“There is no free media. It is, in fact, a big lie. Both ‘democratic’ and ‘dictatorial’ systems do not believe in the free media. Everywhere, the media has become a tool for political mobilisation. It is used to serve political, economic and commercial interests of those who control it,” said Dr Faisal Al Qassem, anchorman of Opposite Direction one of the most popular interactive programmes amongst the Arabic-language satellite channels.
Dr Qassem of the Al Jazeera satellite channel, which is the Arab world’s only independent, professional news and information television channel voiced his opinion during a lecture held in the capital on Thursday evening.
Titled Unveiling the Truth of Media, the lecture was hosted by the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation as part of the cultural programmes marking the 16th International Abu Dhabi Book Fair being organised in the capital. Opposite Direction programme that sheds light on daring and controversial topics continues for the fifth year in a row with Dr Al Qassem moderating every week a debate between two personalities with opposing views on vital issues.
Citing an example of the deteriorating condition for freedom of expression in the West, Dr Qassem said that in the US, certain influential families and gigantic companies control most of the media organs. “For example, the ‘General Electric’ company — which is involved in manufacturing military and nuclear equipment — owns the NBC channel. Therefore, the NBC will never touch on subjects related to the perilous impact of nuclear weapons.”
“The media in the West is factional and serves certain parties or systems. The Times newspaper, for instance, cannot dare oppose the Conservative party as since its foundation, it was known as a conservative paper while opposing the British Labour party is one of its duties. The Daily Telegraph, on the other hand, is known as the paper of the rightists, so it is prohibited from favouring the leftists," said Dr Qassem. He said no journalist or reporter from the West could ever indulge in the issue of Holocaust without getting into trouble that might land him or her in jail. “Journalists in the West are only free to design editorial plans for their papers and attack other opposing factions,” he added.
He blasted the US and Britain for exploiting globalisation to influence and hence dominate other cultures, including the European culture, while protecting their culture against the impact of external media. “In other words, it is an ‘intellect war’ that targets the culture of other nations. The Americans think they can brainwash people and inspire other cultures to adopt their morals,” said Dr Qassem.
He noted that anti-campaigns launched against Islamic and Arab media was part of the ‘intellect war’ that also aims at “tailoring an Islam that absorbs the West’s values and directives,” he said. “This is actually ‘terrorism of the media’. They do not want to listen to others’ opinions, but others should adopt their traditions and values as if our views are not worth it, and if we spread our concepts and values, they consider it ‘terrorism’, said Dr Qassem.Al Jazeera is the largest and most controversial Arabic news channel in the Middle East, offering news coverage 24 hours a day from around the world and focusing on the hottest regions of conflict. Founded in 1996, and based in Qatar, the Al Jazeera news network is the fastest growing network among Arab communities and Arabic speaking people around the world. With programmes focusing primarily on news coverage and analysis, the station has earned the loyalty of a large audience. It has also earned the enmity of various critics who argue that Al Jazeera is overly sensational, with a bent on showing bloody footage from war zones as well as giving coverage to violent groups. Criticism from varied governments has helped the channel garner credibility from an audience that is used to government imposed censorship and biased coverage.
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