Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Arab dictators censor Internet, but so does the West
By Ray Hanania
The worst part about living in a Western country like America is the hypocrisy and double standards that exist.
It’s true, that tyrants in the Middle East are blaming their troubles and the protests on the rise of the Arab media but more on the rise of free speech on the Internet through social media like Facebook Twitter and other online sources.
So those dictators have been cracking down on the Arab media – shutting down Arab media bureaus in their countries and disconnecting their satellite transmissions. And, they have been cracking down on the Internet.
Of course, American lawmakers have been pointing to that censorship as evidence of the lack of freedoms and civil rights, and the oppression citizens in countries like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain must experience.
But the truth is that the United States has its own system of censorship, to squash the voices of free speech when they reflect views that are unpopular among the American elite.
Just this week, Facebook, the world’s leading social media network launched in the United States, shut down a Page called 3rd Palestinian Intifada because, it is alleged, it advocates violence. It’s true some of the people who post on the site advocate violence, but so do people on other pro-Israel sites that Facebook has not shut down or censored.
The Huffington Post, which was just purchased by AOL for $300 million, also censors its writers, too, rejecting columns that cross a line of acceptance when it involves criticism of topics they reject.
And, Google News even has its level of censorship, rejecting many online Arab news sites because the content is harsher and overly critical of Israel, more so than they are willing to accept.
What’s the difference? Well, the difference is in how the censorship takes place. In the Arab World it is blatant and directed by the government. In the United States, censorship is part of a mindset of the increasing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry.
One is blatant and one is subtle.
What’s the lesson?
It’s a lesson I am afraid the dictators and the Arab World will not learn. Their blatant acts of censorship have brought them so much conflict that several governments have been toppled. Some faster than others, of course, because the speed upon which an Arab regime is thrown out of office is directly proportional to the alliance that government might have with the United States.
Another instance of hypocrisy and double standards.
The solution is that Arab countries could allow more public expression and still manage to maintain their control of their countries. Instead of fearing Democracy, the Arab governments should embrace it. And by embracing public discourse and free speech, even when it includes criticism of their governments, they will be strengthening themselves.
They don’t see this of course because Arab tyrants are always tough but they are thin-skinned. Critics are arrested, detained, jailed and even murdered as punishment for criticizing an Arab government. Just look at the recent incident involving the brutality against Iman al-Abaidi in Tripoli, Libya who charged that she was gang-raped by several of tyrant Moammar Qadhafi. The woman was attacked by mindless religious-garbed women who pummeled her and pushed her down to shut up, and then she was escorted out by male bullies who threw her in a car and drove her away.
If she is still alive, it would be a miracle, but hopefully those images will help to strengthen the resolve to bring down the religious fanatics and Qadhafi’s dictatorship.
Governments that tolerate free speech have a success rate in this world that is unparalleled. And using the United States as an example, instead of overtly censoring Americans of Arab and Muslim heritage, these Arab tyrants could easily follow the American lead, censoring in subtle and more effective ways.
America is a nation of double standards and a system based on hypocrisies. Arabs and Muslims experience that everyday.
The answer, though, is not to waste our time trying to change that, because it won’t. But rather, the answer is to create our own resources and social networks, be more tolerant that the oppressors in America, and tolerate divergent views.
Arabs and Muslims are often intolerant of divergent views and that intolerance makes it easy for their governments to impose harsh restrictions. We’re used to intolerance as a culture. And that weakens our moral argument when we try to expose hypocrisies and double standards in the United States.
The answer to the suppression of free speech is not violence. It is not pointing fingers of blame. The answer is to react in a strategic and smart way. If 350,000 supporters of Palestinian rights can come together on a Facebook Page where censorship of Arabs and Muslims is routine, they should be able to come together on another social network where the power of their voices will be augmented, not suppressed.
In today’s world, the Internet gives us the power to free ourselves. We don’t need Facebook, the Huffington Post or even Google to give us permission to express our views.
All we need to do is give ourselves permission to think out of the box and take the principle of our protests and anger and find new forums where the hosts will be more understanding and advocates of free speech for Arabs and Muslims in America.
It’s simple. But we can’t see this simple answer when we are overwhelmed by emotion.
Pause. Count to 10. And then react in a smart way. It works.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and media strategist. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)
Friday, March 25, 2011
Dearborn is a wonderful city with a major American Arab and Muslim population. But it also reflects the realities of the American Arab community. We're a very divided community. And, when someone comes in with an idea, people who have done nothing for years on similar ideas decide to do the same thing. Why? Because they would rather destroy an effort than build an effort. They never would have proposed, for example, creating a Journalism Association in Dearborn. How do we know? Because they have never tried before. But when someone else comes in and tries to do something, there are people who want to do the same thing, create rivalries and competition, and then destroy everything.
It's tragic, but typical of those who wish to keep American Arabs and Muslims in the limbo we have been in for the past 150 years in America.
Regardless, NAAJA (the National American Arab Journalism Association), will continue to push ahead and try to forge a professional chapter in Dearborn and Detroit, Michigan, representing real journalists and communicators who come together not for selfish reasons, but rather for the reason why the effort started, to bring ALL American Arabs and Muslims who are in journalism and communications and the students together to network and work together.
NAAJA is hosting a journalism conference April 29 through May 1, 2011 at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency Hotel that is open to all professional journalists and communicators to come together, network and work for the benefit of the community. Other individuals will do what they always do and try to organize competition to prevent anyone from moving forward. It's the plague of the Arab and Muslim World. But, we'll keep pushing forward to organize the most professional journalism association possible.
We know that the various newspapers compete in the open market, and some engage in active politics. But the end result will be an association where young people can come to get guidance, not more conflict, to help them build careers in professional journalism.
Visit our web site at www.NAAJA-US.com and get to know other professionals in American Arab and Muslim Journalism who believe that we need to do things different than we have in the past to make the American Arab and Muslim community better, stronger and to enhance our voices.
-- Ray Hanania
Sunday, March 20, 2011
American Arab Journalists to explore Middle East protests and Other issues at annual conference in Dearborn Michigan April 30
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Ray Hanania
MARCH 19, 2011 firstname.lastname@example.org
American Arab Journalists to explore Middle East protests and
Other issues at annual conference in Dearborn Michigan April 30
Chicago/Detroit – Speakers at this year’s annual convention hosted by the National American Arab Journalists Association will address the sweeping pro-Democracy changes in the Middle East, American foreign policy towards the Arab and Islamic Worlds and the impact of Sept. 11th 2001 nearly 10 years later.
The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn and will feature panel speakers from a wide range of Arab media both from the American Arab community and the Arab World.
“There are many issues we will be discussing from the dramatic changes unfolding in the Middle East to the challenges facing American Arab and Middle East journalists right here in this country,” said Ray Hanania, a veteran Palestinian American journalist and conference co-coordinator.
“NAAJA is a non-political organization but our members write about and discuss everything including politics. Their insight in to the events around the world are important. NAAJA’s purpose is to bring everyone together to network and create a powerful voice for American Arabs of all faiths.”
Hanania, who co-hosts the weekly morning American Arab radio show “Radio Baladi” with host and journalist Laila al-Husinni, said thatspeakers have been invited from the White House and will include officials of the U.S. State Department, Arab journalists from publications in the United States and the Middle East, and activists and communicators.
“American Arab journalists are under siege,” observed alhusinni. “From Helen Thomas to Octavia Nasr, we are being targeted because of what we represent. And, what we represent is a determination to insure that the mainstream news media is fair, accurate and includes the voices of American Arabs and Muslims in their daily reporting. That doesn’t always happen.”
The conference goals are to strengthen NAAJA and launch more chapter networks in other cities. Currently, NAAJA has more than 300 members – there is no fee to join – and five chapters.
NAAJA is also hoping to launch a scholarship program for young American Arabs to help them pursue careers in journalism, and to fund the new Arab American News Wire (www.ArabAmericanNewsWire.com) which will be used to pay freelance writers to provide news and feature stories about American Arab and Muslim communities.
“We’re very good at expressing our opinions but sometimes we don’t fully document the many great things that are accomplished by members of our community,” Hanania said.
“NAAJA is hoping the Arab American News Wire will create a platform in which writers will be paid to write news and feature stories about Arabs in their communities and those stories will then be distributed free of charge to any media. The goal is to get our story out there to mainstream Americans and to our own community.”
The conference emcee this year is Warren David, president of ArabDetroit.com.
Registration is only $75 per person and includes lunch and dinner plus full access to all panels on Saturday and the Saturday night Gala Banquet. To register online or to get more information, please visit the official web page of NAAJA at www.NAAJA-US.com. A link to the Dearborn conference, and past conferences, will direct you to registration.
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Thursday, March 03, 2011
Al Jazeera DG: A historic moment in the Arab world
Doha, Qatar, March 3, 2011: Speaking at the opening session of this year’s TED conference, Wadah Khanfar has applauded the youth that have been leading the revolutions taking place across the Middle East.
The director general of the Al Jazeera Network told the audience in California that the emergence of freedom in the Arab world represented a new opportunity for stability and positive relations between the east and the west.
Mr Khanfar’s speech received a rousing standing ovation. He said:
“I am here to tell you that the future that we were dreaming of has eventually arrived. A new generation, well educated, connected, inspired by universal values and global understanding has created a new reality for us.
“The values of democracy and freedom of choice that are sweeping the Middle East are the best opportunity for the world, for the west and the east to see stability and to see security, and to see friendship. Let us support these people, let us stand for them, let us embrace change and celebrate a great future with the people of that region.”
1. Al Jazeera’s Sixth Annual forum entitled “Arab world in transition” will take place 12-14 March in the Doha Sheraton, and will feature many young activists and bloggers from the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt
2. More information about TED, the nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, can be found at www.ted.com
3. The speech can be watched online here:
About Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera started out more than fourteen years ago as the first independent Arabic news channel in the world dedicated to providing comprehensive television news and live debate for the Arab world. Al Jazeera was formally named the Al Jazeera Network in March 2006, transforming its operation into an international media corporation. The Al Jazeera Network now consists of the flagship Al Jazeera Satellite (Arabic) channel, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Documentary, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera.net (the English and Arabic web sites), the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center, the Al Jazeera Center for Studies, Al Jazeera Mubasher (Live), and Al Jazeera Mobile.