The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Israel tank targets Palestine TV cameraman

Israel tank targets Palestine TV cameraman
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465‑1004 Fax: (212) 465‑9568 Web: E-Mail:
Contact: Abi Wright
Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

GAZA: Palestine TV alleges cameraman was targeted by Israeli tank

New York, July 27, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned by the wounding of Palestine Television cameraman Ibrahim al-Atla by an Israeli tank shell while covering fighting in Gaza. Palestine Television head Mohammed al-Dahoudi alleged that the tank fired deliberately at al-Atla and other journalists with him.

Al-Atla was hit by shrapnel during a lull in shooting between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces in the densely-populated Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City yesterday. Al-Dahoudi told CPJ that al-Atla was wearing a vest clearly indicating that he was press. He accused Israeli forces of firing directly at the journalist.

Al-Atla was moving with a Reuters cameraman and a cameraman from the Cairo-based Ramattan News Agency to film civilians who had been caught in the fighting, when a shell landed nearby. Atla was rushed to Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital with shrapnel in his lungs and spine. He was transferred to a Tel Aviv hospital today for surgery. He remains in critical condition. No one else was wounded.

“The Israelis saw us clearly, we were journalists wearing vests and TV helmets,” said Ramattan cameraman Anas Rehan. “The tank undoubtedly targeted us,” he told CPJ. He added that there were no Palestinian gunmen standing near the journalists.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said the army would investigate the incident. “Israel doesn’t have a habit of hitting people not engaged in fighting,” he told CPJ. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t launch leaflets such as in southern Lebanon, to warn people of conflict areas.”

Palestine Television, along with the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), Wafa Radio, and Voice of Palestine radio, which form the Palestinian Broadcast Cooperation, are under the control of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Around 50 Israeli tanks and bulldozers backed by missile-firing drone aircraft rolled into northern Gaza yesterday and engaged in intense combat, killing 24 Palestinians and wounding at least 70, according to international news agencies. Many civilians have been killed in a month-long offensive that started when Palestinian militants from Gaza crossed into Israel, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing a third.

“We are extremely disturbed by the allegation that an Israeli tank fired directly at a group of journalists, severely wounding Ibrahim al-Atla,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the Israeli authorities to launch an immediate investigation into this incident, one of several recent allegations of deliberate targeting of journalists covering fighting in Gaza and south Lebanon.”

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit


Israeli target Arab journalists in attacks on Lebanon

LEBANON: TV crews allege targeting by Israeli warplanes in the south

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465‑1004 Fax: (212) 465‑9568 Web: E-Mail:
contact: Abi Wright

Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

LEBANON: TV crews allege targeting by Israeli warplanes in the south

New York, July 27, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern today over allegations by several television crews that Israeli warplanes had attacked them, effectively shutting down live television coverage from southeast Lebanon.

Crews from four Arab television stations told CPJ that Israeli aircraft fired missiles within 80 yards (75 meters) of them on July 22 to prevent them from covering the effects of Israel’s bombardment of the area around the town of Khiam, in the eastern sector of the Israel-Lebanon border

“Israeli aircraft targeted in an air raid TV crews, especially Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Al-Manar,”said Ghassan Benjeddou, Al-Jazeera’s Lebanon bureau chief. “It’s a miracle that our crew survived the attack,” he told CPJ.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman denied that Israel was targeting journalists. “We are targeting the roads because Hezbollah uses those roads; under no circumstances do we target civilians, including the media,” Capt. Jacob Dallal told CPJ. “Journalists working in those areas are knowingly taking a risk,” he added.

Reuters reported at least 434 Lebanese and 51 Israelis have been killed in conflict. Israel launched an offensive in south Lebanon 16 days ago after a cross-border raid by the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

“We are disturbed by these allegations and request an immediate investigation,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Journalists have a right to work in conflict zones and are entitled to the same protection as all other civilians, meaning that they cannot be deliberately targeted.”

While journalists based in Israel have generally been able to cover IDF operations, live television pictures of the Israeli operation along the border from the Lebanese side is now virtually impossible, journalists said. Broadcasters said a few individual TV journalists and media support staff remained in some southern Lebanese towns and villages but getting TV footage out was extremely difficult.

Several international broadcasters and news organizations told CPJ that they had made the Mediterranean port of Tyre their base in the south. Journalists in the city, which is 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Beirut, said any vehicles, including TV vehicles, traveling between towns and villages were targeted by Israeli planes if spotted on the road. One journalist who ventured into the area was Layal Najib, 23, a freelance photographer for the Lebanese magazine Al-Jaras and Agence France-Presse. She was killed July 23 by an Israeli missile while traveling in a taxi to cover Lebanese fleeing north. She was the first journalist fatality of the fighting.

By July 22, most TV crews with satellite uplink trucks had pulled out of the strategic southern town of Marjeyoun. Those that remained included the international satellite channels Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), and Al-Manar, the satellite channel affiliated with Hezbollah. Israel has acknowledged targeting Al-Manar installations, accusing the station of propaganda and incitement.

Three vehicles from LBC, which set out from Marjeyoun ahead of the other teams, reached the village of Hasb Bayah, were the Lebanese Red Cross had a presence. But a convoy of Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Al-Manar vehicles was chased by Israeli fighter aircraft which fired missiles on the road behind them as they approached an already bombed-out bridge. The journalists said they managed to get away on back roads but the planes followed and again trapped the vehicles by firing missiles at the road ahead of them and behind them.

The journalists and technicians abandoned their vehicles and walked to Hasb Bayah. The following day peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon repaired the road and the crews were able to drive back to Beirut, the journalists said.

“Their cars were clearly marked ‘Press’ and ‘TV’,” Nabil Khatib, Executive Editor of Al Arabiya, told CPJ.

Radio broadcasts in Arabic accused several journalists of helping Hezbollah. The radio, Al-Mashraqiyeh, which the journalists believe broadcasts out of Israel, is affiliated with exiled members of the South Lebanon Army, Israel’s military ally during its occupation of south Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s. The radio singled out Al-Jazeera correspondents Katia Nasser and Abbas Nasser, and Al-Arabiya correspondent Ali Noon. CPJ heard a recording of the broadcast against Katia Nasser and Abbas Nasser, in which they were accused of aiding Hezbollah. Abbas was accused of giving Hezbollah favorable coverage in order to secure a job with Al-Manar. The Al-Mashraqiyeh radio announcer said, “the noble Lebanese will hold those who supported Hezbollah in destroying Lebanon to account.”

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Internet Video on-demand can side-step mainstream media bias

Online video offers Arab Americans chance to circumvent mainstream media biases
(with two sidebars: technology in layman's terms and examples of viode content online)

(Permission granted to republish.)
By Ray Hanania

From the very moment they first set foot on American soil in the mid-19th Century, Arab immigrants have engaged in a never-ending battle to force the mainstream news media to provide balanced and fair coverage of Middle East events and issues.

Most of the focus has been on changing the print media, which for years dominated the news media. Today, though, as Arab Americans make some advances in the print media, the battle has shifted to the electronic media, mainly television.

Surveys show most Americans get their understanding of the Middle East and the Arab and Muslim Worlds from television news and feature broadcasts. Mainstream American TV is filled with one-sided images and negative stereotypes of the Arab world that TV stations rarely allow to be challenged.

If there is a bias against Arabs in American newspapers, mainly on the Op-Ed pages that define American public opinion, the broadcast media is beyond "biased" and is almost exclusively one-sided.

But the Internet is helping to change that. Thanks to policy changes by the Internet's major portals, for the first time Arab Americans have the opportunity to produce broadcast quality programs at minimal costs that can easily be seen by average Americans.

An Internet video depicting the Palestinian cause accurately and with an unbiased perspective has the potential now to be seen by more Americans than those who watch the highest rated TV news programs that routinely censor news critical of Israel.

Earlier this year, online web portals implemented new policies to allow anyone to upload limited sized video files to its web servers at no cost. The only prohibition is on the theft of copyright materials and on pornography. Some of the more popular web hosts that started this are MySpace, YouTube and Google.

But Google went one step further by lifting the limit on the size of the video files. Yahoo, for example, imposes a limit of 100 MB on all video submissions, which means the largest a video on Google might be is about 2-5 minutes -- depending on compression techniques used. Limits also exist for and, other popular viewer created video sites.

But, as a result, independent journalists, filmmakers, and activists can now place their video reports on the Google Web Page without being charged for transfer size or bandwidth.

Google makes money on the principle of "traffic." The more people who visit Google to see your video the more that are also exposed to video content that Google offers on a pay-per-view basis. It's rising stock shows the plan is working.

Slowly, programs of substance offering lengthy reporting and video footage of actual events that present the Arab and Palestinian cause in a more accurate and favorable light are making their way to the Internet and to the mainstream American public.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a video has the power of a million pictures.For the first time, Americans who only see and hear one side of the story in biased and imbalanced news reporting and coverage on commercial and cable TV can now get "the other side of the story" simply by connecting to online video content using their home computers.

The bottom line is that Arab Americans who don't like what they see on television, can now buy an inexpensive, high quality camera (between $600 for a commercial SONY and $2,400 for movie-like digital video), and produce their own video shows using inexpensive editing software on your home computer.

Arab Americans can place their video programs online for free so that tens, hundreds, thousands and even maybe millions of Americans can view it for free.

There are many places now on the Internet where videotape of regional or obscure cable TV shows can be posted or viewed at no charge. One of the more popular is Google Video which lifted the size limit on video files earlier this year.

A search of Google Video listed 473 videos referencing "Palestine," 545 referencing "Palestinian" and 588 referencing "Arab." Most of the video selections offer content that is clearly more balanced than what one might watch on commercial or cable TV programs.

Some content offers raw footage of the harsh realities of living under the Israeli occupation such as the 48 minute video "Tobias - Life in Palestine" produced by an unnamed Palestinian living in the West bank who brought together everyday scenes of live in the occupation.

Another 5 minute video called "Before and After" seeks to show viewers how Israel has damaged and destroyed Arab localities during the 39 year occupation.

Other content includes less serious topics such as humor and music including "rap music" songs with no social message other than being entertainment.

Still more are the video programs of Arab Americans who have been struggling to get their voices heard through the limiting offering of local Cable TV and public access channels.

One of the most ambitious cable TV shows that is now available online is hosted by Palestinian American activist Hesham Tillawi. Tillawi's show "Current Issues" is broadcast in Lafayette, LA on Cox Cable. He soon began streaming the show live on the Internet - which means you could view the show as it was being taped. Since the beginning of the year, Tillawi has been placing completed shows on Google that can be viewed by anyone at any time.

Tillawi says the Internet has given him a freedom not just from the biases of the mainstream American media, but also from censorship in the Arab and Muslim community.

"Current Issues" was being broadcast on Bridges TV, the Muslim Cable TV Channel until Bridges TV officials said some mainstream Cable Companies and some viewers complained about his hard-hitting pro-Palestinian content. Bridges dropped the show last month and has refused to comment on the change or the reasons.

You will also find programs produced by LINK TV like Mosaic, and the Charlie Rose show. Others include long and short videos of pro-Palestinian protests in LA, a speech by Hanan Ashrawi in San Diego, and a six minute video produced by "Jews for Global Justice" that argues "The US Government Uses Your Tax dollars to kill Palestinian children."

Some online videos are available only if you pay a small fee and licensed in an arrangement with Google, including by Getty Images which offers a wide selection of stock video footage from Palestine and Arab East Jerusalem.

The fact that Google is one of the most popular Internet resources also makes this new trend significant. Hundreds of millions of Google users are now automatically exposed to the availability of these programs when they use search words that include Palestine, Arab, occupation and more

That kind of free market access is what will give the Arab and Palestinian voices, which are silenced in the mainstream American news media, a new power to reach the American public.

(Ray Hanania is a veteran journalist and author of the book "Arabs of Chicagoland." Hanania produces videos documentaries and shows that are available on the web page

Technology in layman's terms

Service providers assess costs in two ways. They charge you to store your files on your web page. The more important charge that for years limited the availability of video is based on transferring (downloading and uploading) a file. That movement from one computer to another is called "bandwidth."

Until recently, costs have been prohibitive. You are charged based on the "size" of files that move back and forth on the Internet. The smaller the file the less costly. The larger the file the more costly. Video files are the largest.

Internet content is measured in Kilobytes (KB) Megabytes (MB) and more recently in Gigabytes (GB). It is like weighing something in ounces, pounds and tons.

A text file, such as a Word document or an email message, may be a few kilobytes (KB). It can be transferred from a home computer through the Internet to someone else's computer at negligible cost.

Picture files and high quality images are larger, usually measured in Megabytes (MB). Video files, on the other hand, are measured in Gigabytes (GB). A 30-minute, high quality video can easily exceed several Gigabytes (GB).

If you have a web page, typically, you would get 5 to 10 Gigabytes of storage space, and 200 Gigabytes of free transfer (uploading and downloading.)

The meter runs Each time someone views your files. If you place a 30 minute video on your web page that is 1 Gigabyte (GB) in size, for example, only 200 people can view it before your web host starts charging you additional money.

More Video selections online:

"Stop Killing Peace" June 2006, speech by Cindy Corrie, Rachel Corrie's mother (13 Minutes).

"Palestine Cultural Center," 2002, by Dima Ramaha on a camp for Palestinian children (10 Minutes)

"Intifada Slideshow," June 17, 2006, by Hamam Farah. (5 minutes).

"Wall Protest at Bil'in," April 2006, video clip of the weekly protest there against the Apartheid Wall. (24 Seconds).

"Drive through Downtown Jericho," Nov. 24, 2005, (2 Minutes)

"Apartheid Wall," June 2006, near Abu Dis, (8 Minutes).

"Who's the Terrorist," June 13, 2006, Palestinian hip hop music by Meen Erhabe, (4 Minutes).

"Alison Weir with Hesham Tillawi," June 5, 2006, Current Issues Cable TV online, (56 Minutes).

"Life in the Promised Land of Palestine," protests and killings, March 2006, (43 Minutes).

"Ping Pong Revenge: Israel and Palestine Slapstick Comedy," humorous musical, Jan. 13, 2006, (3 Minutes).

"A visit to Jenin: Interview on Jenin Massacre," with Gov. Qadura Mousa, April 28, 2006, Cable TV Interview hosted by Ray Hanania, (32 Minutes).

# # #

Citizen Journalism: circumventing the bias in the Western mainstream media

Citizen Journalism: Penetrating the Monopoly of Corporate Media
Ramzy Baroud, English.

I still vividly remember the anger in my father’s voice as our family of seven gathered to warm ourselves around a tin pan filled with burning coal in our house in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. That was nearly twenty years ago, and the camp was under a cruel Israeli military curfew. Outside, Israeli Army vehicles roamed the streets of the dreadfully crowded and impoverished camp. “Those who violate the army’s order and leave their homes will be killed,” blasted a voice from the loudspeakers positioned atop one of the Israeli vehicles. The soldier spoke in broken Arabic; his threats sounded ominously genuine.

Inside our humble dwelling, a refugee home that first started as a mud hut, we huddled with indescribable fear. Many people had died this way. Some of our neighbors were shot for looking out their windows. Others were killed inside their homes. Our house was riddled with bullets.
We had no reason to doubt the Israeli Army threats. My dad instructed us not to breath heavily, not to cough and not to move for any reason. Even this could drive a herd of soldiers into our house.

A few hours later when things quieted down, my dad, comforted by the fact that the jeeps seemed to have moved on to another part of the camp, turned on the radio. He never missed the BBC Arabic evening news broadcast, even now.

Palestinians have had a love-hate relationship with the media. Knowing that the name of our refugee camp was uttered on some radio station thousands of miles away, was in some way a recognition that our plight mattered, even if little. Hate, because this was hardly the case, and even if such reference was made, it hardly deviated from usual mantras that saw the Israeli occupiers as the ultimate source of information, the primary authority on what had indeed happened. This remains the case until today. What the Israeli Army acknowledges becomes fact, its narrative is the trusted narrative; what it dismisses, has simply never happened; at best, it’s a murky Palestinian allegation.

The BBC radio mentioned nothing of the Israeli curfew imposed on half of the Gaza Strip that day, nothing of the wanton killings of several people. One boy who died that day was a classmate of mine, shot earlier in the day as we protested against an armed Jewish settlers’ attack on our high school.

My father’s still silence was now coupled with anger. “No one gives a damn, whether we live or die, slaughtered like sheep and not even a mention on the news.” My father’s angry personal commentaries often followed disappointing news broadcasts like the one on the BBC. Out of this helpless, my insistence on “getting the word out”, was born. And like myself, many others who have become disheartened with the lack of ethics in the world of journalism have taken things into their own hands through “Citizen Journalism”.

“Getting the word out” or “just telling them the truth”, as Malcolm X often preached is not inborn, but it is necessitated by circumstances: Where a story is conveyed by one party and other parties are completely excluded. While such an assertion sounds academic and perhaps a bit redundant, this kind of neglect is injurious to most of the forgotten multitudes all around the globe, those whose “side of the story” is either deemed irrelevant, unimportant or inconsistent with the mainstream narrative which has its own intricate checks and balances.

2002 witnessed the Israeli reinvasion of major West Bank population centers, prompting thousands of peace activists from across the world, including Israel, to travel to the West Bank, most of whom hoped to convey the story beyond the headlines, the forgotten news segment that cannot be filled by a detached reporter based in a five-star hotel in Tel Aviv. Through the implementation of Citizen journalism, scores of activists were provided with a platform. The following is a case in point: Brian Wood — a US based activist who visited the West Bank during the Israeli invasion of Jenin in April 2002 — smuggled himself into the Palestinian refugee camp where hundreds of people were reportedly killed or wounded, would call a friend in Colorado and convey a report regarding what he saw there over a cell phone; the transcribed report would in turn be sent to me in Seattle; I would edit and post it, and also send it to mailing lists of thousands, and eventually to hundreds of thousands. Using the same style, and following the UN failure to investigate the Israeli killings in Jenin, citizen reporters worked together to produce what later became an best seller: Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion. The book was the fruit of nearly 30 individuals; only two were professional journalists. It was the first, and still the most authoritative response to all the allegations made regarding the two-week long Jenin battle. The book was used as a source for Middle East studies programs in various US universities.

Citizen journalism is not stamp collecting; true, at times it can be a fun and financially rewarding hobby to those willing to hide behind the backyard bushes of Hollywood celebrities, ready to snap the million-dollar photo and sell it to some tabloid. But from my experience, it can be a very useful tool in confronting authority, revealing atrocities and holding those in power to account for their deeds.

If Citizen journalism, using the Internet and other media, succeeds in penetrating the monopoly of the corporate media on news, thus narratives and discourses, participatory democracy might finally recover some of its losses. To achieve that, Citizen journalism must thoroughly analyze what is going wrong in today’s mainstream media and remain focused on what the priorities are, what counts and what truly matters.

— Ramzy Baroud teaches journalism at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. He is the author of “Writings on the Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” (Pluto Press, London), and editor in chief of the

Monday, July 24, 2006

Israelis kill journalist in Lebanon

Lebanon: Lebanese journalist killed, TV transmitters hit

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465‑1004 Fax: (212) 465‑9568 Web: E-Mail:
Contact: Abi Wright
Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

New York, July 24, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the killing of a freelance photographer and a media technician during separate Israeli missile attacks in Lebanon.

Layal Najib, 23, a freelance photographer for the Lebanese magazine Al-Jaras and Agence France-Presse, became the first journalist to be killed since Israel began attacks on Lebanon in response to a cross-border raid by the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. Najib was in a taxi yesterday trying to meet up with a convoy of villagers fleeing the Israeli bombardment of south Lebanon when she was hit by shrapnel from a missile on the road between the villages of Sadiqeen and Qana, local media reported. She died at the scene.

On July 22, Suleiman al-Chidiac, a technician for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) was killed during Israeli air attacks on television transmitters and telephone towers in north Lebanon, well away from the fighting in the south, CPJ sources and The Associated Press reported. Al-Chidiac was the head of LBC’s transmission facility at Fatqa, 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Beirut, which was destroyed.

On the same day, Israeli warplanes struck towers in Terbol, near Tripoli in north Lebanon, belonging to the state-run channel Tele-Liban, Future TV and Hezbollah’s own channel, Al-Manar TV, as well as cellular telephone network towers, The Associated Press and local media reported.

In al-Qura, also in the north, a technician for Tele-Liban, Khaled Eid, was seriously injured in an attack on a telecommunications tower belonging to the station. Terrestrial transmission by all these stations was interrupted but they remained on the air via satellite.

“We are gravely concerned by the killings of our colleagues Layal Najib and Suleiman al-Chidiac,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The aerial bombardment of Lebanon by Israel has caused tremendous hardship to civilians, including journalists who are covering the humanitarian crisis. We are alarmed by the air attacks on television transmission and telecommunication facilities. These strikes have already cost the life of one television technician and wounded another. We have seen no evidence that these media outlets are serving any military function and therefore call on Israel to cease targeting media facilities in Lebanon immediately.”

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Israelis shoot Arab journalists in West Bank

West Bank: TV crews hit by rubber bullets

New York, July 20, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that members of two Arab television crews were wounded by rubber bullets during an Israeli army operation in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday.

Wael Tanous, a satellite technician with the Qatar-based channel Al-Jazeera, was hit in the left leg while standing near his uplink vehicle on a main road in Nablus around noon, Al-Jazeera reporter Guevara al-Budeiri told CPJ. She said Tanous, like all crew members, was wearing a vest labeled “TV.”

Walid al-Omary, Jerusalem-based bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, told CPJ, “It was clear when they shot him that they knew he was press.” Tanous was treated at a local hospital. Al-Budeiri said that before the shooting an Israeli army jeep had sped toward her and stopped only inches from her leg as she was preparing to broadcast live.

About 50 Israeli armored vehicles, including tanks and bulldozers, rolled into Nablus yesterday, and destroyed a Palestinian security compound and several other government buildings. Four Palestinians were killed in clashes with the army and 150 Palestinian policemen were detained for questioning, The Associated Press reported.

Later Wednesday afternoon, Faten Elwan, a correspondent for U.S.-funded Arabic television station Al-Hurra, was hit in the torso and left hand by rubber bullets, according to al-Budeiri, who witnessed the incident. She said Elwan was standing at what she considered a safe distance from the fighting at the time. Elwan was treated at a local hospital and returned to work.

An Israeli military spokeswoman told CPJ that the army was aware of the incidents but said “it is very hard to check” because no formal complaints had been filed.

“We are troubled by the shooting of our colleagues in Nablus,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The Israeli military must investigate both these incidents immediately and determine whether soldiers acted with deliberate intent.”

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Saudis, like many countries, block web sites

What Is Wrong With Wikipedia?
By Hassna’a Mokhtar, Arab News, July 18, 2006

JEDDAH, 19 July 2006 — Saudi site-blocking officials can’t seem to decide what to do with Wikipedia, a popular online public-access encyclopedia that amasses information on virtually everything under the sun. In recent weeks the site has been blocked, unblocked, blocked and unblocked again. Yesterday the site was accessible, but earlier in the week it wasn’t.

This seemingly arbitrary site-blocking method has called into question the credibility of the Saudi filtering policy for Internet sites.

Researchers have concluded that the Saudi site-filtering system is erratic and overdone. An attempt to view a blocked page inside the Kingdom will return a page that says: “Access to the requested URL is not allowed. Please fill out an unblocking request if you believe the requested page should not be blocked.”

At the bottom of the page there is another line: “Please send other sites you feel should be blocked using the blocking request form.”

Hanan Al-Harbi, a 24 year-old English literature university graduate, said she had had problems accessing certain web pages.

“I come across blocked beneficial web sources and comply with the ‘Please fill out an unblocking request if you believe the requested page should not be blocked’ rule, yet I have never received a response or noticed an action,” Al-Harbi said. “Does anyone ever read the complaints people send, or is it just an excuse for the terrible service provided?”

(Subscribers with costlier satellite-based Internet access are not subject to governmental site blocking. Satellite access circumvents the line-based access provided by the Saudi Telecom Co.)

King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), which operates the country’s centralized Internet gateway, has made available on its website an Arabic-only guide for Internet use in Saudi Arabia along with the local content filtering policy, in English and Arabic. The latter states the following:

“Pursuant to the Council of Ministers’ decree all sites that contain content in violation of Islamic tradition or national regulations shall be blocked. Other non-pornographic sites are only blocked based upon direct requests from the security bodies within the government. The KACST has no authority in the selection of such sites and its role is limited to carrying out the directions of these security bodies.”

Mansour Al-Otaiby, the KACST spokesman, said the city is not responsible for making decisions on which sites to block.

“KACST is a technical organization that receives blocking and unblocking requests from the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC),” he told Arab News. “The city’s engineers then work according to the instructions given by the commission. KACST is no longer responsible of the block-unblock decision making process or receiving Internet users’ complaints. The CITC is.”

The CITC would not respond to numerous attempts by Arab News to learn why Wikipedia has been scrutinized and how decisions are made on which sites to block.

Eyas Al-Hajry, general manager of the Internet Service Unit (ISU) at KACST, told the daily Al-Riyadh in an article published on Monday that the ISU will be transferred to the CITC in the coming months. He also said that there is some inefficiency in the blocking department — and that mistakes happen.

Harvard University’s OpenNet Initiative, which monitors governmental site filtering worldwide, conducted three rounds of testing of Saudi Arabia’s Internet systems between 2002 and 2004.

Researchers Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman created a list of over 60,000 URLs by targeting the most popular results from queries to the Google and Yahoo! search engines. They searched for sensitive content, including such topics as the Arab-Israeli conflict, human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, the 1991 Iraq war, drugs, terrorism, Judaism and higher education.

The researchers compiled a list of 2,038 sites that were blocked in the Kingdom. Many of the sites, especially pornographic ones, draw upon constantly updating lists provided by third-party site-filtering software, such as Smartfilter, produced by the US-based Secure Computing Corp.

Other sites are picked by Saudi monitors and added to the blacklist. The researchers were unable to conclude precisely how the ISU determines which sites to block that aren’t automatically blocked by the software. The researchers also concluded that the Internet filtering regime in Saudi Arabia concentrates on a few specific areas: pornography, drugs, gambling, circumvention tools (sites that offer ways to access blocked sites) and religious topics.

Earlier this year, Google’s page-translation service was blocked when it was discovered that it could be used as a proxy to access content by entering the blocked URL. The popular information technology blog is currently blocked because one entry from a few years ago offers information about how to surf the Internet anonymously.

These sites are blocked relatively successfully, according to the study. However, the researchers added that Saudi Internet filtering also demonstrates the risks inherent even in a technologically adept blocking regime: arbitrary and subjective blocking, inconsistency and loss of personal control over access to web-based content.

Reporters Without Borders published an article in June 2004 addressing the issue reaching the same conclusions as the OpenNet study. The organization wrote a letter requesting the lifting of the ban on, a non-pornographic site that addresses a controversial theme.
According to the report, Eyas Al-Hajery, the head of the ISU at the time, said in 2004 that the site would be approved “as no pornographic content was found.” However, a check of accessibility yesterday showed that the site is currently blocked.

The KACST website has an article on Internet filtering that begins with two verses from the Holy Qur’an: “He said: ‘O my Lord! The prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me: Unless Thou turn away their snare from me, I should (in my youthful folly) feel inclined toward them and join the ranks of the ignorant.’ So his Lord hearkened to him (in his prayer), and turned away from him their snare: Verily He heareth and knoweth (all things).” (Yusuf: 33-43)

The author of the article, Mishaal Al-Kadhi, said he used the two verses as a way of emphasizing the importance of web blocking to prevent social damage caused by web content that lacks virtue.

Ghassan Al-Gain, the 50-year-old author of the book “The Discipline of Dialogue”, which addresses dialogue ethics in Islam, endorses site-blocking in general, but says the current system needs to involve the consultation of experts, such as Islamic scholars, who should have access to blocked content, especially content regarding religious issues and Islam, in order to review and provide educated advice.

“The young generation is not fully aware or conscious of the smart tactics some Westerners use to convince people of their views about Islam,” said Al-Gain. “It’s the KACST’s or the CITC’s responsibility to make these links accessible to scholars and Islamic educators so that they study, analyze and respond to them. In fact, the KACST or the CITC must alert Muslim scholars to the existence of such links for further research and examination to attack the devious misconceptions that offend Islam.”

Chances are if you try to access Wikipedia today you’ll get through. Tomorrow, however, the site might be blocked again with no explanation or effective recourse. To cope with the world’s current advancements in technology, where access to information is easier than ever before, does this strategy help promote virtue in our society, or just confusion?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel discriminates against journalists, detaining Arab reporters covering war on Lebanon

ISRAEL: Al-Jazeera reporters detained in northern Israel
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465‑1004 Fax: (212) 465‑9568 Web: E-Mail:
Contact: Abi Wright
Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x-105

ISRAEL: Al-Jazeera reporters detained in northern Israel

New York, July 17, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the detention of Al-Jazeera television crews covering Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel amid allegations that they were “assisting the enemy.”

Walid al-Omary, Jerusalem-based bureau chief for the Arab satellite TV station, told CPJ that he had been detained by Israeli police three times in two days for his reporting on the location of rocket attacks. Al-Omary said he was detained yesterday evening with his crew for two hours at a police station in the northern port city of Haifa.

He was stopped by police today for 30 minutes outside his hotel in the coastal town of Acre, he said. Later in the day, he was arrested and held for six hours for reporting on rocket hits in the Galilee village of Kfar Yassif. Another al-Jazeera correspondent, Elias Karam, was held yesterday by police in Acre for several hours. Al-Omary said he was released on bail and could face charges of assisting Hezbollah through his coverage of the location of the rocket hits.

“We have been covering the situation along with 10 to 12 others crews, foreign and Israeli,” Al-Omary said. “We have not received any warnings from the Israeli military censor.”

Israel has a system of military censorship for all media, and censors can intervene if they consider military security has been breached.

Al-Omary said that that an Israeli investigator told him he was being held for assisting the enemy by revealing the location of rocket hits. Israeli police did not return CPJ calls for comment. Reuters quoted an Israeli police spokesman as saying Omary was detained for questioning without giving further details.

“We call on the Israeli authorities to explain why Al-Jazeera crews have been detained,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We note that Israel has generally allowed access to media to cover the attacks in the north of the country and we are concerned that Al-Jazeera is being singled out for questioning.”

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Muslims Magazine launched -- looking for writers

Would you like to help launch a new publication? We are looking to represent young Muslim professionals in America. The fusion that occurs of our cultures and the successes that each of us have had because of this unique blend of traditions should be documented. We are looking for experienced writers that have knowledge about the Islamic world. We understand, as a profession journalist, your time may not permit for you to write an article, but if you have written an article pertaining to any of these topics, or something similar to these topics, we would be honored to re-publish it in our new magazine.

The stories for our topics include:

Musical Groups (ex, Outlandish, Sami Yusuf)
Up and coming Muslims (ex, professionals that are successful in their fields)
Education (ex, Islamic Study programs in universities)
Motherhood (ex, how to pass on your traditions)
Food Section (ex, new restaurant opening)
Architecture (ex, a building, palace, masjid that has some significance)
Fashion (ex, a new fashion designer in the Islamic world)
Globalization (ex, how companies within the Islamic world are benefiting from globalization)
Cultural Struggles (ex, short paragraphs about the struggles we face living in diverse cultural environments)

These sections are open to suggestions, however the examples provided are only to explain what we are looking for. If you are interested and have an exciting story idea for any of the sections listed above, please send a short query describing your article and the sources you intend on using. Please contact:

Moniza Khokhar

Heather W. Austin

Please write Magazine Story in the subject field. The deadline for all queries is July 8 th, 2006.

Thank you and feel free to contact us with any ideas!