Arab media more objective

SHARJAH - American media channels were engaged in the war propaganda and acted like Mohammed Al Sahaf, former information minister of Iraq, in deceiving audience by holding truth and spreading lies, said Dr Faisal Al Kassim, programme presenter at Al Jazeera satellite news channel.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Sun 4 May 2003, 12:23 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 10:58 PM

Dr Al Kassim was speaking at a media forum organised recently by the American University of Sharjah on "Arab Satellite Channels and the Coverage of War on Iraq". The forum also featured Habib Al Ghreibi, programme presenter at Abu Dhabi TV, and Fadi Ismail representing Al Arabiya news channel.

Dr Al Kassim said that Arabic satellite TVs proved successful and objective in covering the events of war in Iraq, unlike the Western media which resorted to hiding facts and spreading lies. "Arabic satellite channels were doing their best to convey the facts with high sense of objectivity and professionalism," he pointed out. Highlighting the development of the Arab satellite channels, Dr Al Kassim noted that CNN was the only satellite TV which exclusively covered the Gulf war in 1990, adding that Arab satellite channels succeeded to provide different sources for their war coverage.

He said that Al Jazeera satellite channel was attacked during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, citing the harassments which reporters had to endure as well as the death of their colleague Tarek Ayoob, Al Jazeera reporter in Baghdad. "The channel succeeded to maintain objectivity and professionalism, it showed credibility in covering the fast development of war," he said.

"Although reporters had vast margins of freedom to comment, analyse, and interpret events, they were facing constant pressures from the Iraqi authorities. Our reporter in Baghdad was subjected to strong threats by the Iraqi information minister, and Americans were also annoyed because we were using the term ‘invasion' to describe their military action on Iraq, as well as the pictures of their army casualties that appeared on the channel," he observed.

Dr Al Kassim believed that Iraq had no chance to win the war, pointing to the huge budgets allocated by the US to the defence and military actions.

Dr Al Ghreibi observed that truth was the first casualty of war, and spoke about the preparations of Abu Dhabi TV for creating a qualified professional team of reporters to cover the war.

"Although Abu Dhabi TV is not a news channel, it had an intensive coverage on the war, technical and logistical support were provided to the team and this contributed to assist reporters," he explained.

Surveys conducted during the war showed that the credibility of Western media channels went down with their biased coverage, said Dr Al Ghreibi, observing that most of the Western audience were aware of the practices of these channels in holding information and releasing decisive news. He said that there were many inquiries about what happened in Baghdad such as the fate of Iraqi leadership and the number of casualties, adding that there were still no answers to these questions.

Mr Ismail said that Al Arabiya channel assigned reporters to escort American forces while others were located in Iraq, noting that the channel's coverage started on March 3, two weeks before the war broke out.

Commenting on the coverage of the Arabic satellite channels, Mr Ismail said: "Media channels play a major role in reflecting the truth even if it has a negative impact on audience. We should stick to professionalism and not deceive people by showing positive images."

Mr Ismail described the opinions of the strategic and military experts who were hosted on Arabic channels as inaccurate, since most of them were lacking information about what is taking place at the battlefield.

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