The launch of the Arabic language TRT al Turkiye channel which took place recently received more Arab media interest than the launch of other similar [Arabic language] channels that seek to address the Arab world, such as the Arab Russia Today or France 24 Arabic channels and others. Even the launch of BBC Arabic two years ago seems dull in comparison to the attention received by the launch of the official Turkish channel TRT al Turkiye. This is also despite the fact that the official Turkish channel seems to be the most modest in terms of production and coverage in comparison to the other Arabic-language channels.
Certainly the Turkish government was keen to launch this channel, especially at this stage where it seems that the Arabs are welcoming towards Turkey with regards to arts, politics, and economics. This is perhaps what prompted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to inaugurate the channel himself, revealing a profound emotion towards Arabs, their history, and culture.
Of course it is very early to evaluate this channel, but it is clear that TRT al Turkiye is not like any other channel, as it is not a news channel, and it only has a limited crew with a small network of correspondents. This is a general channel that will include a mixture of programming, from drama, the arts, news, and the economy. This is a mixture of programming that will allow the Turks to proudly present Erdogan’s harsh attitude towards Israel and broadcast their famous drama Noor, and its star Mohanned who is famous throughout the Arab world, rather than through Arab channels, thereby making large political and financial gains.
The numerous statements that accompanied the launch of the TRT al Turkiye channel in Arab and Turkish newspapers and websites included many historical recollections. Admiration of Turkish politics and diplomacy has risen to the extent that this included praising the Ottoman Empire, as if we have forgotten its long history of abuse.
There can be no doubt that Turkey has presented a model that we should aspire to with regards to merging the western sense of democracy and Islam, which is something that Arab countries are still unable to achieve. However just as such admiration is natural and even desirable, perhaps the acclaim over the rebirth of the Turkish role is louder than the quiet reflection on the distance that Turkey must go before its democracy and [political] model stabilizes.
There is a definite need for the Turkish role in order to provide impetus and meaning to the existing regional balances, however if we expect Turkey to play a role during this difficult time, this should be its political role and presence as a modern state, rather than the rise of a new Ottoman Empire.
Last week, following the Moscow Metro suicide attacks, the few Arabs who were aware of the Arab Russia Today television channel turned on this channel in order to find out what was happening in Moscow, but their search ended in disappointment. At the media level, the Russia experience is a disappointing one, especially as Russian politics is not too far away from the Arab public mood.
The new Turkish media experience must be monitored with such sensitivity, as it is not permissible for a Turkish failure – should this occur – to take place due to our alignment with Turkey’s political position. Turkey should also not allow its new alignment with us to blind its media to the major problems that our countries are suffering from.