Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Media and the Issue of Sara | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The way in which the media covers incidents can sometimes creates an atmosphere of great psychological burden within the community. This is particularly true when some parts of the media anticipate the results of official investigations, which were carried out by security authorities within the country in which the incident took place. An example of this is the death of Sara, a French girl of Algerian decent. She died in the holy city of Mecca, whilst participating in the Umrah [minor pilgrimage] after she fell from her hotel in which she was staying, in obscure circumstances. The authorities are still investigating her death and have detained two hotel workers in custody, pending investigation. They are yet to make an official statement regarding the results of the investigations.

However, having read some of the Algerian newspapers published on Saturday, I had a feeling that there must have been a misunderstanding, which caused these newspapers to psychologically overload their readers, as if the issue of Sara had not received the investigations or attention that it merited. Yet, in fact, the Saudi security authorities handled this issue from the first moment with a great deal of responsibility towards its citizens and those visiting the country. I wished that such newspapers had adopted a fact-finding approach, based on official statements, rather than exciting and provoking their readers, at least until the investigations are completed.

This provocative methodology, adopted by these newspapers, has unfortunately created many of the causes of agitation and hostility between communities when it comes to sporting events. Therefore, applying this same approach to the Algerian girl’s incident, and exploiting it by provoking public antagonism, is not only harmful to the girl’s spirit, but also her cause, and the process of finding out what actually happened.

If any incident involving an Arab citizen in an Arab country is handled in this manner, and if the media pre-empts investigation results or is suspicious of them, then wide gaps of mistrust [between Arab nations] will be created. Some parts of the media should take responsibility for such serious consequences as these, and their implications. The media, whilst searching for the truth, should support notions of brotherhood and communication between countries, instead of being a divisive factor. I also wish to pay tribute to those sensible and rational Algerian newspapers, which handled the incident with the intention of finding the truth, and relied on documented stories rather than their imagination and exaggeration.

Until details of the truth come out, let us all pray that God may rest the Algerian girl’s soul in peace and bless her family with patience and consolation.