Bahrain media play role in tension after protests

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Thu May 5, 2011 2:18pm IST

(Reuters) – Bahraini media have played a central role in a crackdown on Shi’ite Muslims following the suppression of pro-democracy protests that threatened the Sunni monarchy’s grip on power, analysts say.

Since the crackdown began in March, the pro-government media have depicted the protesters as violent, driven by Shi’ite sectarian designs to disenfranchise Sunni Muslims and encouraged by Shi’ite power Iran, the bete noire of Gulf Arab rulers. Continue reading Bahrain media play role in tension after protests

Gulf angst over Egypt’s policy shift

Word is Egypt’s post-uprising prime minister will be in Riyadh next week meeting King Abdullah. One would like to be a fly on the wall at that one. It’s not been a good year for the Gulf dynasties. The regional discourse was merrily All About Iran until a Tunisian fruit-seller called Mohamed Al-BouAzizi set himself alight in December 2010 and the era of revolutions was upon us. Al Saud watched in horror as the Obama administration, grudgingly and in stages, endorsed the protest movement against Mubarak’s rule and then decided to ride the wave by echoing the street’s demand for Mubarak to go, in the desperate hope – but the best it could do at the time – of being able to regain the initiative and work with the military junta on making sure the post-Mubarak era was as pro-American as possible. The uprising spread to Yemen, where Ali Abdullah Saleh is fighting back, and to Bahrain, where Saudi forces were sent in after Al Khalifa faffed around and even considered giving this dialogue and democracy drivel a chance. It’s pretty clear Iran will feature on the Saudi agenda. Saudi-owned and influenced media has put the word out that Egypt is going too far in its shift towards What The People Want. Egypt sees itself more in the mould of Turkey when it comes to foreign policy – a country whose weight will derive from the fact that its policies on Israel and the Palestinians have some kind of connection with public opinion. Continue reading Gulf angst over Egypt’s policy shift

As-Safir Newspaper – غسان بن جدو يستقيل من «الجزيرة»

As-Safir Newspaper – غسان بن جدو يستقيل من «الجزيرة». This was just waiting to happen. The article says Ben Jiddo feels the dream of Al-Jazeera is over as an independent serious Arabic channel because it has become a source for “incitement and mobilization”. It certainly has. Also its cases of omission. Bahrain has been erased from the story of the Arab uprisings while Qatar has turned Al-Jazeera into a blatant tool of its foreign policy goals and delusions on Libya. The article mentions al-Jazeera’s “incitement” on Yemen, Libya and Syria. But I wonder if Ben Jiddo’s concern is specifically Syria; perhaps it reflects the disappointment of Hizbollah and others who appreciate Syria’s role in jibhat al-mumana3a, the bloc resisting Western policies on Palestine.

Bahrain and Al-Jazeera’s revolution red line

It was immediately obvious during the protests in Egypt against Mubarak that something wasn’t right in the media coverage of Al-Jazeera Arabic. While the problems of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen were being given similar-ish treatment, the democracy movement in Bahrain was more or less ignored. The Saudi foreign minister was despatched to Doha on several occasions and the result was that Qatar accepted the argument that the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – or let’s call them the Gulf Arab dynasties – were “different” (that old chestnut khususiyya again), their governments were essentially benign and any protest movement could not be framed as “uprising” or “revolt”. For Al-Jazeera that meant reducing Bahrain coverage drastically. But there was another part of the argument, one that manifests itself in Saudi-owned and Bahraini media: not only were they protests for an unwanted, unnecessary and alien notion of democracy, they were the work of Iranian agents provocateurs with an agenda of Shi’ite supremacy. Saudi Arabia establishes its cordon sanitaire in pan-Arab media. It has been a disappointment to people across the political spectrum seeing Al-Jazeera enter the sheep pen. One assumes this is temporary – there is still no love lost between Riyadh and Doha and Al-Jazeera still strives for credibility – but it will interesting to see how the Bahrain issue affects Al-Jazeera’s approaches to favourites such as Hizbollah, Hamas, Assad’s Syria and Iran itself. A recent Hassan Nasrallah speech was ignored by Al-Jazeera because he attacked Bahrain over its treatment of Shi’ite demonstrators. Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the unrest in Syria has been slow to pick up. But breathless and dubious reports of revolt in Iran remain the province of Al-Arabiya and it’s hard to imagine Al-Jazeera go Wahhabi on us and ditch supporters of Palestinian resistance to occupation and discrimination even if they happen to be Shi’ite or Iranian. In the meantime, turn on BBC Arabic instead.

Gulf media find their red line in uprisings: Bahrain

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Thu Apr 14, 2011 4:41am EDT

(Reuters) – Pan-Arab broadcasters who played a key role reporting Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are helping dynastic rulers police the gates of the Gulf to stop the revolts from spreading on their patch, analysts say.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera, the leading Arabic language network, was pivotal in keeping up momentum during protests that toppled Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, both entrenched rulers who were no friends of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani dynasty. Continue reading Gulf media find their red line in uprisings: Bahrain

Saudi Arabia’s media empire

Saudi Arabia’s Media Empire: keeping the masses at home

Arab Media & Society, Issue 3, Fall 2007, 

Since the 1990-1 Gulf crisis when the United States used Saudi Arabia as a launchpad for a campaign to evict occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia has used the Arab media as a key area for responding to perceived threats to the leadership’s legitimacy and stability such as challenges to its alliance with the United States and criticism of its political system, decision-making processes and image in the Arab world. The immediate Saudi response to the Gulf crisis was launching the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), established as a private television enterprise by a brother-in-law of King Fahd, Walid al-Ibrahim. Subsequently, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, leader of Saudi forces in the 1991 war and son of current Crown Prince Sultan, consolidated his control over London-based pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat while sons of Riyadh governor Prince Salman consolidated their control over Al Hayat’s London-based competitor Asharq al-Awsat. A minor Saudi prince set up the Orbit entertainment TV network in 1994 and businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and business partner Saleh Kamel established the Arab Radio and Television entertainment network (ART) the same year. In recent years these three networks, MBC, Orbit and ART, have saturated Arab viewers in Arab and Western entertainment, led by Hollywood movies, American sitcoms and talkshows. Continue reading Saudi Arabia’s media empire