me•di•a pl. of medium 2. an intervening thing through which a force acts or an effect is produced 3. any means, agency or instrument; specif., a means of communication that reaches the general public and carries advertising.
—Webster’s New World Dictionary
Over the past few months, a couple of stories have crossed our desk that merit more attention than they got. These stories tell us some important things about how the US news industry operates, especially its willingness to follow the administration’s cues on major issues.
The popular revolution in Sudan this spring may well represent more than just a local political transition. The overthrow of Numairi’s 16-year reign marks the end of a decade and a half of regime stability throughout the Arab world, with the exception of the two Yemens. This era of enormous wealth and scandalous waste, of construction and corruption, welfare and war, all financed by the flood of oil revenues, served to embalm and preserve these decrepit regimes from the effective opposition of their subjects. Sudan had become, in many ways, the weakest link. But Sudan is not unique. All of the most populous Arab countries—Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, for instance—have witnessed serious mass protests in recent years.
On February 29, 1984, the Ankara correspondent for United Press International, Ismet Imset, was visited just before midnight by an acquaintance from the Security Forces. The visitor warned him that he and his wife (presumably along with their three-year-old child) were about to be taken into detention for interrogation by a special squad of police from Istanbul.
Deliberate intimidation or friendly warning? It hardly matters. Imset and his wife spent the next three days sheltered in the house of the Reuters correspondent. For them, the incident was the climax to a year of terror ever since Imset complained officially and publicly after police in Istanbul beat him up when he applied for a passport to go abroad on work for UPI.
About July 20, 1983, a BBC television news crew filming outside Istanbul’s Metris prison found itself confronted by difficulties which, one of the crew said, he had never experienced even in the Soviet Union. During a subsequent flurry of messages between the crew, the British Embassy in Ankara, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the crew learned that they were supposed to work with a Turkish plainclothes policeman permanently at their side (or if they wished, following at a distance). The Foreign Ministry also indicated that the crew might have had an easier time had they not chosen to be accompanied by the present writer, the Ankara stringer for the BBC as well as for other newspapers and broadcasting organizations. The message was duly relayed to the crew.
Mideast File (Learned Information, Anderson House, Stokes Road, Medford, NJ 08055)
Mideast Press Report (Claremont Research and Publications, 160 Claremont Ave., New York, NY 10027)