Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Half of the Battle is in the Media - Part 1 of 2 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

In his message to [Abu Musab] al Zarqawi in 2005, Ayman al Zawahiri said, “More than half of Al Qaeda’s battle is taking place in the media… in a race for the hearts and minds of our Ummah.” Al Zawahiri was telling the truth this time.

Our media, both old and new, has transformed into an open battlefield to propagate and persuade, legitimise and illegitimise. What is noticeable is that the majority of those who embark upon using the media are people with loud voices but weak arguments. The confrontation is no longer between those who are in the know and those who are not but rather it is now between those who dare and those who do not.

In our Arab world, every country and community has its own media and this has started to reach influential figures since everyone wants their opinion to be conveyed but without having to succumb to the principles of media, the most basic of which is looking at issues from different points of view and verifying information from two sources.

Other than the desire to seize the media forum, there are extreme ideologies that have overwhelmed many of our media. This is manifested in the mixing of information and opinion and this is clearly apparent on the internet. Truthfulness and falsehood are no longer factors in the media scales as the same faces of different crises continue to crop up.

The danger of what we face lies in the laziness and failure to do enough by people who have real causes that deserve to be dealt with by the media, and their failure to recognise the nature and importance of being part of the news instead of the news being against them.

It is better to respond immediately to what is published in the same news story than to respond the following day. Being part of the same news story gives one an opportunity equal to that given to others and also it provides the opportunity to reach the same target audience. This applies to politicians, ministries and even companies and individuals. Responding and interacting is more effective than the mentality of silencing.

The best example is the online press conference held by Ayman al Zawahiri. What is the use of prevention and military pursuit when al Zawahiri is still able to receive questions via the internet and answer them in order to spread his venom?

I say this now as we are on the verge of a revolution in the world wide web where a new internet service that is 10,000 times faster than any current service is about to be launched. This is a media coup, the biggest victims of which will be the traditional radio and television, and print media will reinforce its status side by side with the internet.

Undoubtedly, among the list of victims will also be those who love and support prohibition and restriction!

David Britton, a physics professor at Glasgow University and a prominent figure who contributed to developing this project said that the technologies of this service are capable of “revolutionizing” society and that “future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine.” Through this revolution, any person could own a channel or a radio station via the internet and the web could send an entire concert from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.

Al Zawahiri’s conference in itself is merely evidence that proves the difficulty to commit to Arab media ministers’ agreements. How can they stop venom such as that contained in al Zawahiri’s messages in its tracks? And is it better to prevent it or refute it?

What is intended from all that is mentioned above is the necessity to interact with the media and not to seek to escape it by remaining silent.

Tomorrow we will call things by their real names.

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.

More Posts