bashir and asked for the president’s funds and properties to be confiscated.
This news item has great political and legal connotations that have begun to appear within Sudan and via numerous Arab official positions.
This news has also caused confusion with regards to how the Arab media in general and the official media outlets in particular would deal with the dilemma of indicting the president of an Arab country. Al Bashir is the third president that the International Criminal Court has filed accusations of this kind against after Liberian President Charles Taylor and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
On the Arab level, this indictment is a precedent that should have been a source of competition for the press to understand the legal reasons behind the decision before rushing to condemn it.
The claim that International Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is targeting Sudan’s sovereignty before even verifying Ocampo’s reasons for prosecuting Bashir is weak and primarily lacks professional sensitivity.
In the Arab media we find ourselves in a predicament, which it seems, will not be the last of its kind.
Targeting the president of an Arab republic with an indictment or serious charge such as that which has been leveled against al Bashir could be taken as the targeting of a country; however, it is targeting sovereignty with justice.
Confronting the indictment must be preceded by proving the injustice that surrounds it. But for sovereignty to precede justice, this is a violation of the rights of those groups and victims, estimated at tens of thousands, as they remain in their [refugee] camps with no real indications of when their ordeal will be dealt with.
In the Arab media, we find ourselves in a predicament because the profession serves politics when necessary.
Perhaps the ICC’s decision [to indict the Sudanese president] will not help us to assess the Arab media’s experience in covering the Darfur crisis because it seems that criticizing the role of the media would be in accord with the Chief Prosecutor’s decision. The Arab media cannot make such a claim. However, away from adopting or rejecting the decision, on an occasion like this, we must point out our malpractice in covering the tragedy suffered by the Darfurians and in revealing the truth and reasons behind their plight.
President Omar al Bashir will have people to support him and may succeed in confronting the issue of the indictment against him in a way that would benefit him. The features of this are beginning to appear quickly through the flood of condemnation and support.
The Sudanese president will not be deprived of supporters and zealots; however, in the media, we must side with those who have nobody to defend them.
Perhaps this is merely wishful thinking.