The New York Times is the most prestigious of the prestige press in the United States. The famed “gray lady” is the newspaper of record, a citadel of objectivity, it is said, where the first draft of history is crafted. It sets the agenda for other newspapers, for the broadcast news programs and even for cable TV news.
Wael Eskandar is an independent journalist and blogger based in Cairo. He writes for al-Ahram Online, al-Monitor, Jadaliyya and other outlets. Sheila Carapico interviewed him by e-mail about the political and media atmosphere as Egypt prepares for the May 26-27 presidential election that is expected to anoint ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, the former field marshal and defense minister, as chief executive.
As one of the political, commercial and intellectual centers of Asia, Japan at the turn of the twentieth century was an important arena for the intersection of ideas about modernism, nationalism and anti-colonial politics. Though Cairo, Istanbul and Mecca had long been the capitals of scholarship and cross-cultural interaction in the Islamic world, Meiji-era Japan was a site of key encounters between Muslims from China, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Drawn together by a common interest in Islamic revival and nation building that transcended linguistic and cultural differences, these activists established various Muslim organizations in Japan and saw Islam as a way to unify Asian peoples.
Much of what was written from Egypt on and after January 25, 2011 was captivating and intense — as one might expect from reporters witnessing a democratic movement overthrowing a dictator. But the Beltway reporting that tried to explain US policy was another matter.
It took 18 days of mass mobilization, the deaths of hundreds and the wounding of thousands, the crippling of Egypt’s tourism industry and the crash of its stock market, to bring an end to the 30-year presidency of Husni Mubarak. And almost every minute of the revolution was televised.
The January 14 departure of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali amidst popular protests was a long overdue demonstration of the possibility for genuine democratization in the Arab world. Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor whose self-immolation set off the protests, tapped a deep vein of anger in Tunisian society at police harassment and the general arbitrariness of the state, but also at severe, endemic economic inequality sharpened now by rising global food prices. It remains to be determined, however, to what degree the toppling of Ben Ali will transform Tunisia into a representative democracy whose citizens enjoy greater economic opportunities. Ben Ali was the head of a system of one-party rule, and that system did not board a private plane along with him and his immediate entourage as they headed into exile.
Despite its deepening troubles in Iraq, the Bush administration maintains an audaciously upbeat outward mien. From George W. Bush’s macho landing on an aircraft carrier in May to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s victory lap around the Mesopotamian battlefields in September, the song Washington sings to the world strikes a chord of triumph. No matter that most people outside US borders, and some within, hear the sound of desperation in the American anthem of the studied positive attitude. If they do not want to bask alongside the US in the afterglow of hasty battle, they must not be listening very well.
The press has played a crucial role in advancing Iran’s emerging reformist agenda. Following the initial wave of attacks on the reformist press, which culminated in the closure of Jame’eh and Tous in the summer of 1998, a second crop of independent dailies appeared in late 1998. These papers exposed Intelligence Ministry agents’ involvement in the political assassinations of reformist intellectuals and activists in late 1998.
During his brief tenure as vice minister of Islamic guidance and culture, Ahmad Bourghani oversaw the issuance of hundreds of press permits and the flowering of an independent Iranian press for the first time since 1979.
Media coverage of the February 1998 showdown with Iraq highlighted subtle but significant changes in the relationship between the mainstream media and US foreign policymaking. Although the major media — despite some alleged soul searching by media professionals  after the Gulf war — have changed little since the pro-war hysteria of 1991, activists are discovering more ways to obstruct the media juggernaut and influence policymaking — sometimes by actually using the mass media.
Throughout 1997, mounting restrictions on the press in Jordan reflected the government’s broader agenda of masking the widening divide between the state and its domestic political critics. In May, 1997, six months before the parliamentary elections, the cabinet of Prime Minister ‘Abd al-Salam al-Majali promulgated temporary amendments to the 1993 press and publications law that severely restricted the country’s outspoken independent weekly newspapers. The amendments followed nearly four years of legal action against the weeklies, the primary public outlet for independent views about the October 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the country’s economic performance under IMF-led reform, government corruption and human rights abuses.
John J. Fialka, Hotel Warriors: Covering the Gulf War (Woodrow Wilson Center, 1991).
John R. MacArthur, Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War (Hill and Wang, 1992).
Jacqueline Sharkey, Under Fire: US Military Restrictions on the Media from Grenada to the Persian Gulf (Center for Public Integrity, 1992).
A cartoon image is short and direct and does not move when you look at it. Condensing history, culture and social relationships within a single frame, a cartoon can recontextualize events and evoke reference points in ways that a photograph or even a film cannot. Like graffiti, jokes and other genres of popular culture, cartoons challenge the ways we accept official images as real and true.
Muhammad al-Saqr has been editor-in-chief of the Kuwaiti daily al-Qabas since 1983. Although he has a business background, the paper’s reputation for balance and accuracy has grown under al-Saqr’s leadership. Al-Saqr was detained and interrogated a week before he received a Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists on October 21, 1992 in New York. Avner Gidron, CPJ’s Research Associate for the Middle and North Africa, interviewed him the next day.
How do people in the Arab world get news they can trust?
Hisham Milhem is the Washington correspondent of the Beirut daily al-Safir. Born in Lebanon, Milhem has lived and worked in Washington since 1976. Joe Stork and Sally Ethelston spoke with him in Washington in September 1992.
What are the salient features of the power structure of the Arab media? Who controls it? Who sets the tone?
Any generalization is problematic. We’ve been involved in journalism in Lebanon-Syria and Egypt for more than a century. That is why the Lebanese, the Egyptians and the Palestinians have been predominant in the Arab press.
Capital Cities bought ABC, with its 230 affiliated stations, for $3.4 billion in 1986. Also owns: 8 TV stations; 9 dailies, 74 weeklies (Kansas City Star); radio networks with 3,000 affiliated stations; 21 radio stations; a cable programming company; some 60 publications (Women’s Wear Daily, Compute!, Modern Photography). The largest shareholder is Omaha investor Warren Buffett.
Laurence Tisch, owner of Loews Hotel chain (and active in pro-Israel fundraising), bought a controlling share in 1986. Henry Kissinger is a CBS board member. Also owns: 7 TV stations; 21 radio stations; two radio networks.