Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

What Can We Learn from WikiLeaks? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The world after WikiLeaks will be different than it was before.

This is the lesson that we must learn, and diplomatic circles are studying and analyzing the impact of WikiLeaks, as well as looking at how to avoid a repeat of this in the future, if possible. In order for such leaks to be prevented [in the future], governments and politicians must demonstrate a greater degree of transparency and openness; and it seems that these are two things that nobody is able to comply with.

What we, the media, are concerned with is no less important than this, and it seems that we must apply ourselves to studying the lessons that can be learned from WikiLeaks, but from a different angle. Among the things revealed in the leaked US diplomatic cables was that Qatar is utilizing the Al Jazeera news network as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with certain countries. In this regard, in a classified diplomatic cable, a US diplomat described Al Jazeera as being “one of Qatar’s most valuable political and diplomatic tools” saying that it is usually a topic of conversation in Qatar’s bilateral discussions with other countries.

These leaks have not revealed anything new. Since the Al Jazeera channel was first launched, and with the Arab and international concern with its news stories, the extent that Qatari policies relied upon the channel was evident. Therefore the documents revealing that Qatar used the Al Jazeera as a bargaining chip during diplomatic meetings – to stop the broadcasting of specific programs in return for political gains – came as no surprise.

Qatar was trying to find a [regional] role and position, and the Al Jazeera channel contributed to achieving this objective. The talk about the channel’s editorial independence was nothing more than empty rhetoric for media consumption, which is something that is constantly repeated throughout the Arab world, although we are aware that we are only lying to ourselves. This position, which we keep repeating, with regards to the alleged distance between the media and politics is nothing more than an illusion, and this is where our problem lies.

What WikiLeaks revealed about Qatar is not limited to this country and Al Jazeera alone. Every country has an Al Jazeera, and each Al Jazeera is playing its role, although the size of this role and the interests that it is trying to achieve may vary. Could WikiLeaks surprise us with documents about other news agencies, countries, and parties? Nobody knows.

We are aware of the reality that we are living, but the WikiLeaks revelations have revealed a different reality.

The WikiLeaks revelations show how Arab media is related to politics, and how in many cases the two operate in conjunction. Of course the Arab media is not the only international media that suffers from this phenomenon. This is a phenomenon that prevents media from developing and succeeding, as such media remains captive to the political interests of the countries or groups that finance its operation.

All that WikiLeaks has achieved in publishing these documents is that it has confirmed our beliefs. This revelation should not be downplayed, for this provides us with an opportunity that requires us to pause, in order to move from the stage of disagreeing with one another to a stage where we seek to discuss issues publicly and seriously consider the possibility of the establishment of a news media that is not overly influenced by those that finance it.

The diplomatic community reviewed how it operates following the WikiLeaks revelations, but will our news media conduct a similar review in view of what has been revealed?

Certainly, the media alone are not solely responsible for what has been leaked, but they are paying the price.