Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Two sides of the Media Coin | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A storm that, it appears, will rumble on for some time has erupted following the publication of pictures of an imprisoned Saddam Hussein by the British newspaper “The Sun”. After we showcased the photos, following an agreement with “The Sun”, on our website, www.aawsat.com, and included them in our different print editions, with the exception of our European and American editions as “The Sun” has the exclusive right to the publication of the pictures in these two regions, Asharq Al Awsat was inundated with a variety of responses from our readers across the world.

Some Arab media, that opted to refrain from publishing the latest images of the ex Iraqi leader in his prison cell, argued that it was immoral to publicize such pictures. Others in the Arab media argued that these photographs had no news value and did not in themselves qualify as a news item. This last opinion is a rather peculiar one. What is news but these pictures published by a prominent British newspaper? For those who say that the photographs lacked any news value, let me say that the pictures were not only news, but also the main global topic of conversation that has occupied the world media in the last few days.

I would like to remind those who purposefully forget, with their pigeon memory, that, when they attack the publication of Saddam’s pictures on moral grounds, they ought to recall the photographs of the ex Iraqi dictator in his swimsuit. These pictures were published and celebrated by those that today cry over morality.

Why do some in the media forget that the latest pictures of a semi naked Saddam are not the first photos of their kind to appear in public? On two previous occasions, pictures of the Iraqi leader in his swimsuits were shown.

Indeed, the Iraqi media under Saddam showed photos of their then leader swimming in the river Tigris, which according to them, he swam across.

Publicized in the context of refuting rumors about an illness to Saddam, these pictures adorned the front pages and news bulletins of the same newspapers and television stations that bemoan the lack of morals today.

In addition, the media controlled by Saddam published another set of pictures of Saddam swimming, though this time; the setting was the river Euphrates.

Many media organizations across the Arab World showed these images, to declare to the world that the leader of “the mother of all battles” remained strong and in good health.

The question remains as to why these earlier pictures of Saddam in his swimming shorts are acceptable, while the latest photographs of the leader in jail are deemed immoral and unfit for publication?

Pictures of Saddam swimming, with his consent, were published to serve certain objectives. By the same token, the most recent images were also made public for another set of interests. Why differentiate between one and the other? Without trying to be vindictive, if Saddam ruled through his publicity machine, he should also be judged in public. Those who wish to oppose the distribution of the latest images of Saddam in prison ought to look for a different set of reasons than to say the pictures are immoral and of low news value. Perhaps, they should admit that they are so because of his lingering love of Saddam. In which case, I say to them that the era of Saddam is well and truly over and that God has done what needed to be done!