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Friday, January 15, 2010

Arab Journalists suffer oppression because Arab Journalism groups fail to work together

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Arab journalists suffer oppression because Arab Journalism groups fail to work together

By Ray Hanania

Jared Malsin, an English editor at the Maan News Agency in Bethlehem, was arrested and jailed by Israeli border police this week for the high crime of "criticizing Israel." The journalist is sitting in a jail cell awaiting a kangaroo court hearing before an Israeli judge. And there is nothing Arab Journalists can do about it, mainly because they spend more time fighting among themselves than they do networking and creating one, single, strong voice.

Maan, which is constantly under siege from israeli authorities and operating under Israel's brutal repression of palestinian voices in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, is fighting to spread the word and get support.

But the challenge they face is not of their own doing. The problem has to do with the fact that most journalism associations, especially those organized by Arabs, do not work together. Maybe it's rivalry. Maybe it's politics. Maybe it's about jealousy. Maybe it's just that the presidents-for-life at the various groups just don't like each other.

And who suffers? Journalists like Jared Malsin.

In the United States, Arabs have 10 journalism associations. None of them will work together. Almost all of them insist on being "the" organization, when in fact none of them are really anything of significance.

Working together or networking doesn't mean an organization has to lose its identity nor lose it's influence. It CAN mean just linking together the way we link pages on the Internet. But that means showcasing another organization and American Arab organizations -- not just the Arab journalism groups -- don't like to do that.

Maybe it is a cultural thing?

Because the same thing happens in the Middle East.

Arab World Journalists are arrogant and look down on American Arab journalists, even though journalism in the United States, despite the political bias towards Israel, is more professional and more powerful than anything written in the Middle East. In fact, much of the arrogance has to do with a cultural flaw in the world of Arab journalists. If you don't speak and write in Arabic, you are NOT an Arab! That's the corrupted attitude of how Arab World journalism operates.

The truth is that the Arab World media that writes only in Arabic is doing the Arab people, and especially the Palestinian people, a huge disservice. In fact, it might be a moral crime. The Western audience doesn't read, hear or understand anything published in the Arab World media in Arabic and therefore the Arab World media in Arabic is not influential and marginalized.

But they are legends in their own minds, of course.

How do we change that?

1 - All Arab journalism organizations in the Middle East and in the West such as the United States, should network together. Put aside their differences -- Journalism is NOT about politics or activism, but about professional journalism principles of objectivity.

2 - The Arab World media should expand their operations to include mirror English web sites and even sections in their all-Arabic pages with English translations.

3 - Arab American and Western Arab groups should insure they also provide both English and Arabic sections.

Setting aside politics is going to be tough because Arab World journalism did not arise out of the need for free speech, but rather out of the long term activism to fight political oppression in places like Israel and also in other Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

In the meantime, everyday an Arab journalist like Jared Malsin is detained, harassed and intimidated by Israel or another government agency including in the Arab World.

And until Arab Journalists decide to set aside their political rivalries and focus first and foremost on professional journalism reporting in both Arabic and English, Jared Malsin won't be the last.

Click to Read the National Arab American Journalism Association release on Maslin.

Click to read the recent update by Maan (Ma'an) News Agency's update on Maslin.

-- Ray Hanania

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