Tuesday, May 04, 2004

No shit 

"North Africa and the Middle East held the worst record of press freedom in 2003, Reporters Without Borders said Monday, noting that 17 journalists were killed in the Arab world beset by various abuses and reinforced self-censorship of the media. 'This was the region with least press freedom,' the Paris-based international press freedom advocate said in its annual report for 2003, coinciding with the World Press Freedom Day.

"Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) highlighted the threat posed to liberal media in Iraq by 'armed groups, terrorists and political movements'. It also pointed out that the occupying US army was 'very aggressive towards journalists, five of whom were killed by US soldiers during and after the fighting. But US officials made no proper investigations of these deaths'."

Of course, the fact that the United States is in Iraq in the first place means that it's "armed groups, terrorists and political movements" that now constitute the threat to Iraqi media, and not Saddam Hussein. Over a year since President Bush declared the end to major combat operations (as the free Western media loves to say), Iraqi media is the freest in the Arab world, with over 200 newspapers, numerous television stations to chose from, and a thriving internet culture.

Not that everyone's happy, like this bizarre article from Al-Jazeera shows:

"If the media's job is to tell the truth, then Iraq's newspapers and broadcasters fall a long way short... [E]xperts say Iraq's new media offers more in the way of quantity than quality. And the political bias and amateurism that is so manifest in its pages and across its airwaves tends to leave the public cold.

Hey, how about that quality journalism during Saddam's reign?

"Hamid Abid Sarhan, a journalist at al-Mashriq newspaper, says the new Iraqi media is far from the success story the Americans claim. Al-Mashriq, which enjoys a readership of 25,000, was set up three months ago and claims to be 'independent'. However, Sarhan says it is also fiercely anti-occupation. He told Aljazeera.net: 'All the new Iraqi newspapers should show the world what the Iraqis are suffering under American occupation. There is no democracy and freedom here'."

One would think that the fact that fact that a "fiercely anti-occupation" newspaper is on the market in Iraq could indicate something like, oh, I don't know, press freedom? After all, we all remember the thriving opposition media in Iraq two years ago.

"Dr Liqaa Meki, from Baghdad University's College of Journalism, said the last year has seen a serious decline in journalistic standards: 'After occupation there was no control and it was a bit of a free-for-all. Now anyone feels that they can be a journalist. There are no standards anymore, no training and no ethics. But journalism is a very hard and a very important job so only trained people should be trusted with it'."

I'm not sure but I think Dr Meki is trying to make a comparison with the high level of journalistic standards and ethics under Saddam.

Well, some people are just never happy. The glass is not only half-empty, but more often than not it's those damned Americans or Zionists who drank the water. Yes, media in Iraq is at a chaotic and rather exuberant stage of development, but that's to be expected in the aftermath of such quick liberalisation. Patience, Iraqis will eventually get their own "New York Times" and BBC. Poor bastards.


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