Media and the Middle East
The Middle East, which is detached from the rest of the world because of the widespread unrests, has significantly reduced media interactions. The media in the Middle East faces immense threats that make it poorly ranked in terms of freedom of expression, as compared to the European countries. However, the media has the power to create or solve certain international issues. Some of the major issues revolve around threats to the growth and development of media groups, since most of their journalists are being detained, kidnapped, or prosecuted in courts of law for failing to advance the interest of some prominent forces. On the one hand, some governments, in fact, went ahead to execute laws that infringe on the freedom of the press. On the other hand, the media can aid in enhancing peace both through the prevention of conflicts and through the propagation of peace. Furthermore, the media can help to solve serious conflicts and other relevant issues. Moreover, Arabic news sources are very few because of interference with their freedom, inadequate finances, and the dominance of Al Jazeera. Most of these sources are owned by their governments, which offer very little financial support for the necessary growth and development. Also, the dominance from Al Jazeera gives them a hard time to break through their market.
Communication is the best way through which information can be relayed from one place to the other and provide immense benefits to people across the globe. However, most governments and groups of people have put stringent measures to limit the freedom of media because of the most selfish reasons. In most cases, freedom of the press meets the resistance from criminal or political groups who want to protect or gain power or resources through ‘illegal ways’ that can attract opposition from the public. 2015 was the year with the lowest freedom of the media within the past 12 years with criminal, terrorist, and political forces seeking to silence media and journalists aiming to cover the most sensitive issues in their struggle for power (Dunham). Some nations have lacked the freedom of expression through their media houses, while others had only partial freedom. Only 13% of the countries in the world enjoy free press with a guarantee of safety to journalists, robust coverage of political news, lack of economic and legal pressures, and minimal intrusion of the state into media affairs (Dunham). Most of the affected nations are originally from the Middle East, including Lebanon and Egypt.
In the modern world, the press plays a significant role in addressing serious issues and at some point in time, provides substantial solutions to many life concerns. However, some media houses have faced intimidation from the judiciary, government executives, or security and terrorist groups to not cover some issues (Fahim). Furthermore, many journalists have suffered from the lack of freedom to discuss some news, with most of them facing the charges from courts of law. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country ranked 118th out of 180 nations with high levels of press freedom, many journalists are arrested and detained, with authorities confiscating their passports and refusing to renew their visas (Bardsley). This occurrence is an accurate reflection of the media freedom in the Middle East, a region with few news sources. This paper ascertains that the press can uncover international issues and provide their solutions and the use of media in news presentation in the Middle East, a region with few Arabic news sources, is different, as compared to the Westerners.
Media on the Creation of International Issues
The media can be the reason for creating international issues, as well as a solution to some problems. One of the major issues that the media in both the Middle East and most parts of the world create concerns regarding the freedom of expression. Several countries, such as the UAE and Lebanon have demonstrated limited freedom of journalists and media houses in their news coverage. The UAE has been detaining individual journalists and compelling the press not to cover some news. In fact, some laws are in place to infringe on the right of expression in most of the countries. The UAE detentions have raised serious international concerns regarding media freedom institutions like Reporters without Borders over the freedom of expression and news coverage (Karlekar and Dunham). Some of the arrests are said to be instigated by terrorist organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Most nations in the Middle East have formulated laws and policies that directly infringe on the freedom of expression. The law guarantees both the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression, yet some of these laws protect religious leaders, presidents, and other famous persons from insult (Karlekar and Dunham). Most media groups are under the censorship of governments; reporters may be compelled to air news that favors some of the leaders in the government. Journalists who violate these laws or cover news that may negatively impact the reputation of powerful government officials may face negative threats. For instance, in February 2014, two journalists were kidnapped and held custody for one month when they were covering events that took place near Arsal, which is close to the border with Lebanon and Syria (Dunham). Such occurrences in this region have attracted immense criticism from international organizations that have considered the freedom of the press a serious issue.
Middle East nations face major concerns of armed conflicts and terrorism, something that motivates the government or terrorist group censorship of media organizations, their journalists, and social media users. Security issues in these countries also fuel self-censorship for the media corporations so as to avoid going against the forces that can affect their functional operations (Iosifidis and Wheeler 268). In Saudi Arabia, authorities have limited independent or critical coverage of wars in Yemen through the control of access to borders (Dunham). During the war, it was also found out that online commentators and media outlets avoided criticizing the powerful Saudi-led military campaigns. Such a thing shows that the press may have known some negative issues from these campaigns but because of knowing the repercussions of covering and reporting the truth, they decided to remain silent (Fattah and Fierke 84). Moreover, countries that share close links with the Middle East, such as Tunisia, demonstrated the violation of press freedom (Kuttab). One journalist faced terrorism charges after refusing to disclose a source of a photograph that was closely related to attack, while an established blogger got jailed for the reason of military defamation (Dunham). Also, most media houses had to give in to pressure from the government by reporting what could be in its interests. Such issues show that the media is capable of creating serious issues across the globe, especially if it threatens the comfort of influential figures in their countries.
The UAE has formulated laws that control the freedom of media expression, while Egyptian government compels journalists to abide by its wishes. The UAE executed a cybercrime law, six years after the issuance of a cyber-decree to take account of social media that includes Facebook, Twitter, and blogs (Duffy 22). The law includes a devastating threat of at least three years of jail for any individuals who set up or operate websites that damage either the reputation of this nation or its rulers. The jailing of journalists can create or worsen protests online in many countries that violate freedom of the press, something that attracts international attention (Fattah and Fierke 73). In Egypt, the state owns media outlets that dictate how information should be relayed across the nation and all private media propelling pro-government narratives. President Fattah al-Sisi convened frequent meetings with prominent newspaper editors, as well as television editors to discuss the pressing issues concerning government wishes (Karlekar and Dunham). Through such circumstances, the media could only report information that can spread positive information and propaganda instead of real news of what is on the ground.
Media as a Solution to International Issues in the Middle East
Notwithstanding, the media can also be a solution to some issues. For instance, it can be useful in enhancing free and fair elections when handled properly. Authoritarian countries, like Venezuela and Russia, have been manipulating the media during the electoral process to skew coverage and voters for their governments. Such a thing may show why most countries have never reported free and fair elections. However, countries which allow and promote the freedom of the press enjoy free and fair elections because there are no ill motives (Iosifidis and Wheeler 249). Countries like Georgia and Armenia have had balanced and open media and press coverage and the benefits of already surfaced (Karlekar and Dunham). In these two nations, freedom of the press has seen opposition parties gain power and a further peaceful transfer of the same power. If it were not for this, the ruling governments would not have allowed the opposition to take the power; something would have led to serious conflicts. Therefore, the media can be a good thing in preventing potential challenges from occurring.
On the same line, the media can be a great source of information to address global challenges and also conflicts in many parts of the world. For example, the media can take an initiative in exposing the evil practices, such as robbery and its effects on the society. Such a thing can attract relevant authorities to take immediate and appropriate action to eliminate or mitigate the issue. Moreover, the local media significantly contributes to the enhancement of peace through the restoration of self-worth and levels of trust in populations with impending violence (Bajraktari and Parajon). Furthermore, the media is helpful in giving conflict victims a voice. George Papagiannis ran various radio stations in refugee camps to provide the refugees with an opportunity to relay compelling tales of their recovery from violence (Bajraktari and Parajon). Also, media has proven to be educational in addressing serious health concerns among other challenges in the society. Health education through the media can help change the health status of a population (Tones, Robinson, and Tilford 167). Therefore, the media can be the solution to many international issues that affect the human race.
Arabic News Sources in the Middle East
Outstanding Arabic news sources, such as Al Jazeera, are few, while those that are in operation do not flourish well, like the ones in Western nations. This occurrence is feasible due to many reasons. There are several reasons as to why such an occurrence is feasible. One of the principal reasons comes from the fact that most of the sources are not privately owned. This means that, in most cases, these sources receive most of their finances from the respective national governments (Dalacoura 74). Mostly, these funds are limited to enhance their growth and development, meaning that they barely survive on diminished resources. Furthermore, the government may have little interest in growth and development, as long as it is protecting or serving the interests of the government officials. Unlike in Western countries, where the media is free to express and cover news, the Middle East media is compelled to take sides on some matters by the prominent individuals. Failure of taking sides results in the violation of press and journalist rights (Karlekar and Cook 146). If the media operates this way, then it is likely that media organizations may lack the support of populations, something that can deny them of an opportunity to gain both national and international reputation that is necessary for growth.
Middle East countries have few Arabic news sources because of the restrictions and lack of full freedom to operate independently without the influence of some societal figures. Such a thing is seen in ranking the media in this region on the level of freedom of the press. An example is the 2012th ranking in which there was no country with free category, while 74% of the countries completely lacked the freedom, unlike in Europe, in which 88% of the countries had complete freedom and no European country had a total lack of freedom category (Karlekar and Dunham). The ranking shows that the environment in the Middle East is harsh to enhance the flourishing of news sources, which shows why only a few sources flourish and the ones established cannot grow well.
The dominance of influential media groups, such as Al Jazeera, has attracted a strong base of followers compelling other Arabic news sources not to thrive well. This media warehouse has a strong presence not only in the Middle East, but also in the world as a whole. Such a monopoly makes it the only source to thrive in the Arabic as well as the global environment. Its dominance of the Arabic media industry emanates from various angles. First, it has about 80 bureaus around the globe, a level that no other media corporation can compete, in addition to being owned by the government of Qatar, which gives it full support, as compared to other groups (Sabbagh). For example, some of its funds come from the House of Thani, a family that rules Qatar. Furthermore, it attracts the masses because it asserts that its editorial activities are free from the influence of the Qatar government despite such an assertion being disputed.
Finally, Aljazeera has gained international dominance because of its unique news coverage, giving other Arabic media groups a hard time to thrive. The former U.S. secretary of state informed the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate that Al Jazeera had been the leader in changing the minds and attitudes of people because it offers ‘real’ journalism (Kessler 53). The assertion of such a prominent US figure shows that this channel is not just a regional influence but a global and responsible one, and other media channels cannot compete. Moreover, this channel gets little or no influence from prominent persons in the Middle East because of the way its news coverage relies on a free press (Nattat 10). According to a profile of on American Journalism Review, Al Jazeera is different from other state media because of the freedom to cover news because it can invite any person to go on air and allow even nonfactual information to go unchallenged (Kessler 53). For example, this Arabic media house was the first in Arabic history to let Israelis appear as guests who spoke in Hebrew in 1996 (Kessler 54). This occurrence stunned many viewers, since they had never heard of any person from Israel speak in his or her native Hebrew language. Therefore, the reputation it has created, in addition to having the freedom to cover news, made it a dominant force that gave other rivals a hard time to compete. As a result, few sources of Arabic news can reach the rank of this giant channel.
As a result of terrorist, political, and criminal forces in the region, the media takes sides since these forces use the press to advance their interests. Such a thing makes the Middle East nations to be poorly ranked compared to European countries. The media can be a source or a solution to international issues such as the violation of freedom of expression. In most countries, especially in the Middle East, some media houses have been threatened on particular news coverage with journalists facing the law for failing to report in the interest of prominent persons. Others have been kidnapped and tortured by terrorist and government forces. Moreover, most countries have formulated laws that deny freedom of the press. On the other hand, the media can be a solution to issues, such as prevention and resolution of conflicts. Furthermore, it can be utilized as an opportunity to express themselves and solve serious health issues. Finally, Arabic news sources are few and the ones established do not flourish well because of various reasons. For instance, financial hardships, threats from prominent forces, and dominance of Al Jazeera limit their growth and development.