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By Ali Younes — The closure of Al Jazeera offices in Morocco last week was not a surprising act by the Moroccan government given that most Arab countries treat the media, especially Al Jazeera, and the freedom of the press as a threat to their monopoly on dissemination of information. Al Jazeera has become, perhaps, the biggest threat to Arab governments’ stranglehold on freedom of information, and the right to get informed, and by extension on power since the founding of Arab Nation States early in the twentieth century.
The Moroccan government claimed that it closed A Jazeera offices and decredentialed its journalists citing “unfair reporting” by the Pan-Arab channel which according to the government statement, “damaged the country’s reputation”
Al Jazeera the 23rd Arab State
Al Jazeera’s main problem is that it exists in a bad neighborhood where the concept of freedom of press, civil rights is an alien concept. Arab governments realize that Knowledge is empowering and that Al Jazeera has become an empowering factor and with this in mind it has become an engine that is reshaping perceptions, and convictions of the entire Arab World. Al Jazeera’s release of 400,000 of secret Wikileaks Iraqi war documents, last weekend testifies to Al Jazeera’s power and adds to the Arab governments’ nervousness about Al Jazeera’s ability to make an impact not only in the region but also on the global stage. For the 22 Arab countries, Al Jazeera might as well be the unofficial 23rd Arab state that boldly pulls the strings in so many different directions.
According to the latest Press Freedom index of 2010, which is published by Reporters without Borders, Morocco ranked 135 out of 178 reported countries.
Last year Morocco’s ranking was a little bit better and faired 127 in ranking. In fact most Arab countries did not make it in the upper half of the index, most ranked closer to the bottom. Egypt for example ranked 127, Jordan 120, Saudi Arabia 156 and Syria 173. Certainly those numbers are scandalous, but there are underlying reasons as to why Arab states rank so low on freedom of Press Index.
The main reason for that is the Existing Expectations or Conditions, according to research done on Media and conflicts at George Mason University in Washington that are prevalent in the Arab World.
Political immaturity, democratic deficit, instability, traditional tribal values, and economic disparities are among the conditions that are behind the Arab governments reasons for shutting down outlets such as Al Jazeera, or arresting journalists and bloggers in various parts of the Arab World.
As a consequence to Morocco’s decision to shut down Al Jazeera’s offices in the country, its freedom of the press index will be pushed further behind because this closure becomes an existing expectation or condition. Lack of democratic values in the Arab world and with it the crack on freedom of speech and press pushes the ranking even further.
Freedom of speech and of the press is part of an overall freedom that most Arab countries lack. It is difficult, therefore to imagine authoritarian Arab governments becoming so friendly to journalists, bloggers or to popular news channels such as Al Jazeera, while they are inherently undemocratic.
Ali Younes is a writer and analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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