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Arab Journalists and Blogs: Between Acceptance and Hesitation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Blogs are an alternative means for expressing views and opinions that is fast gaining a wide acceptance among the ‘online community’ and taking printed newspapers and news websites by storm. This accounts for the large segment of youth who write on these blogs, capitalizing on the freedom they provide and the facility of interaction – advantages that are not easily available through other forms of media.

The media figures who have resorted to these blogs post their ideas, views and daily diary entries in a framework that is outside the borders set by their press institutions, which constitutes a phenomenon that is closely followed by a number of questions; the most important of which is: why have they resorted to an alternative means to transmit their journalistic output? Perhaps the recent rise of ‘journalistic blogs’ indicates that they have discovered a new outlet for writing that might even surpass their love for writing in newspapers. Writing in newspapers indicates writing for others while writing on blogs is more interactive in addition to having a much wider and more variegated audience – and the unrestrained freedom that comes with it, of course.

And yet opinions surrounding the blog world vary between acceptance and hesitation, the latter more common among the older generation. Many undermine or do not accept blogs despite the fact there are 60 million blogs, according to the figures of the specialized search engine in this field, ‘technocrati’ (technocrat). Not all the blogs are related to journalism, however the growth of the phenomenon is an indicator of its significance. The independence in thoughts and attitudes and the time and method of publication are among the most appealing reasons that made journalist Rabah Alquei’i launch his own blog. On his blog he can write about anything he pleases without external influences such as those imposed on him if he were writing for a media institution.

“The reasons behind the surge in electronic publishing is because of the widening of the circle of recipients and the certainty that the idea will reach a bigger audience in addition to an immediacy in interaction – all of which are advantages that lack in newspapers. The internet writers – so to speak – have a much wider scope of freedom than what is available to them in printed publications,” Alquei’i said.

Saeed al Jabir from the Lebanese ‘al Mustaqbal’ newspaper regards this shift into the electronic as an escape from the printed press and its restrictions while also providing a chance to stay abreast with the latest technology. He sees it as the creation of a constructive electronic publishing that aims towards spreading bold dialogue as part of the reform project that the country has adopted nowadays: “Blogs or electronic publishing are the only means that grant writers and journalists the freedom to put forth their unrestrained ideas, which is the lacking element in publications that are subject to censorship.”

But Alquei’i also highlights a personal dimension and says that some matters obligate journalists to publish on internet blogs, “As a journalist I am bound by the policies of the press institutions. When journalism becomes a profession, professional commitment to what can be published becomes a top priority. In this case, the journalist can only write what the newspaper wants written while also writing what he wants to cover in blogs and forums,” he explained.

Alquei’i rejects, however, the predictions that blogs will take over printed papers and says that the latter will retain their leading status and that their relationship with blogs will be “one of completion not conflict.” He believes that this will rest on a number of conditions of change in journalism: its progress to an increased freedom, the emergence of an editorial staff with a more progressive vision and the creation of marketing teams able to elevate the status of newspapers into become an essential necessity for all members of society.

For his part, ‘Al Youm’ newspaper journalist, Omar Othman, believes that the impending future is one for ‘personal media’, which is represented in today’s blogs. He pointed out that this means provides an interactive channel for the exchange of views between the readers and observers in a direct manner with the added bonus of further media benefits, he said: “blogs offer a huge space for the expression and spread of creativity in various forms, including writing and art. It is also a mirror thorough which the reader sees the name at the top of the post and yet has no idea who the person behind that name is or what the source of his/her news is.”

As for Mansour al Atiq, journalist at Saudi Arabia’s ‘al Iqtisadiya’ newspaper, his relationship with blogs is an old one that is only confined to reading. Once limited to the English language, blogs in Arabic have a significant presence in countries like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Egypt and the Maghreb region countries and Lebanon. “the world that the bloggers have created with their special presence has boundless freedom and independence which are among the factors to encourage me to start a new experiment,” he said. [Mansour al Atiq launched his own blog spot]. He added, “But writing in blogs is different; it is done on daily basis and is completely free from the restraints of language and narrative. It is also a means to escape the daily grind and alienation.”