Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

‘Media terrorism’ in Iraq

Arab satellite TV stations have been accused of fomenting the crisis in Iraq, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

As the Fallujah crisis continues, the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki received international support through the official visit by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to Baghdad last Monday.

At their joint press conference, Al-Maliki and Ban Ki-Moon agreed that “the challenges facing Iraq require all political leaders to fulfil their responsibilities to ensure social cohesion, dialogue and progress over political obstacles. The people of Iraq are looking to their leaders for tangible benefits and a better future. The upcoming parliamentary elections are an opportunity to deliver on these legitimate expectations.”

Al-Maliki thanked the UN, the Security Council and the countries supporting Iraq in its war on terror, adding that “we submitted a suggestion regarding an international stand against those countries sponsoring terror.” According to Al-Maliki, the UN secretary-general had “promised to work on the issue after returning to his office in New York”.

The ongoing Fallujah crisis has led to increasing criticism of the media, with many arguing that the various satellite TV channels have been presenting the news in ways supporting their agendas or the views of their paymasters. As if the terror already in Iraq were not enough, these have started to describe the corruption in the country as itself a form of terror, especially if it generates violence.

The public has been facing “media terrorism” in the form of a media that does not hesitate to use its presentation of the news to mislead public opinion and to put additional pressure, possibly leading to panic, on the population.

Abdel-Zahra Zaki, a well-known writer, said that “the Iraqi Communication and Media Commission [CMC] should record the stuff being aired on Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and the other channels, such is the news and commentary on them intent on fomenting sedition and feeding the tendencies of violence, fighting and sabotage in Iraq.” The media attacks against the country, he said, were “more bloody and terrible than the armed actions themselves”.

Zaki said that Al-Jazeera had “published a report on its website saying that the Security Council supported Al-Maliki’s campaign in Anbar province, when in fact the Security Council statement said that it supported the Iraqi government’s efforts in Anbar.”

Karim Sayed, a writer, commented by saying that “we should learn from how Egypt and the Egyptians have dealt with Al-Jazeera and not compliment it at the expense of our blood.” Nadia Othman, a journalism student, asked why the Iraqi government and the CMC did not make official complaints against the channels in the relevant body linked to the Arab League.

According to Ahmed Ali, a media expert, “Bahrain sued the Al-Alam channel because of its coverage of the Bahrain protests and got an apology. Al-Alam is a member of the Arab League media body, while the channels we are complaining about are not, however. This means that nothing can be done about them within the League.”

“These channels, which are pushing public opinion towards a civil war or another sectarian war, are violating the Iraqi media and press laws,” he said.

An Iraqi reporter embedded with the Iraqi army forces in Anbar province told Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity that he had spent a week with the army in the province and that “the army forces achieved real victories and cleansed the whole of Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province.”

“Yet, the media coverage was not in line with these events. The satellite TV channels aired footage of army vehicles being attacked and burnt and kept repeating the same pictures every hour. In fact, though, the army destroyed dozens of vehicles being used by the terrorists and achieved clear victories in the fight against terror. Few of the media accounts have told the truth.”

Commenting on the situation in Anbar, Ban Ki-Moon said at his joint press conference with Al-Maliki that “in this difficult time, it is important for all political leaders to unite in their stance against terrorism and come together to stabilise the situation.”

“Even those Iraqis who are against the policy of Al-Maliki support the army forces, but the media is not saying this,” Ali said. “What distresses us most is the fact that some political leaders are using the ongoing events in Anbar in their electoral campaigns,” said Sara Youssef, a teacher, adding that “these men are playing a dangerous sectarian game, trying to gain the sympathy and votes of the different sects. They know that this game is at the expense of Iraqi blood.”

Although reports have said that last year saw high levels of violence and the first two weeks of the new year had continued this, many Iraqis, especially the young, are organising campaigns to support families who have had to leave Fallujah, to support the army forces, and to encourage all Iraqis to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections on 30 April.

If the situation in Iraq is to change, they say, it will have to be through the ballot box.

While many politicians have been playing an ugly sectarian game, Iraqis in general have shown that they are against being divided according to sect. Hundreds of Sunni families from Fallujah are being hosted by Shia families in Karbala, for example.

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