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Egypt…Bravo to the Minister of Information - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Yes, ‘bravo’ to the Minister, because he has fought his battle to restructure the status of unrestricted satellite channels in Egypt with courage. Should Egypt have waited until the situation turned sour, becoming similar to what happened in Kuwait, regarding the ‘Scope’ satellite channel, where assaults [on the station] were committed by armed individuals? Of course not.

Therefore, closing or reorganizing the activities of such channels in Egypt was a matter of urgency, because they threaten social peace, and stability. Here we must say that there is no difference between those who incite violence and extremism, or promote deceit and moral decay. The media should not be a platform for vice, to disseminate lies, and to broadcast backward notions. Likewise, freedom comes with responsibility and restraint and our problem in the Arab media is that we suffer from a lack of control, so the talk that takes place in our coffee shops is quoted and published on newspaper pages, news bulletins, and talk shows. Satellite channels have become havens for extremism. The media, which once elevated our stature, and opened our eyes to the world, like education, has reduced us to unprecedented lows. So in the name of freedom, should Egypt have waited until a situation such as this?

Moreover, today, there is another scourge that goes by the name of internet journalism. Here we see clear evidence of the backward tendencies that have plagued our region. There are those who think that the uncontrolled nature of the internet constitutes freedom, but this is not true. Even in the West, it is not possible to publish something on the internet, even on your own blog, if it is deemed slanderous to others without foundation. It is also not possible for any website to re-publish any article without legal authority. Therefore, the West does not experience the lack of control on the internet as we do in our region. [In the West] if someone wants to create a news website, they pay large sums of money, just like traditional media institutions. This is unlike our situation, where [some websites] work like bats in the darkness, publishing stories from newspapers, which is shameless copyright infringement.

Therefore today we pay tribute to the Egyptian Minister of Information, and his courage. I write this having only met the Minister once, in his office a long time ago, and not since, but this does not detract from the truth. The sheer media chaos in our region has become a matter we cannot stay silent about, especially as the concept of freedom has become horribly distorted.

How right was our prestigious contributor Dr. Muhammad Al-Rumaihi, when he wrote in our newspaper an article entitled “In Kuwait the Risk of the Media is not Calculated”. In this article, he said “the proliferation of a dense media, in the Arab region in general, has come at the expense of values, and professional, cognitive, moral and social standards. Means of communication have multiplied, through the use of websites and mobile phone text messages, so the Kuwaiti citizen can no longer distinguish between truth and rumor. This phenomenon is almost identical in many Arab countries”.

This is true, media in our region, unfortunately, is still the vocation of the non-professional. The media tends to serve certain interests, depending on the prestige of its beneficiaries. Meanwhile, it disregards the facts, and does not understand the responsibility that comes with implications of freedom.

Therefore we say ‘bravo’ to the Egyptian Minister of Information.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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