Maybe somebody sleeps somewhere. But Cairo never sleeps.
Maybe the streets empty, the haze evaporates, the roar quiets.
a journal about Arab journalism, news reporting, new media, and freedom of the press
How much Egypt has changed since the revolution.
Once you never heard the voice of average people. But today you do, and today you can go to websites of organizations like PMC Egypt.
Where else do you recommend we go?
Here is something I wrote in 2006 with Heshem Melhem
The Mohammed Cartoons Controversy
(Written in 2006)
By Stephen Franklin and Hesham Melhem
Out of the global arc of violence and death stirred by a Danish newspaper’s cartoons about the prophet Muhammad, came some glimmers of hope.
Against a stream of anti-Western fury, a small handful of the Arab world’s news media chose logic over delusion and hatred.
In turn, the U.S. publications that do the heavy lifting for Arab and Muslim world coverage, struggled to understand the story and finally got it right, albeit a slower than hoped.
They presented a world of passions and diverse players far more complex than most stereotypes, offering up a different reality than the one that first flashed around the world.
This is no small matter considering how the U.S. and Arab news media have covered such crises, and the divide between the Arab world and the West that widens daily with every little flare-up.
For the U.S. news media, the improved reporting clearly is a mark of the lessons learned since the 9/11 tragedies. Prior to the terrorists’ attacks on U.S. soil, the potent forces boiling in the Arab and Muslim worlds mostly got a brief once over, if any notice at all. So, too, the world of 1.2-billion Muslims seemed as flat as a desert’s horizon.
But the attacks and ensuing crises in Europe and Iraq and across the Muslim world led to a greater commitment to cover places and issues that had gone unexplored before. The situation also created a cadre of editors and reporters savvy enough to separate the anti-Western rant of a Muslim hard-liner from that of a moderate Muslim struggling amid tremendous social pressures.
In the case of the Arab news media, the growth of Pan-Arab satellite television stations has opened Arabs’ eyes to the world around them. And as the stations have proliferated, competition has improved the product. There’s debate. There are voices never heard before. It is not what it could be. But there’s change, which didn’t exist not so long ago.
This has had a spillover effect on the print media, which still largely talks to the Arab world elite in a self-censored voice meant not to ruffle rulers’ sensitivities. Thanks to the explosion of the Internet and television in the Arab world, newspapers have had to compete, and become relevant.
And so, the incident in Denmark was a perfect test of how far the U.S. and Arab world news media had come.
Last fall (September 2005) the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a series of cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad in various situations. One showed a bomb in his turban.
To the small Danish newspaper, the cartoons were part of a story about self-censorship and nothing more. Not so, said a group of Danish Muslims who refused to let the incident pass and doggedly pursued a protest campaign that would eventually touch most parts of the Muslim world.
Passed like a torch, the issue ignited waves of death and destruction from Asia to Africa, morphed into other Muslim- world furies, and became proof to some that the most serious problem of our time is the clash of the Muslim and non- Muslim worlds.
But except for a rare article last fall, the U.S. news media barely paid attention to what was stirring in Denmark.
At the time, Loren Jenkins, senior foreign editor for National Public Radio, remembers thinking Denmark seemed a strange venue for such a controversy, and that it was probably “one, more little manifestation” of the unease rippling through the Arab and Muslim world.
Many editors in the U.S. apparently felt likewise.
Indeed, it wasn’t an easy story for the U.S. news media. Events leapt from country to country and continent-to- continent, occurred in places typically closed to Western journalists, and swept up Muslims, who did not rush to the streets to speak out.
Ultimately, however, the U.S. news media figured out what was happening, piecing together the story part by part. It was not just a sudden outburst of rage. There were other forces at work. As a front-page article in Washington Post on Feb. 16 described it, the situation had become a “quintessentially 21st-century battle, a conflict stepped in decades, even centuries of grievances, reshaped by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and their aftermath.”
The well-thought out 3,897-world article written by Anthony Shadid and Kevin Sullivan with support from others, explained the roles played by a range of characters from hard-line activists to Muslim world political leaders eager to stoke angers to moderates snarled in the enveloping din. In comparison, only a few Arab journalists framed the issue in the way that many of their counterparts in Europe and the U.S. did: as one of freedom of expression and a rejection of imposed taboos. Few dared to point out that there are far more reasons for justified outrage against real ‘Western’ infractions such as the fate of those kept in limbo at the Guantanamo prison.
Fewer still reminded their readers and viewers, not to mention their rulers, that in the main Arabs are responsible for the horrific daily harvest of death in places like Darfur and Iraq, and that these real tragedies, more than 12 cartoons in a newspaper they have never heard of, in a small European country, deserve their attention and compassion.
The bulk of the Arab media’s coverage of the controversy underscored the fact that many Arab journalists and commentators see their role as the defenders of what is sacred in their world.
This is especially true at a time when they feel vulnerable to an assertive West led by a White House that they consider omniscient and omnipresent and bent on determining their future in places like Iraq and Palestine.
The fact that Arabs like others, engage in cultural and political double standards, was lost in the coverage. There was not much anger or a sense of loss in the Arab World or the Muslim World when the two great statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Taliban, and very little outrage over anti Jewish cartoons in some Arab newspapers and negative portrayal of Jews on some Arab television stations, not to mention attacks on Christian churches and worshipers in Egypt and Iraq, or attacks on Christians and Shia’s in Pakistan.
The same Arab governments that criticized the Danish government for its refusal to intervene or punish Jyllands- Posten in the name of free expression are very quick to claim the same when their media at times engages in anti- Jewish bashing.
It is true that Arab coverage of the controversy swung like a rickety pendulum, but there was at least another other side for Arabs to consider.
And so, there was thoughtful commentary, which mostly appeared in print in Asharq Alawsat and Al Hayat, the two large Saudi-owned Pan-Arab newspapers. And, on the other hand, there were shrill denunciations, which bordered on incitement. One was an incendiary call for a ‘day of rage’ from Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi. The powerful Muslim preacher known for his fiery oratory has his own program on al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based television station.
Most of the coverage of the controversy in Arab media was based on combined dispatches from various Western wire services with little original reporting, since most Arab media outlets have no correspondents in Northern Europe. This was also true for the coverage of the demonstrations Asia and Africa.
The mostly negative role of Muslim Danish leaders, who mobilized Arab leaders and audiences against the Danish newspaper and government during their visits to the region was covered uncritically in the Arab world. Still, there were a few exceptions such as AlArabiya.net, which pointed out the discrepancies in the Muslim Danish leaders’ statements to Western and Arab media.
For most Arab readers and viewers, the controversy was framed by a small group of commentators, pundits and Islamists, with varying degrees of sophistication and seriousness, as well as an assortment of ‘professional anti- Western’ pamphleteers.
Many commentators echoed their governments’ anger and outrage, and saw in the cartoons a new cultural ‘crusade’ in tandem with the actual military crusade in Iraq. A headline in The Peninsula in Qatar shrieked ‘Europe joins Crusade’. The ‘crusade’ charge was a favorite on some of al-Jazeera’s talk shows where the Danish cartoons were seen as an integral part of a wider, sinister Western attack against Arabs and Muslims.
A chorus of government and media personalities belted out the ready to use canards about a ‘Clash of civilizations’ or ‘biased’ European media or a ‘conspiracy against Islam’. Often these concepts or buzzwords were used interchangeably. A Syrian writer living in Sweden wrote in the Assafir newspaper in Lebanon that Denmark is not only waging war against the Iraqi people, but its laws promulgate that the blood of an Iraqi is worth only few hundred dollars.
Islamist and Arab nationalist commentators, who rarely agree on anything other than finding U.S. or Zionist conspiracies behind every problem in the Arab World, had a field day. Fahmi Huweidi an Egyptian Islamist commentator in Asharq Al-Awsat wrote a column titled, ‘The lessons from the European campaign against the prophet of Islam.’
Denmark, he wrote, is the one is responsible for the burning of its embassies. He played down the apology of the Danish newspaper, criticized the timid official Arab and Muslim response, encouraged the use of the ‘weapon’ of economic boycott and asserted that the ‘confrontation’ showed that the Muslims have many cards to win any such battle.
He went as far as saying that since the crisis has deepened the rift between Muslims and Europeans, some are seeing “cunning Zionist and American fingers in this scene…to lessen hostility towards the Americans and to pre-occupy Muslims with their ‘battle’ against Europe, so that they would not focus on American practices in Iraq.”
Not to be outdone, Buthaina Shaaban a Syrian government official and a regular commentator in Asharq Al-Awsat accused the West of waging a ‘new Holocaust’ against Islam. She saw in the Danish cartoons another manifestation of a continuing real crusade in the West against Islam that began after the September 2001 attacks which is ” becoming with each passing day a new holocaust committed by new European Nazi forces in the 21st century”.
European Muslims are treated today, she wrote, the way Jews were in the 1930′s, and Muslims in America and Europe are facing a ‘racist campaign’ to adopt Christian names in order to dilute their identity.
In response, rational and compassionate Islamists counseled wisdom and understanding, pleading with Muslim public opinion in Europe and beyond to appreciate and accept the centrality of freedom of expression in Europe. Tariq Ramadan an Islamist who lives in Europe was such a voice.
Writing in Asharq Al-Awsat, Ramadan cautioned Muslims against emotional outbursts, and explained that while there are no limits on freedom of expression, there are nonetheless ‘civil limits’ or ‘civil responsibilities’. He reminded the Europeans that the social structures in the continent have changed because of the patterns of immigration and therefore Europeans should be more sensitive towards the Muslims in their midst.
And he agreed with European criticism of Arab double standards when it comes to depictions of anti-Jewish images, while at the same time saying that hypocrisy in the Arab world should not be used as an excuse to insult Muslims in the West.
While major Arab publications and satellite stations did not publish the cartoons, a number of small publications in Jordan, Yemen and Algeria did dare to publish some of the cartoons. The editors of three Yemeni publications, two Algerian weeklies, and two Jordanian weeklies were arrested and charged with criminal counts of blasphemy and inciting violence.
Indeed, amid the cacophony of incendiary voices, there were commentators who tempered their dismay over the cartoons with thoughtful critiques of the violent reactions in some Arab and Muslim capitals, and who focused on the political hypocrisy and expediency of regimes such Iran and Syria. Some commentators accused the regimes in Egypt, Syria and Libya of encouraging the ‘mobs’ in the streets to refurbish their Islamic credentials.
A number of columnists in Asharq Alawsat produced scathing articles, as did one Kuwaiti writer, about ‘the forces of extremism and lunacy’ in the Arab world trying to achieve their “parochial hateful agendas”.
Saleh Al-Qallab, a Jordanian columnist for Asharq Alawsat, said Arabs and Muslims had lost the last round and helped distort the image of Islam, because the violence which had a sectarian tinge in Lebanon and Iraq worked to the benefit of peddlers of a ‘clash of civilization’ with the West theory as preached by Osama Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.
Similarly, some Arab journalists on television talk shows spoke positively about the responsible way the American media dealt with the issue, as compared with the European media.
The Arab-Muslim reaction exposed the extent of alienation, weakness and vulnerability that many Muslims see at the core of their relations with the West. And the pent up anger went far beyond the offensive cartoons.
For many the controversy became one of raw power struggle; who has the right to frame such issues? Who controls the means to transform those large swaths of the Arab-Muslim world that are watching with fright the caravan of the modern world leaving them behind?
The U.S. news media did better this time because it had learned to listen more carefully to what the Muslim world is saying.
The Los Angeles Times, for example, had published a number of stories last year about Muslims in Europe. “So when this (the cartoon controversy) came up, it was part of our awareness,” says Marjorie Miller, foreign editor for the L.A. Times.
In fact, the cartoon controversy came up in a Nov. 12 story by Jeffrey Fleishman from Copenhagen. But it was only one of several points in a story describing tensions about Muslim migration “ratting” Denmark’s “aura of serenity.”
Most of the U.S. news media that provide the on-the-ground coverage of the Arab world have also upped their presence in the region. Five years ago the New York Times had one Arab world correspondent, as Ethan Bronner, the Times’ deputy foreign editor explains. Today, it has one in Cairo, another in Dubai and four in Baghdad.
But newspapers’ dedication to reporting the ongoing travail in Iraq comes at a cost to coverage elsewhere in the Arab world, says Miller of the L.A.Times. Though the L.A. Times has four correspondents in the region, only one covers the rest of the Arab world, she says.
To gain a better handle on the Middle East, the U.S. news media has clearly begun to lean more heavily on Arabic speakers and reporters familiar with the culture. For its chronology of the cartoon controversy, the Washington Post relied on Shadid. One of few Arab-American reporters covering the Middle East, he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for his reporting in Iraq before and after the invasion.
When the Post decided it needed an explainer, Shadid wasn’t on assignment, recalls Andy Mosher, a deputy foreign editor for the Middle East. But Shadid volunteered to report as well as help pull the story together. It was a story, as Mosher says, that played to Shadid’s strengths.
The Post’s decision to put together a broad scenario was partially triggered by a February 9th New York Times story written by Hassan M. Fattah with reporting from Times correspondents and stringers. Like a Feb. 7th Wall Street Journal story by Andrew Higgins, it looked at that the connections Danish Muslims had made with Muslim world leaders which had catapulted their campaign. Fattah is an Iraqi born journalist raised in the U.S. who briefly edited an English language newspaper in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s fall.
But knowing the language isn’t always the key to good coverage, and several U.S. reporters weighed in with pieces that brought more depth to the story. They wrote about Muslim moderates dismay over the violence and they pointed to the questionable role of the Syrian government in the riots over the cartoons in Lebanon and Syria.
Michael Slackman, a former Middle East correspondent for the L.A. Times, who is based in Cairo for the New York Times, parlayed his experience and intuition in a Feb. 12 article to explain the forces beneath the rage over the controversy as well to the tragic sinking of an Egyptian ferry.
Rather than a clash between civilizations, Slackman suggested that some of the passion behind the controversy may have come from Arabs’ need to “blow off steam” from living in dysfunctional societies, and from Arab governments’ need to embrace such an issue in order to dampen the rising strength of Islamic groups.
For years the U.S. coverage of the Arab and Muslims worlds rarely poked below the surface. Arabs were strange, incomprehensible bad guys, says Rhonda Zaharna, a professor of public communications at American University in Washington, D.C. The impact of returning mujahadeen or holy fighters who fought in Afghanistan went untold.
But that’s then.
The U.S. news media has shown it do can a better job in covering the politics and nuances of the Arab and Muslim worlds, though it has a way to go. Emerging from years of repression and self-censorship, the Arab news media is first finding it voice.
Yet that’s not good enough and we can’t wait decades for them to do better. The price for Arab world and U.S. journalists not doing the reporting that needs to be done is too unbearable to consider. We have only our dead from all of the tragedies that we have suffered lately to remind us of this.
Hisham Melhem is the Washington-bureau chief for the Al-Arabiya satellite station. Stephen Franklin is a former Chicago Tribune reporter with a long history of reporting in the Middle East. This article was written in early 2006.
published – In These Times
BY STEPHEN FRANKLIN
YAYLADAG, Turkey (On the Syrian border)—Yasser Jani huddles in a tiny sliver of shade. He wants to escape from the heat and crowding and an uncertain future. But the small patch of trees just outside the camp for Syrian refugees here didn’t offer one and his face shows it.
“Most of the people here are hopeless,” says the short, middle-aged Syrian, who taught high school science before fleeing last year with his wife, two small children, mother and brother. “They lost their homes, their work, and their money and they don’t know anything about their future,” he said.
“And I feel the same way,” he flatly adds.
As Syria boils, its diaspora lives in disparate worlds of faith and despair, of denial and acceptance, and many places in between. The young bodybuilder whose stomach was plugged with bullets from Syrian soldiers nurtures old dreams while the husband, whose seventh-month pregnant wife was killed as they were fleeing, is frozen in shock.
Daily the specter grows of yet another massive population of uprooted and wounded souls in the Arab world.
Already more than 112,000 refugees are jammed in camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, with thousands more are surviving on their own in these countries. Many more Syrians appear ready to join these ranks and flee their country as the fighting grows fiercer in Syria’s largest cities.
Dr. Moustafa, a Syrian psychiatrist now living in the United Kingdom who would not give his last name, worries about the indelible scars that he says will last long beyond any resolution to the crisis. The only Syrian psychiatrist on hand here, he is forced to flit from camp to camp, dealing with panic-stricken refugees, dispensing medication and trying to measure the depth of the problem.
Yasser Jani is one of those refugees living somewhere between hope and darkness. Despite his frustration about spending the last year in the small, crowded camp, where he complains about the daily inconveniences, he has helped out with classes for young children. It’s all he can do, he adds.
Likewise, Ahmed Hassoun, 56, follows the same daily routine, which gives him meaning in Antakya, a large city in southeastern Turkey, where many Syrians have gathered. A lawyer from Idlib in northwestern Syria, where the fighting has been intense, Hassoun puts on a clean shirt and well-pressed dark pants early in the morning in an almost empty apartment, where he lives with his children, and heads to an office where he works with another 20 Syrian refugee lawyers. His wife stayed behind in Syria.
He gets no pay for his work. None of the lawyers do. But they have gathered daily, meeting with clients and taking careful notes for the last month and a half. Their goal is to produce an accurate and detailed account of the abuses suffered by Syrians under the Assad regime. They hope to turn it over to the International Criminal Court or to a court in Syria when they return, he explains.
They are also working with attorneys within Syria to compile their records.
From the handful of refugees, who visit the office daily to tell their stories or the stories of others who are too ashamed, as is the case for female rape victims, or too overwhelmed to personally recount the events, they have catalogued more than 30 kinds of torture, and at least 1,500 rapes, some of them in groups.
His records show that Syrian torturers use metal and wooden sticks and often electricity on their victims. They also use acid and it is not unusual for victims to die of their burns and wounds, he says.
Soldiers caught escaping, “are executed right away by gun or they slaughter them with knifes,” he says.
As a fellow attorney sitting beside Hassoun coolly recalls seeing someone beaten to death on the street by Syrian soldiers with a rock, Hassoun adds softly, “I feel terrible when I hear these stories.”
Many of the tortures that Hassoun has been recording were suffered by Dr. Mohammed Sheik Ibrahim, 38, a soft-spoken pediatrician, who didn’t want to leave Syria even after eight months in prison.
“They put me in a small cell for 28 days and they interrogated me four times a day for an hour or two each time. Or they would make me stand for hours. They beat me. They used wooden sticks and metal sticks,” he says. “I heard them raping women and girls in the rooms nearby.”
When Ibrahim came home to Latakia from prison, he continued to speak out to his clients, colleagues and anyone else about the regime’s abuses. “I wasn’t afraid,” he explains. Then one day a high-ranking official warned him that his life was in danger. He fled the next day, nearly nine months ago.
Ibrahim has since been working with injured fighters in Turkey from the Free Syrian Army. When thousands of fellow Turkmens from Syria poured across the border recently, driven by aerial attacks, he rushed to the camp that Turkish officials quickly set up for them here in Yayladag.
He is committed, he says, to work with the fighters and follow them into Syria when they launch a large battle. His father has asked him not to go, fearing for his life, but he remains determined to go with the fighters, he says.
He explains that he is a doctor treating one wound after another with no end in sight.
“When I am fixing them (the soldiers), I tell myself that Bashar Assad is the man with the knife and he is the one causing all of these wounds,” he says intensely, moving his arms, and raising his voice.
Like Ibrahim, Dr. Khaula Sawah knows much about the refugees’ medical needs, because she has been organizing the help coming from expatriate Syrians medical experts like herself. The expats arrive here in waves from across Europe, the United States and the Arab world. They stay several weeks and leave. Many return.
Sawah also works on finding medical supplies needed inside of Syria. A clinical pharmacist at a Cincinnati hospital, she has come to southeastern Turkey five times this year so far for this kind of work. This time she brought her two sons along with her.
Born in St. Louis, Sawah moved as a child to Syria with her Syrian-born parents. When her father was put in prison by the government, the family waited 12 years in Syria until he was released.
Now vice-president of the Turkish branch of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, Sawah has lately been filling up a small warehouse with medicine and then finding safe ways to smuggle it into Syria.
“The needs are humungous,” she says. “We’ll pitch in $100,000 worth of medicine (in Syria) and it is gone in a few days.”
At the warehouse—the basement of a nearby apartment house in Reyhanli—people are unpacking a new delivery of blood absorbing bandages. A U.S. manufacturer had donated the supplies, worth nearly $500,000, Sawah says.
From visits to the Turkish-run camps as well as clinics that the Syrian physicians have set up, she is familiar with the refugees’ frustration.
It’s been especially difficult, she says, for those who didn’t want to live in the camps because of their stark conditions or isolation. As a result, they struck out on their own, renting apartments and often doubling up with other families. In many places, rents doubled with the refugees’ arrival, the refugees say.
“They are all illegal and they don’t have any rights,” she explains. Soon they run out money and then discover that can’t get help at the Turkish hospitals because they are not registered. “I just got a call from a woman who went to the state hospital and said they wouldn’t check up her child.”
But the greatest discontent, she says, is felt by those who have been in the camps the longest. It wells up into squabbles between groups and complaints about conditions. Indeed, there have been three disturbances in refugee camps by Syrians asking for refrigerators, or water and food. Turkish security forces used tear gas and fired bullets into the air to calm an uprising at one camp.
But Sawah has also seen the way the refugees have struggled to accommodate each other and adjust to a future on hold. Some have set up small stores in the camps to earn money and make life more hospitable. And at overcrowded clinics, older patients have given up their beds and slept on the floor to make room for new arrivals.
At the Yayladag camp, where a recent fire took the lives of a newlywed couple who had arrived only a few days earlier, Yasser Jani worries about the young children who he says need more food and clothing, and the teenagers who need a school. He worries too about the women who have to put up with a lack of privacy and other difficulties.
After the fire at the camp, an old factory warehouse minutes from the Syrian border, Turkish officials talked of moving the refugees to another camp. But overcome by the arrival of as many as 1,000 refugees a day and the need to open at least two more camps, the camp here has stayed open.
Privately, Jani worries about not having money and what’s ahead. But on another day in the low 100s, he worries about just catching his breath. Most nights he cannot sleep because of the heat.
“But I’m trying to make my life better,” he adds.
The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting supported this reporting.
Istanbul - Hot. Hot. Burning light. Escaping to a book store, I hear Arabic.
“Where are you from?”
“Why are you here?”
He leans forward and whispers in Arabic.
“I’m from the Qadaffi side.”
“How is life?
“Will you go back.”
“No, I don’t think so. And I don’t think you can bring democracy from the sky with airplanes and bomb. There is a reason why there isn’t democracy in the Arab world.”
He goes on about democracy in the Arab world. We shake hands and he wanders off. Another soul wandering through Istanbul with no clear path ahead. Some fleeing from the old Arab world and some awaiting democracy in the new Arab world. He looks worn and ragged.
|CAIRO: Before I embark on this editorial, I’d like to express my profound gratitude to Egypt’s venerable Military Prosecutor for giving the “No to Military Trials” campaign its biggest public boost yet earlier this week.It’s hard to think of any other activist more capable of galvanizing masses of pro-democracy advocates both inside and outside Egypt, than Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was detained for 15 days pending investigations because, as a civilian, he refused to be interrogated by a military prosecutor, drawing attention to an injustice faced by some 12,000 Egyptians since the army took power.
The trumped-up charges he faces were another reason why Abdel Fattah rejected the military prosecutor: he is being questioned in relation to the bloody Oct. 9 Maspero massacre, and may face charges of “inciting violence” against the military, ironically during clashes where 27 peaceful protesters were either shot by “unknown civilians” or crushed to death by armored personnel carriers.
Abdel Fattah also categorically rejected the lopsided notion of having the military prosecution investigate a criminal case in which the military is party to the crimes committed. It’s not rocket science: the military prosecutor is not a neutral party in this case and hence cannot be the only body allowed to probe it.
The very idea of painting Abdel Fattah as some kind of public enemy is absurd, not only because of his genetic pedigree as a member of one of the most respected activist families in Egypt (his father is Ahmed Seif Al Islam, the founder of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center which provides legal aid to victims of human rights abuses; his mother is Leila Soueif, a university professor and one of the founders of the March 9 movement which advocates academic freedom and university independence) but also because of his own contribution to the reawakening of Egyptian youth through his online activity, virtual discussion forums and street activism.
Clearly the target of this investigation is not to seek the truth about the identity of the ubiquitous “unknown civilians” intent on driving a wedge between the people and the army, but to perpetuate the smear campaign against the youth who spearheaded Egypt’s non-violent uprising, a campaign that began months ago when one of SCAF’s communiqués singled out the April 6 Youth Movement, accusing it of pursuing a foreign agenda and accepting foreign funding. It’s no surprise that, according to lawyers, a member of April 6 too will be summoned in relation to the Maspero violence.
Speaking of the “unknown civilians” with “invisible hands”, it’s both shocking and telling how press reviews, radio and TV coverage of the National Council on Human Rights’ Maspero fact-finding committee report completely buried the lead.
While the coverage mainly focused on the fact that it was not the military police but provocateurs on motorcycles who infiltrated the protest and shot and killed seven protesters, there was rarely any mention of the most crucial finding confirming that 12 of the victims were crushed to death by APCs which randomly drove through the crowd that fateful day.
While the “unknown civilians” may never be pinned down, the independent investigation has established, presumably beyond a doubt considering that we all saw the footage, that the APCs definitely killed 12 people. The question is how far will the so-called “neutral” military prosecutor bear this “detail” in mind? Can the military accuse itself of killing peaceful protesters, or will we be faced with tall stories of how knife-wielding protesters attacked the army forces and how some of the “unknown civilians” took over the APCs and killed the protesters just to frame the army?
The point is, unless the investigation is conducted by a truly impartial, independent, civilian body with nothing at stake but to reveal the truth, as the NCHR report recommended in another “detail” that most press and media coverage ignored, the truth of what happened on Oct. 9 will be buried with the 27 innocent lives who were killed that day.
Like thousands of others, Alaa Abdel Fattah too is innocent of the charges he may soon be facing before an illegitimate military tribunal. But while he could have easily acquiesced, accepted the situation, answered the questions and simply walked out to spend the Eid holidays with his family and his first child, whose birth he will probably miss, simply for speaking truth to power, Abdel Fattah chose to take the road less taken. The fact that others, like Bahaa Saber, who did exactly what he did were released without so much as a reprimand, while Abdel Fattah’s appeal was turned down on Thursday, reinforces suspicions that there is more to what the military prosecution intends for Abdel Fattah than meets the eye.
Tragically, we have come full circle, as Abdel Fattah concludes in an opinion piece he wrote behind bars published Wednesday by Al Shorouk newspaper, titled “A Return to Mubarak’s Prisons”: “I did not expect that the very same experience would be repeated five years on, after a revolution in which we ousted the tyrant, I go back to jail?…I spent the first two days only listening to stories of torture at the hands of police that is not only adamant on resisting reform, but is seeking revenge for being defeated by the downtrodden, the guilty and the innocent.”
But there is a silver lining.
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the January 25 uprising, it’s that ideas cannot be jailed or intimidated, that the quest for justice is so deeply rooted within the human psyche that no matter how long it takes, how arduous the struggle, or how grand the sacrifice, come what may, the free spirit will ultimately prevail, even in the face of APCs and military courts.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.
Much of what we journalists do does not belong to one country or one culture. It belongs to the global profession of journalism. We follow standards. We observe rules. We speak, write, observe. And we are guided by what makes our profession a global calling.
But there are differences sometimes in how we tell our stories and what our audiences expect from us. What works in the West doesn’t always work in the Arab world and here’s a column from sharq alawsat that raises this point. I agree and disagree. What do you think?
The stories we journalists tell should never be so perfect they are real. Here is a story about torture and injustice, a problem for Egypt too. But it is told by a government newspaper that a year ago would never consider thinking even about such a story.
What do you think
As Egyptians tried to shake loose nearly thirty years of darkness, the Egyptian press stumbled toward the sunlight, too. The early results portend vast journalistic shifts, and maybe not just in Egypt.
Egypt’s media have long been dominated by the state, as is true in much of the Arab world today. Egyptian journalists at the state-run outlets have traditionally been blind to the most pressing news while casting former president Hosni Mubarak as the people’s Pharaoh. Journalists who dared to touch taboo issues faced prison or heavy fines. News outlets that offended the regime were simply shut down. Independent bloggers were harassed and hounded by government-paid thugs.
It came as no surprise that when Al Jazeera, the fifteen-year-old Qatar-based outlet, defied threats and continued saturation reporting of the January 25th uprising, its Egyptian satellite signal was cut, its license pulled, and some of its journalists arrested. But Al Jazeera and its more conservative competitor, Dubai-based Al Arabiya, persevered. Along with a group of fearless bloggers and social media users, they cemented their place as the alternative to the state-run media’s lies.
In so doing, they underscored the necessity of honest, fearless reporting as a prerequisite for democratic change. The strongest message from Tahrir Square to journalists from Riyadh to Rabat is that stories that speak the truth carry the most power.
As the Mubarak regime’s shackles began to slip, Egyptian media reports began to change dramatically as journalists discovered their voices and consciences. Al Masry al Youm (Egypt Today), one of the country’s fledgling independent newspapers and a frequent regime critic, reported accounts of government thugs staging lootings. It challenged state media for spreading a “culture of fear” and conspiracy theories about Israeli-trained protestors. Journalists at Al Ahram, the government’s main mouthpiece, and at Rose al Youssef, another state-run paper, held demonstrations at their offices decrying corruption in journalism and lack of professionalism.
Some high-profile state television journalists took leaves of absence in protest of orders from on high to continue broadcasting propaganda. Shahira Amin, a prominent presenter, resigned. She told Al Jazeera’s English language service that she couldn’t “feed the public a pack of lies.”
While the upheaval’s fate was still unclear, Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, editor of Al Gomhouriya, a major state-run newspaper, addressed the protestors in a front-page column, saying, “We apologize for not hearing you, and if we heard you, for not paying attention to your demands.”
His apology was noted in Al Ahram’s English-language weekly, which also called out the state-run news media’s “reliance on exaggeration or outright lies” and refusal to tell the protestors’ stories. (Al Ahram didn’t mention its own record.)
This newfound honesty was only able to flourish after a path had been cleared both by journalists and social media users who risked their lives openly defying the government. Despite beatings and arrests, many journalists and bloggers persisted, bolstering morale by churning out ground-level accounts of critical events.
Twitter and the like became electronic megaphones, delivering both practical news (what streets were safe, where medics were needed) as well as charting participants’ emotions as they raced between elation, despair and, ultimately, absolute joy. Unlike failed protest drives by more established groups, youth-driven Facebook pages assembled thousands of supporters online and united disparate sectors of the eighty-million-person nation.
Just as the Tunisian upheaval inspired Egypt’s protestors, Arab journalists cannot ignore what happened in Egypt, the most populous Arab country. Although much of the region’s news media live under the thumb of the government, political parties, religious groups, or others who think they own the truth, Egypt has shown that it does not always have to be thus.
Online news operations have sprouted, angering and frustrating authorities in places like Kuwait and Jordan. Young Arab journalists are showing new daring in their reporting, and are coordinating across the region.
Arab journalists face great challenges even beyond government bullying: low pay, low respect, and editors too timid to make changes. As Egypt’s upheaval was evolving, Hisham Kassem, Al Masry al Youm’s first editor, likened the state-run media’s performance to a “crash-landing.” Speaking from Cairo, he said honest news coverage was gathering steam, but was not yet surging because editors didn’t know what lay ahead.
But the morning after Mubarak resigned, Al Ahram editors saw the future and rose to embrace it. They greeted readers with a stunning, bright red headline flared across its front page: THE PEOPLE OVERTHROW THE REGIME.
After the policemen had sodomized the bus driver with a broomstick, and after one of the officers had sent a cell-phone video of the attack to other bus drivers in downtown Cairo to make clear that the cops could do as they pleased, and after someone had given the video to Wael Abbas, who posted it on his blog, something unusual happened — at least, something unusual for Egypt.
The video went viral on the Internet. Two officers were charged, convicted, and ultimately given three-year prison terms.
It was an extraordinary moment, this sudden burst of justice back in 2006. Few have dared to point their fingers at police wrongdoing in Egypt. And it’s even rarer that the culprits have been punished.
The tumult that has rocked Egypt this winter was clearly sparked by the Tunisian revolution. But the Egyptian uprising didn’t begin on Jan. 25. It was rooted in the waves of workers’ strikes and protests; the explosion of the Internet as a rallying megaphone for dissent about government abuse, corruption, and a vampire economy where a few flourish while many struggle; and a growing willingness by reporters, writers, and human-rights groups to tell the truth in the face of great risks.
The roots could be seen by anyone who has paid attention to the upheavals that have marked Egyptian society these last few years. But they were dismissed up until now as inconsequential and insufficient.
the Tahrir square story is unbeleivable. Today, already thousands of people are there and more and more are flooding the streets, all my friends and relatives are either in the square or on the way to go. These are people whose relation to politics and activism used to be to read the story in the newspaper and discuss it over lunch or dinner. Everybody is there right now including my 70 years old aunt. despite the attacks and the fear we all feel safe and happy.Yesterday, I spent the day there, late at night I went back home. Behind the safe doors of my house, suddenly it was a vaccume of fear. We had to watch the Egyptian media’s false propaganda. They told Egyptians that the protestors in the the Tahrir square are causing serious damage to the economy and endangering the safety of the country. In other, allegdly, more independant Egyptian media channels, some of the most influential writers and analysts were trying to sell to the people the idea that it is time to go home, you made it people, just give the current government enough time to make it right again. Actually among the Egyptians there are those who just want their lives back to normal and beleive that the present achievements, Mubarack’s promise to leave office, is good enough.
Angry and worried I shifted to the news flowing from other International media channels. As usual, their intense focus is on the fights, the bloodshed and the terror, they ask questions about who is leading, what about the Muslim brotherhood, and the other opposition leaders, they speak to irrelevant people, who do not make part of the event , but just like the media they are observers. sunddenly in my safe warm home, I am worried, afraid and unsure.
Than again today back to the square to find the that the number of those who support the uprising is increasing tremendously. The charm of the Tahrir square is attracting more and more people, some flew all the way from the United States, Canada, Germany, London and even South Africa to be there in the square at this very moment of ultimate hope. Others are coming from different Egyptian governorates, simple people who came a long way because they beleive that this is a true revolution fighting for their rights and they were determined to give it all their support.
One very simple lady from the rural Fayoum governorate told me,” I am here to support the youth.” she posed and added,” when Mubarak’s grand son died we all felt for him , we dressed in black and cried for the innocent child, why on earth is he now doing this to our sons? How many mothers are now crying for a child who is dead or lost. “
Many analysts in the media speak of Egypt’s economy, they say that the economic growth did not trickle down to the poor and this is why this is happening. This is too simplistic. This revolution is not about poverty or need. The people in the streets from all walks of life , rich and poor are their because they want freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom.
In the square amazingly there is no anger and no violence, People are singing and clapping their hands. they form circles and forums and indulge in heated discussions that usually ends with laughter or songs. The pro- Mubarak camel riding thugs, on the oher hand, are poor ignorant people paid, reportedly, by wealthy busnissmen, to fight for the man and for his gang’s short sighted business interests, this is poverty and hunger at work, people are selling their souls and swords for the highest price. But the freedom fighters in the freedom square (Tahrir means freedom) are truely, innocently happy souls whose aim is to get their Egypt back from the hands of a regime that abused and exploited the country and the people for over 30 years.
It is a revolution lead by young intellectuals. It started as a virtual idea in the social media. They did not at the time, just ten days ago, think that it could lead to such an astounding uprising. One young blogger told me that they did not think that one can simply set a date and a time for a revolution, “we used to joke about it saying let us meet tomrrow at cilantro after the revolution, or we better do this or that thing ahead of the revolution.” Although it started and was fed by the connectivity of the internet, once it started rolling, people already were connected even in the absence of the internet and the mobile phones. Awreness and beleive is a super network that connected people.
In the media they speak of an international community afraid of a power vaccum, they speak of a fear from Islamic radicalism, others speak of the absence of the building blocks of democracy. This is exactly because they do not undrestand the nature of this revolution, the people, literally for the first time in history, are taking the lead and deciding for themselves, the government will continue to make its concessions and offers, and the street is the judge. It is a different process where the voting is a continuous process, as the street reacts to the government announcements and measures
The absence of a person or a group of persons as a recognizable leadership group or figures is intentional. The intellectual young people who started all this are actually leading by spreading awareness among the people in the square, rather than by giving orders and this is making the pressure of the street crowds even more forceful. Simply because it is the people rather than this or that specific name who is reacting and deciding.
The media should make a drastic shift and start asking the right questions, they should discuss the needed, on the ground, garantees that will make sure that the present regime including the new vice president and prime minister, at the end of an interim period will effectively let the Egyptians choose a new Egyptian administration. The people need a guarantee that whoever rules will at the end of the day month, yera go back to his home knowing that his initial identity is an Egyptian citizen and not an everlasting ruler. uptill now the Egyptian government failed the transparency exam, trying hard to hide what is happening in the square from the eyes of the world. They continue to speak a language that is not reflected in actual measures such as the announcement of new parliamentary election in three or six months with guarantees of international and judiciary monitoring.
The story of the tahrir squre is not about who is with Mubarak and who is against, it is about a truely civilized, very peoceful people who decided to regain control of their destiny. This is a total super change. It means that they have given up their let go attitude, they have broken the seal of fear that has been stamped allover their bodies and soul. they will for ever be responsible and work to rebuild the whole country.
Craig, in Shaa Allah, in ayear time you should come for a vist I beleive and hope you will find avery very different Egypt. See you then
When they began staging their protests in downtown Cairo, it seemed so risky, so unimaginable, so likely to be brutally swatted away by the heavy-handed hordes of government thugs.
In the republic of fear that has long reigned over Egypt, such things didn’t happen. Showing the smallest hint of disobedience could be painful and sometimes fatal.
Yet the workers kept on coming despite the beatings, the threats and long confrontations with the government and companies that seemed to be going nowhere, and rarely toward workers’ interests.
But they were—I know what I saw in Cairo last year. The nation’s workers were one of the groups who began to open the doors to the room where Egyptians have for decades stored their collective grit and outrage. They are now rediscovering those national assets.
The forces that first brought angry workers to downtown Cairo and to factories’ gates across the country a few years ago were powerful and deeply disruptive —the reason for the venom that poured forth.
Several years ago, when the state stepped up its privatization of government-owned facilities in a further liberalization of the one-time socialist economy, workers more often wound up as losers.
The new owners trimmed the ranks of the facilities, cut wages, reduced benefits and essentially wiped out the tiny sense of economic security that the workers had clung to. As the demonstrations grew against the new owners, the government promised to look into the problem and to slow the privatization. But the damage was already done and the promises were rarely met.
While Egypt’s economy boomed and luxurious gated communities blossomed in the desert surrounding Cairo, workers’ lifestyles were withering away as inflation ate away at their meager earnings and wages remained stuck at subsistence levels.
Time and again workers pleaded for the government to boost the minimum wage, which was about $7 per month for most of last year. But the government held off and officials said that workers actually were doing better. Their average wages were up around $70 a month, according to government officials.
So as new hotels and new malls bloomed, four out of ten Egyptians were earning less than $2 a day last year.
This viper economy meant that there has been a booming market in Egypt for people to sell their body parts to merchants in Egypt and across the Middle East. But even when they do, they are often cheated out of the money and left terribly sick from an economic fantasy gone bad.
Desperation has brought a brisk trade in selling young girls as short-term brides to wealthy Arab visitors, a euphemism meant to deal with Muslim sensitivities. In actuality, the girls are prostitutes who are sold for weekend services to super rich Gulfies, who have left behind thousands of youngsters without financial or any other support.
In most countries of the world, the ones with the highest unemployment rates are the low educated. Not in Egypt. College graduates dominate the ranks of the unemployed because many of their degrees are worthless, and the only jobs many can find are low-wage service jobs.
That is why there has been a slow trickle of young well-educated Egyptians trying to smuggle themselves into Europe and into better lifestyles. A number of these have lost their lives at the hands of heartless smugglers.
Without stable, decent-paying jobs, they have no prospects for improving themselves and no chance of getting married. Before marrying in Egypt, a groom needs to be able to support a new family. Many young men can’t and that is just one reason why you see mostly young faces marching in Cairo and Alexandria today.
On the books, Egyptian officials have been able to point to figures showing a national economy growing steadily.
But when Egyptians have reached into their pockets, they have often found barely enough to keep them going. That’s one reason why the country has a high rate of stunted children – youngsters who never grow to full size.
On paper, most workers belong to unions. But in reality the unions have shown little interest in workers’ rights or securing a better future for them. That is why nearly all of the more than 3,300 factory occupations, strike and other forms of protest since 2004 involved workers on their own or through their attempts to create dissident unions.
In a traditional society, the men have been the ones that have led the protests. But female workers began shouldering their share of the fury several years ago, taking part in the demonstrations and protests. In one case, women alone led and dominated a factory occupation, their children by their sides.
Hungry, tried and frustrated, workers began challenging the government to improve their lives several years ago. Sometimes the uproar was so great that the government caved in and met their demands. But it always took a clinched battle for the government to eventually back away and reach a deal, factory by factory.
But this time, they are no longer worried about what they could lose.
This is from an Egyptian blogger…follow Globalvoicesonline for its Egyptian blogger coverage
ورغم أنني من أكثر الناس تشاؤماً
من ألأوضاع العامة في المنطقة
وكنتُ دوما أقلهم تفاؤلاً
إلا أنني أكاد أُجزم
أنني أشتمُ رائحة تسونامي التغيّير
تهبُ على المنطقة بأكملها
أما ماهيّة التغيّير فمن الصعب التكهن به
وإن كنتُ أُخمنُ أنها تغيّيرات جذريّة
Although I’m one of the most pessimistic people.
I am the least optimistic when it comes to the situation in the region.
However, I have to tell you that I can feel the wind of change.
I feel it blowing on the whole region.
I might not be able to identify that change, but I guess it will be a major one.
And listen to this incredible audio by a Guardian (UK) reporter seized by police along with dozens of others:
follow global voices here:
Just as the post above says, this is a great change in Tunisia and maybe the first ever that passed through the hands of the Internet.
Follow the blog below:
The power of the press is the greatest when it touches a truth that others will not accept and the truth touches all.
I am moved by this column from Hani Shukrallah in al Ahram online:
We are to join in a chorus of condemnation. Jointly, Muslims and Christians, government and opposition, Church and Mosque, clerics and laypeople – all of us are going to stand up and with a single voice declare unequivocal denunciation of al-Qaeda, Islamist militants, and Muslim fanatics of every shade, hue and color; some of us will even go the extra mile to denounce salafi Islam, Islamic fundamentalism as a whole, and the Wahabi Islam which, presumably, is a Saudi import wholly alien to our Egyptian national culture.
And once again we’re going to declare the eternal unity of “the twin elements of the nation”, and hearken back the Revolution of 1919, with its hoisted banner showing the crescent embracing the cross, and giving symbolic expression to that unbreakable bond.
Much of it will be sheer hypocrisy; a great deal of it will be variously nuanced so as keep, just below the surface, the heaps of narrow-minded prejudice, flagrant double standard and, indeed, bigotry that holds in its grip so many of the participants in the condemnations.
All of it will be to no avail. We’ve been here before; we’ve done exactly that, yet the massacres continue, each more horrible than the one before it, and the bigotry and intolerance spread deeper and wider into every nook and cranny of our society. It is not easy to empty Egypt of its Christians; they’ve been here for as long as there has been Christianity in the world. Close to a millennium and half of Muslim rule did not eradicate the nation’s Christian community, rather it maintained it sufficiently strong and sufficiently vigorous so as to play a crucial role in shaping the national, political and cultural identity of modern Egypt.
Yet now, two centuries after the birth of the modern Egyptian nation state, and as we embark on the second decade of the 21stcentury, the previously unheard of seems no longer beyond imagining: a Christian-free Egypt, one where the cross will have slipped out of the crescent’s embrace, and off the flag symbolizing our modern national identity. I hope that if and when that day comes I will have been long dead, but dead or alive, this will be an Egypt which I do not recognize and to which I have no desire to belong.
I am no Zola, but I too can accuse. And it’s not the blood thirsty criminals of al-Qaeda or whatever other gang of hoodlums involved in the horror of Alexandria that I am concerned with.
I accuse a government that seems to think that by outbidding the Islamists it will also outflank them.
I accuse the host of MPs and government officials who cannot help but take their own personal bigotries along to the parliament, or to the multitude of government bodies, national and local, from which they exercise unchecked, brutal yet at the same time hopelessly inept authority.
I accuse those state bodies who believe that by bolstering the Salafi trend they are undermining the Muslim Brotherhood, and who like to occasionally play to bigoted anti-Coptic sentiments, presumably as an excellent distraction from other more serious issues of government.
But most of all, I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us; those who’ve been growing more and more prejudiced, inclusive and narrow minded with every passing year.
I accuse those among us who would rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim Center near ground zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church in the Omranya district of Greater Cairo.
I’ve been around, and I have heard you speak, in your offices, in your clubs, at your dinner parties: “The Copts must be taught a lesson,” “the Copts are growing more arrogant,” “the Copts are holding secret conversions of Muslims”, and in the same breath, “the Copts are preventing Christian women from converting to Islam, kidnapping them, and locking them up in monasteries.”
I accuse you all, because in your bigoted blindness you cannot even see the violence to logic and sheer common sense that you commit; that you dare accuse the whole world of using a double standard against us, and are, at the same time, wholly incapable of showing a minimum awareness of your own blatant double standard.
And finally, I accuse the liberal intellectuals, both Muslim and Christian who, whether complicit, afraid, or simply unwilling to do or say anything that may displease “the masses”, have stood aside, finding it sufficient to join in one futile chorus of denunciation following another, even as the massacres spread wider, and grow more horrifying.
A few years ago I wrote in the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, commenting on a columnist in one of the Egyptian papers. The columnist, whose name I’ve since forgotten, wrote lauding the patriotism of an Egyptian Copt who had himself written saying that he would rather be killed at the hands of his Muslim brethren than seek American intervention to save him.
Addressing myself to the patriotic Copt, I simply asked him the question: where does his willingness for self-sacrifice for the sake of the nation stop. Giving his own life may be quite a noble, even laudable endeavor, but is he also willing to give up the lives of his children, wife, mother? How many Egyptian Christians, I asked him, are you willing to sacrifice before you call upon outside intervention, a million, two, three, all of them?
Our options, I said then and continue to say today are not so impoverished and lacking in imagination and resolve that we are obliged to choose between having Egyptian Copts killed, individually or en masse, or run to Uncle Sam. Is it really so difficult to conceive of ourselves as rational human beings with a minimum of backbone so as to act to determine our fate, the fate of our nation?
That, indeed, is the only option we have before us, and we better grasp it, before it’s too late.”
Here is a message from the Arab Press Network.
|International Partnership For Yemen Reports On Critical Press Freedom Situation|
A coalition of international press freedom and human rights organisations, including WAN-IFRA, have called on the government of Yemen “to end the practice of extrajudicial trials for journalists” following a hearing for Saba news agency reporter Abdul Ilah Hayder Shae, who is being held in military detention for his work covering Al-Qaeda.
Representatives from the International Partnership for Yemen, who attended Mr Shae’s latest hearing before the Specialised Criminal Court on 9 November during a week-long mission to Yemen, called on President Ali Abdullah Saleh “to immediately release Abdul Ilah Hayder Shae and all other journalists being held in detention for carrying out their profession.” Mr Shae has denounced the extrajudicial court hearing his case as unconstitutional.
Mr Shae’s case is the latest example of the Yemeni authorities’ willingness to silence journalists and stifle press freedom in the country. The mission has also warned that international concerns over Yemen’s troubled security situation, and the subsequent increased security measures employed by the government, do not justify the repression of press freedom and other fundamental human rights.
The International Partnership for Yemen, a coalition including ARTICLE 19, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Media Support (IMS), and The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), was in Yemen last week to assess the challenges facing media in the country.
The delegation, which met with journalists, editors and publishers, syndicate representatives, human rights lawyers, local non-governmental organisations, media experts, members of parliament, diplomatic representations and government authorities, will release a report detailing the major challenges facing the media in the country. Recommendations on how to strengthen the media sector and ensure its long-term development will be put forward to both the Yemeni government and the international community.
The government has proposed a new Press and Publications Law that has raised serious concerns from journalists, legal professionals and non-governmental organisations due to the punitive measures it contains. Despite calls for amendments, as well as the submission of two alternative drafts by media groups and civil society organisations, it appears that the government is seeking the legal framework to legitimise its continued clampdown on press freedom.
“There is an urgent need for the government to comply with its international obligations on respecting the right to freedom of expression in Yemen,” said Cynthia Cárdenas, Legal Advisor for ARTICLE 19. “The current provisions allowing the government to punish media professionals have provoked self-censorship as a common practice and this is directly affecting the quality and quantity of information provided to the public.”
The coalition noted that self-censorship is rife amongst the official press, opposition and independent media. Journalists rarely report on the issues that are shaping both Yemen’s internal development and its international image – Al-Qaeda, the Southern Movement, the conflict with Houthi rebels in the north, corruption, the rule of President Saleh himself, and the role of tribalism, which affects all aspects of Yemeni society.
This situation is further weakened by the overall lack of media development in Yemen. Serious deficiencies in professional standards and media ethics have led to partisan reporting and editorial irresponsibility. “Free and independent journalism is the vehicle for Yemeni stability and development,” said Monir Zaarour, IFJ Middle East and Arab World Coordinator. ”There is an urgent need to create the necessary environment for professional and ethical reporting; improved working conditions for journalists and access to professional training are the first steps.”
The absence of a strong independent press has created a vacuum that has been filled by official government, opposition, and poor-quality titles. The few quality independent publications face strict licensing regulations, a limited number of printing presses and distribution networks, and a politicised advertising market. One of the few titles to have successfully challenged this reality on a national scale, Al Ayyam, has remained closed since May 2009 following an open confrontation with the government.
“The independent press in Yemen needs strengthening from every perspective,” said Mohamed Messaoudi, WAN-IFRA delegate and Co-founder of Algerian daily El Watan. “The seeds of an active and engaged independent press are very much present, but the political and economic conditions required are far from being realised.”
Antti Kuusi, IMS Country Coordinator for Yemen, said: “The media in Yemen is currently undergoing a period of great change and the international community should urgently assist the country in creating a free and diversified media.”
For more information, contact:
ARTICLE 19 Legal Advisor, Cynthia Cárdenas: firstname.lastname@example.org
IFJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator, Monir Zaarour: email@example.com
IMS Country Coordinator for Yemen, Antti Kuusi: firstname.lastname@example.org
WAN-IFRA Press Freedom Missions Coordinator, Rodrigo Bonilla: email@example.com
For more about the coalition partners, go to:
Here’s a testament to the desire to use new media tools and the ability to adjust to new technology in Egypt. It’s from a blog on crowdsourcing:
The author-expert writes:
A fifth map on the Egyptian elections is the Abu Balash map, a voluntary Initiative of a group of Egyptian bloggers.
Now, I have to say: of course, this sound a bit ridiculous, 5 interactive maps to monitor the same event. I started laughing when I heard about it the first time. But lets’ be honest: THIS IS A GREAT THING!!!
In a country like Egypt, where election monitoring is not exactly the most common action taken, and where lots of activists and young people use Facebook, Twitter and Internet in general, the fact that there are many platforms is an awesome achievment!! Egyptians will not have one, but 5 different means to report, and in this way the government is not only going to deal with the U-Shahid project but they have to deal with 5 platforms that will challenge their propaganda and their media control.
Get the full explanation here:
I am struck by Issandr’s column in al Masry al Youm today. He writes:
“What is one to make of the first round of elections that took place on Sunday?
“One could note, as every civil society monitor and every human rights group has, that fraud was widespread, from candidate registration to polling day itself, and that vote-buying has become so widespread that it has created a secondary market for vote-bundlers.
One could repeat the complaints of candidates–notably those from the Muslim Brotherhood–that security forces prevented campaigning, arrested hundreds of supporters, and generally obstructed the electoral process.
One could highlight the dismal performance of the High Elections Commission, which Hafez Abou Saeda, the president of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, recently called “the main threat to the electoral process.”
One could sift through the preliminary results and noticed that no Muslim Brother got through the first round, and that the secular opposition does not seem to have gained (as some had predicted) from the Islamists’ loss.
One could point out, if the trends of the first round are extrapolated to the second round, that the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) will probably find itself with a much larger majority in the next parliament–perhaps upwards of 90 percent, although this super-majority will continue to be one of opportunists rather than apparatchiks, since the party remains unable to impose discipline among its members.
One could wonder why it is that, even as voter interest in the elections appears to plummet, they are becoming more competitive, with businessman candidates spending millions to secure a seat and the access and parliamentary immunity it buys.
All of this is interesting, for sure, but it’s worth taking a step back from electoral processes and outcomes, and the political fate of individuals and parties, to the larger meaning of the elections and what they say about the kind of country that Egypt has become.
After 1952, Egypt ruled by a top-down, military regime with a command structure centered around a charismatic president and senior army officers with a shared esprit de corp. The Free Officers’ regime was corporatist, ideologically driven, and moved by desire for rapid modernization and a prominent, independent role for Egypt on the international scene.
Gradually, the regime became more institutionalized and began to change its priorities. The presidency, while remaining strong, became an ultimate arbiter of disputes within the regime rather than the source of the driving vision of the country. Egypt’s non-alliance was traded first for a balancing game between the two Cold War superpowers, and finally for a strong client relationship with the United States. The single-party state gave way to a superficially more pluralistic political landscape, but one that remained dominated by a party representing access to the state, while important decisions remained in the hands of the presidency. On a day-to-day basis, the mid-level management of the security apparatus became the real ruler of the country, arbitrating between citizens and state as well as the politicians. The army, once omnipresent in politics, retreated to the barracks but remained–mostly discreetly and from a distance–important in political and economic life.
Over time–the very long time of President Hosni Mubarak’s rule–this arrangement engendered its own logic. It settled into standard operating procedures, bureaucratic mechanisms and red lines that occasionally shifted. Unwritten rules of the game were largely understood, and even the opposition mostly adhered to them. The system reached a cruising speed and became more secure in the way it operated; it was self-perpetuating, particularly in the absence of new leadership that could create a genuine shift in vision. A combination of what I like to call “-crats”–a suffix that comes from the Greek word for ruler–ran the state’s daily affairs.
The autocrats–the security apparatus, from the armed forces to the Ministry of Interior–are the real decision-makers. They rule, but do not govern. Their role is not to devise policy but to ensure the status-quo is perpetuated, that the system in which they hold the most privileged position endures. Originally they had come to power by overthrowing the aristocrats that backed the monarchy, but they are not imaginative men. Their mission is to perpetuate the present, not prepare for the future.
In order to run a country, they needed managers. So they created a class of bureaucrats, the six million civil servants who enforce the vast edifice of rules that so often perplex citizens. The bureaucrats are not only, for most part, a loyal group, but they are also one whose capacity to generate inertia and opposition to change can be formidable. The bureaucrats process, they have no other aim, and hate novelty.
But a country cannot just stand still, it must also adapt. For this there are the technocrats, who govern but do not rule. They are the clever ministers who try to implement often necessary reforms, but always against the reluctance of the autocrats. If they have been on the ascendant lately, it’s only because economic conditions made their knowledge imperative. Their problem is that, not being politicians with popular support, the technocrats are never held accountable to anyone but the autocrats and their diktats.
Yet what the recent elections (and the previous ones in the last decade) have shown is the rise of a another class of -crats. The plutocrats have their fingers in every pie, they woo all sides, keep the machine turning with their enterprise and lust for profit. The plutocrats were the dominant group among the candidates. They belong overwhelmingly to the NDP, that privileged conduit to the state, which provides cheap land, solves bureaucratic hurdles and awards lucrative contracts. They are the much-derided “businessmen” that confound party leadership into running multiple official candidates for the same seats and injecting races with millions of pounds.
The risk with this state of affairs is that politics becomes entirely a wealth-creation mechanism. With these elections, the autocrats sent a message that whatever opening took place in 2005 is now closed. They will now no longer tolerate genuine political alternatives, particularly ahead of a still uncertain presidential transition. But they also sent a secondary message: that, as long as they operate within the rules, the plutocrats are invited to help themselves to a free-for-all in which court decisions will be routinely ignored, fraud tolerated and money will always trump the rule of law.
This arrangement between autocrats, technocrats and plutocrats is more than a clampdown on democrats and theocrats. It empties the very notions of politics and citizenship of any meaning.”
Here’s a brave column by Salama A Salama from al Ahram weekly about the freedom of the press in Egypt. It concludes:
“Abroad, there are laws and a history of democracy and human rights that keeps those with power — political and financial — in check. Here, we don’t have that.
What happened to Eissa was meant as a lesson for all newspapers and independent media. It was meant to show them who’s boss.”
Every time someone asks, I explain that nothing is as exciting as witnessing the energy and the hunger of some Egyptians to tell their nation’s stories.
Blogging and the Internet today are forces journalists and citizen journalists have learned to wield quite well. And their experience is worth holding up as an example across the Arab world.
Here is an NPR program that confirms what I am saying here. But it leaves out some points. What else would you add to it?
You turn on the tv in Cairo and what do you see? It’s different isnt’ it. Different than five years ago. Different than 2 years ago. But is it enough.
Here is a very good report on the state of Arab television. Read it all. What do you think?
“Despite the disappointing pace, there is much change afoot in Middle East media. There have been impressive gains in the range of views presented on newscasts and talk shows and a wider margin for dissenting opinions. Regional conflicts are well-covered, and journalists report on sensitive political and social issues in many countries. Freedom House, while still categorizing most MENA countries as “not free” for media, acknowledges that most countries have logged steady progress toward freedom—just not enough to warrant a “free” ranking. “There has been an improvement in scores,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, senior researcher and managing editor of the organization’s Freedom of the Press. “It’s just that they still end within the ‘not free’ category. It’s because they are starting out from such a low base.”
The Yemen Times is a gift. It is brave, imaginative and speaks up for those journalists in the Arab world who believe in using the power of their words. But this is more than an example of brave and compelling journalism.
It is a lesson in using good writing reporting and writing to focus on an issue that has public momentum.
If you know of similar stories in the Arab world on this topic, please let me know.
Here is just one story that translates their efforts.
For the Yemen TimesPublished:29-03-2010
TAIZ, March, 27 — For five months, Hind has been physically abused, sexually assaulted, and has several times tried to run away from a forced early marriage. Only now has she found shelter. According to the woman she is staying with, she is pregnant.
After she tried to escaped, her uncle, who had arranged her marriage, tied her by the neck with an iron chain to his house, because she had refused to stay with her husband.
Hind looks about 13 or 14 years old. Her body and the fact that there are only 24 teeth in her mouth are further evidence that she is less than 14 years old.
more on Child Brides, from Arab News
Here is a story from the National on the controversy in Yemen
Here is a summary from the Arab organization and website Menassat.
In its 2009 roundup, “Wars and disputed elections: the most dangerous stories for journalists”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) records a 26 percent increase in killed journalists compared to 2008 – up to 76 from 60. It cites the election-related massacre of 31 journalists in the Philippines and the vicious sweep of Iranian journalists and bloggers in arrests and convictions in the aftermath of disputed elections as the most “appalling” events of 2009.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) records at least 70 journalists killed in 2009 – the highest annual number ever recorded by CPJ – as a result of long-term violent trends. “Most of the victims were local reporters covering news in their own communities. The perpetrators assumed, based on precedent, that they would never be punished. Whether the killings are in Iraq or the Philippines, in Russia or Mexico, changing this assumption is the key to reducing the death toll.” In the Philippines, the government permitted politically motivated violence against journalists to go unpunished and it “became a part of the culture” says CPJ.
Many of the deadliest countries for press freedom have a history of impunity, says CPJ. Three journalists were killed in Russia, including Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, a Dagestani editor who severely criticised government officials for silencing religious and political dissent. In Sri Lanka, editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, known for his critical reporting of the government, was beaten to death with iron bars and wooden poles.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) arrived at a total of 137 journalists and media workers killed in 2009 – 113 of them targeted. The IFJ list is coordinated with the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and includes 24 accidental deaths, as compared to 109 killings in 2008. It also includes all media staff who die on the job. The year ended with a “rush of media killings,” says IFJ; a gruesome tally that should prompt governments to do more to protect journalists.
Iranian authorities were overwhelmed by opposition to the June elections and responded in a brutal fashion with arrests of journalists. “This wave of violence bodes ill for 2010, when crucial elections are scheduled in Côte d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories,” said RSF. Election-related violence against journalists was also seen in Tunisia and Honduras, reports Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) in its year-end review.
For the first time, RSF took a tally of journalists forced into exile in 2009 with a total of about 160. Numbers were particularly dramatic in Iran and Somalia where more than 50 journalists fled each country, as well as in Sri Lanka with the departure of 29. Repressive regimes understand that by “pushing journalists into exile” they can reduce pluralistic views and criticism of government policies, says RSF.
The National Union of Somali Journalists’ (NUSOJ) details a harrowing year in its year-end report, “War on Journalism in Somalia: Death, Displacement and Desolation.” Seven out of the nine journalists killed in 2009 were murdered in Mogadishu. The report adds that many of the killers are known, but a culture of impunity with no law and order has exacerbated the crisis against the media.
The report documents 9 media deaths, 12 wounded journalists, arrests of 15 media workers, raids on media outlets and death threats forcing numerous journalists to flee the country. Independent, credible journalists must choose between a life in exile or risking death in order to do their job.
According to RSF, at least 167 journalists were in prison worldwide at the end of 2009. Eritrea has the highest number of journalists behind bars in Africa, with 32 imprisoned. At least one journalist is assaulted or arrested every day in the Middle East. Physical assaults and threats have gone up by a third worldwide. The Americas had the highest number of assaults and threats. In Asia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal also recorded high numbers of violations. Kidnappings have increased, especially in Afghanistan, Somalia and Mexico. In addition, censorship rose with close to 570 cases of newspapers, radio or TV stations shut down worldwide.
Dissent is being increasingly expressed online and the Internet has become a powerful tool for democracy campaigns in several countries, reports RSF. As a result, blocking websites and online surveillance is on the rise, with China, Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan named some of the worst offenders. RSF reports more than 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents imprisoned worldwide for posting their opinions online. Two Azerbaijani bloggers were thrown into jail for making a video mocking the political elite. The number of countries affected by online censorship has doubled, says RSF.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) released a year-end regional update, documenting repression of Internet freedom in 20 Arab countries. The report, “One Social Network, With a Rebellious Message” details how governments block and censor the Internet, and curb dissent by kidnapping, arresting and torturing online critics. But the report also identifies the Internet as an unstoppable tool to combat repression. It examines how blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are used to fight for free expression and expose corruption in the Arab world.
In the Arab region, there are 58 million Internet users, 150,000 active blogs and 12 million Facebook users, according to ANHRI. Egypt has 15 million Internet users and is also the most repressive of Internet activists. Saudi Arabia and Tunisia rank as the most oppressive Internet monitors.
Elsewhere in the world, ARTICLE 19′s year-end report says freedom of expression is in “retreat” in Europe. In Italy, 10 journalists are under police protection for reporting on the mafia. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi publicly stated that he would “strangle” anyone reporting on the mafia because it made Italy look bad. In Spain, journalists were attacked by Basque militants. In Finland, a journalist was ordered by police to stop covering a demonstration, violently removed from the protest and detained for 18 hours. The report includes examples of the chilling effect of criminal defamation laws on free expression, the impact of anti-terrorism laws on free speech, and the violation of journalists’ rights to protect their sources.
This is an example of how technology has changed reporting in the Arab world. At Islam Online, the strikers are sending out twitters and al Masry al Youm quickly produced a photo and audio display to describe what is happening at the large facility in Cairo.
If you know of other examples of covering of breaking news using new technology in the Arab world let me know. And what do you think of this? What difference does it make for Arab journalists?
When Money Runs Dry, Frauds Come to the Surface
One of the sad truths of economic crises is that people first learn how they have been cheated out of their money when the economy collapses.
Why is this true in crises?
In good times, schemes can flourish because there is a lot of money floating around. The typical scheme is a pyramid arrangement. A businessperson convinces investors that he can earn them great profits by investing. In fact, he does not earn great profits. What he does is take money from one investor and give it to another. That is why we call it a pyramid scheme.
But such schemes collapse when people withdraw their money, and when there are fewer people willing to take part in such operations.
What keeps these operations going year after is the hope of earning more money, the failure of regulators to catch the swindlers, and good times that keep the schemes afloat.
Suggestions for reporting
In the current global crisis, several of these pyramid schemes have surfaced around the group of investors who thought they were earning exceptional profits. The challenge for a reporter is keeping in touch the regulatory agency that might catch such schemes. In most markets, companies’ profits do not go up at perfect angles or regular percentages. But swindlers mistakenly keep improving their results in the same manner.
Some questions you might ask:
Are there persons with a history of such frauds now selling stocks?
Have a great number of people lost large amounts of money from the same business person?
What were the promises that the alleged swindler made to the investors?
What were the relationships between the business and government regulators?
Is there a record of investigations that raised questions but took no action?
Are there any persons who were found guilty of frauds who now will talk about these operations?
What records do government agencies keep on such frauds? What are the international agencies that track such companies? Are there any agency officials who have retired or joined other organizations and how can you reach them? Before you do, make sure you know who they are working for now.
Are there news stories about investors that promise very high profits?
Did you draw a diagram to show who is linked to who and another diagram to show the flow of funds from investors and another to show the timeline of events?
“The internet in the Arab world has a snowball effect; now that the snowball is rolling, it can no longer be stopped. Getting bigger and stronger, it is bound to crush down all obstacles.
In addition, to the stress caused by the Arab bloggers, a new forum was opened for Aran activists; Facebook. Arab activists have been using Facebook in the utmost creative way to support the democracy movement in the region, a region that has one of the highest rates of repression in the world. Unlike other regions where oppressive countries (like China, Iran and Burma) represent the exception, oppression can be found everywhere in the Arab world.
The number of Arab internet users interested in political affairs does not exceed a few thousands, mainly represented by internet activists and bloggers, out of 58 million internet users in the Arab world. As few as they are, they have succeeded in shedding some light on the corruption and repression of the Arab governments and dictatorships.”
This is from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information – released today. Read the whole report here: (Arabic and English)
Understanding the vocabulary of the global economic crisis
Here are some of the important words and concepts
Bank panic – When investors fear that their bank does not have enough money to pay them, they go to the bank and take their money out. When a large number of investors try to withdraw their money, this may cause the bank to collapse or to close permanently. In the current crisis there have been several times when worried investors rushed to their banks, and a number of banks have gone out business across the world.
In Iceland the collapse of the banking system led to loans by the International Monetary Fund, Denmark, Finland and Norway. The collapse of the banking system in the small country was a surprise for many.
But there were several factors in the collapse.
Credit was easily available. The economy had taken off and construction had helped the economy prosper. But most importantly, changes in regulations had allowed the banks to expand, to operate under new systems and to do business beyond Iceland. As a result of the deregulation, the banks expanded to the U.K., the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
One lesson from the collapse in Iceland was that countries need to be able to supervise foreign firms that do business in their country.
Bear market – This is when stock markets are in trouble. The markets are declining and investors are worried about the future. Pessimism is common. A bear is an investor who sells stocks with the hope that they can be bought back at a less expensive price.
Bull market – The opposite. Here, the market is growing and investors are earning money. Confidence encourages investors and the stock market is flourishing. A bull takes advantage of the market’s boom and buys stocks, hoping that their value will go up.
Bonds – Large companies issue bonds. So do governments and institutions. The bonds pay interest. To measure the safety of investing in the bonds, they are rated by companies. But this crisis showed a problem with the system.
When everyone and everything else is shut down from talking, when there is no way to tell others what’s happening, the Internet is a difficult door to close. Here, from the blog Nahkana, is a testament to the ability of bloggers to do the work of reporters.
And here is a youtube video, one of many:
Islamic Financing and the global economic crisis
Islamic financing is a unique development not only for Muslims but for global economics. It is a way of finance that marries Islamic faith with economics. The idea of linking finance to a moral, ethical or religious belief is not new. This is true for Islamic financing.
But the growth of Islamic financing as a part of global finance is a recent development. The first major Islamic financial organizations did not begin until the1960s’ and 1970s’.
And as they have developed, Islamic financial organizations have created new ways to adopt Islamic beliefs to modern day economic dealings.
The guiding rules for Islamic financing come from the core principles in Islam.
The role of Shariah in Islamic financing
Shariah or Islamic law prohibits interest. It bans uncertainty in contracts unless everyone involved in the business dealing clearly understand the conditions. It does not allow involvement in businesses that are prohibited by the religion. These would include businesses that deal in alcohol, pornography, gambling or pork-related products.
A mortgage or real estate dealing offers a good example of how Islamic financing differs. In most real estate agreements, the lender pays interest to the seller or the bank. But in Islamic financing, the banks own the property and the buyer pays rents until the cost of the property is covered.
In the last few decades Islamic financing has grown markedly. It is estimated that this form of financing has increased by an average of 10 to 15 percent annually from the end of the 1990s’.
How large is Islamic financing?
Most estimates say that it represents between $700 and $800 billion in assets across the globe.
There are an estimated 300 Shariah-compliant organizations in 75 nations. A Shariah-compliant organization is one that uses the laws of Islams as its guiding principles.
The largest Islamic banks are located in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai, Qatar, and Bahrain. The major organizations that issue Islamic bonds are located in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
But experts point out that the spread of Islamic financing is still quite limited. It is estimated that Islamic financing accounts for only 1 percent of the world’s financial assets.
Islamic financing exists mostly in the Gulf, Iran, and Southeast Asia. Islamic financing has especially grown in Malaysia where, according to new reports, it accounts for 12 percent of the banking assets in the country.
There are also organizations based on Islamic financing in Europe, and United States.
Most of the money involved in Islamic financing is tied up in banking. A smaller share is committed to Islamic bonds, equity funds, and mutual funds.
How have Islamic financial organizations survived in the economic crisis?
To supporters of Islamic financing, the global economy crisis is proof that these organizations are an alternative to conventional financing. Why?
This is because they are barred from dealing in the kind of debt contracts that have led to the collapse of the world economy. It is also said that Islamic financial organizations are a safe haven for those frightened by the uncertainty of the conventional financial system.
But Islamic organizations are not immune from the collapse that began in depth in 2008. A study by Gulf One Investment Bank in 2008 said that Islamic financing has largely outperformed the traditional financial system in the last few years.
But it suffered a greater decline at the end of 2008 than conventional markets, the report said.
One of the problems of Islamic financing is that it heavily invests in real estate. This is a problem because it overly exposes the system and organizations to the weaknesses of the real estate market. Another concern is that the system is also heavily reliant on loans to consumers.
As a result of its reliance on real estate investments, Islamic financial organizations suffered marked loses as the economies of the Middle East began to weaken in 2008 and real estate values as well as construction suffered declines, according to news reports
Problems and Questions
Here are some of the criticisms and challenges facing Islamic financing:
Some of the newly created financial devices are too similar to those provided by conventional financing. This raises the question whether they are truly Islamic in nature.
Religious scholars have challenged some of the new financial instruments, forcing them to delay their work or to close down. Aand that has caused uncertainty for businesses and governments dependent on dealing with Islamic financial organizations.
There is a lack of Islamic scholars and experts versed in Islamic finance who can oversee a system that is growing very rapidly. This puts a strain on businesses trying to expand within the framework of Islamic financing.
Governments in some Muslim countries have not provided enough legal and financial support to make the system available to their citizens.
Scholars fear that Islamic financing can lose the it’s religious spirit and meaning by following the path of conventional financing.
Suggestions for reporters;
Can you identify the major Islamic financial organizations in your country?
What has been the impact of Islamic financing on your nation’s economy and ways of doing business? What have been the benefits? What have been the problems? How are these organizations regulated? Do they have the small level of openness of transparency to investors and regulators as in traditional financing?
Who are the major investors in Islamic financing and was the major borrowers?
What percent of all banking and loan applications in your country are controlled by Islamic financial groups?
Have Islamic financial organizations adopted new financial tools like Hedge funds in your country? Such tools would also involve stock derivatives, insurance and mutual funds.
Who are the leaders of these organizations, and who are their Islamic advisors? How do they guide their organizations differently from traditional ones?
Can you take examples of lenders or groups that rely on Islamic financing and show it has impacted their lives? Are loans easier to acquire? Is there a social benefit from the loans given out by the organization?
How much access do low-income borrowers and business and persons in rural areas have to Islamic financing?
With the all of the problems suffered lately by sovereign wealth fund, here is a backgrounder written before the crisis in Dubai:
Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF)
There is nothing new about a sovereign wealth funds. The first major fund was created in Kuwait in 1953. The goal was to invest for the country’s future, and to stabilize the economy as the price of oil changed dramatically.
But the shift in the world’s economic reality made these kinds of operations suddenly more powerful, more important and, in some countries, more feared.
What gave them such importance?
As a result of great growth in their economies, sovereign wealth funds in Russia, Asia and the Middle East grew and gained notice. They largely used their funds to invest in the U.S. and the West. They relied on hedge funds and investors to also use the largest forms of investment to reap higher profits.
Their arrival was unique for two reasons.
One: It marked the shift of wealth from the traditional global powers that had built their wealth on manufacturing and dominance of global trade to some newcomers. And the newcomers benefitted from either the growth in markets for oil or gas or because their sales of products and services to the Western and other countries had seen a dramatic expansion. China is one country that benefitted as it sold more of its products, and built great wealth.
Two: these funds represented economic concentrated in the hands of governments, not private companies or individuals. The fact that decision-making now rests with governments raised the fear that the funds would use their new powers for political and not economic reasons.
The lack of openness about the funds and their investment goals also raised concerns in the West. Though their investment decisions lack transparency, the fact that many funds have relied upon riskier investments raised concerns. The fear was that they would add to the forces that have created greater instability in the financial markets in the West.
“The majority of state-owned funds are highly secretive about their portfolio allocations and investment strategies, even as they control increasing amounts of the world’s largest traded assets.”
Sovereign wealth funds, according to one estimate in early 2009, managed as much as $2.9 trillion. The United Arab Emirates reportedly had the largest fund in 2009 with as much as $900 billion, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Corp. There are over 30 sovereign wealth funds.
The other countries with large sovereign wealth funds, according to experts and news reports, are:
Norway, Singapore, Kuwait, Russia, China, Qatar, Australia, Algeria, United State, Brunei, Korea, Kazakhstan, Malayasia, Venezeula, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Iran.
But the funds reportedly lost large amounts with the sudden collapse of stock markets across the globe. The funds that have relied upon gas and oil resources for their wealth have reportedly also avoided invested in these areas to protect themselves against the kind that began taking place in 2008.
How can they influence world markets?
If the sovereign wealth funds shift their investments from a market or a country’s investments that can led to a rapid decline in its stability because of their powerful presence.
For example, sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East are ranked among the top six buyers of the U.S. government bonds. These bonds are the how the U.S. government pays for its debt. With the declining economy in the U.S., there were fears that the Middle Eastern sovereign funds would transfer their investments to other economies.
How has the crisis affected the major Arab funds
It was estimated that the major Sovereign Wealth Funds in the Gulf lost 27 percent of their assets in 2008. In most cases, the funds have reportedly used their finances to help their local stock markets. Some have also sought out less risky investments.
What is the future for Sovereign Wealth Funds?
Here is a suggestion from Rami Khouri, a commentator based in Beirut:
“This would seem to be the moment for Arab SWF managers and their political leaders to take advantage of the probably momentary leverage they enjoy globally and regionally, to help rewrite the prevailing rules of international financial investment flows. Three areas seem ripe for serious reappraisal.
First, the ultimate owners of these funds – the citizens of the energy-producing states – should be provided with more information on how the funds are accumulated and invested, rather than leaving this task to small groups of specialists. Second, inter-Arab investments in truly strategic industries like food production, water technologies, and solar energy should be considered much more seriously, now that basic infrastructure is in place in most Arab countries (which was not the case when the first oil boom hit in the early 1970s). Third, Arab investors should use this unique moment to negotiate better, more equitable, terms of global financial flows with the leading Western powers. This is a moment when some Arabs should be thinking more in terms of enhancing the wealth of their sovereignty, rather than bemoaning the erratic performance of their sovereign wealth.”
CROSSING EGYPT BY TRAIN—On a rack above me in a crowded train hurtling through the night, someone has stuffed luggage – a box of carefully tied twigs holding belongings.
This is poverty, I tell myself.
Because of this poverty, there are families in Egypt who sell their young daughters to rich men.
Someone with a local community organization that knows of such things, tells me of a small village in Upper Egypt where most of the young girls have been married off to wealthy men so that their families could have money.
I hear from her, and others, about brokers who allegedly arrange these marriages, and who find ways to get around the government law that bars anyone under 18 from marrying.
These community organization workers talk also about so-called pleasure marriages arranged by brokers. It is a business deal where wealthy tourists marry village girls for the weekend or for the summer. And then the men dump the girls.
The teen brides another young woman regularly meets as part of her job a community organization in Cairo deeply upsets her. The woman, whose name in Arabic has the same meaning as prayer, has thrown herself into the work, telling herself this is what she must do.
Young women 14- or 15-years-old are married to men 20 or 30 years older than them for money for their families, she explains with a sad shrug.
The community activist cannot think of someone being sold that way. Nor can she bear to hear another story of a young bride who went off to a world of wealth and came back months later, discarded by the husband, and dumped back into poverty.
Because of poverty there are people here who turn to selling their body parts, mostly kidneys. I can’t tell how widespread the problem is, but there is much talk of it in the newspapers and among local organizations who tell of poor people who have sold their kidneys to dealers, who scout the slums for sellers.
They say the sellers sometimes don’t even get the money they are promised and often they are left sick and damaged permanently from the surgery. They talk of gangs who operate these scams across the Middle East. There’s a story in the Cairo newspapers about arrests of one such gang that operated between Jordan and Egypt.
Because of poverty, there are street children who are victimized in countless ways. Some of them have been scooped up in the smaller towns, and shifted to the big cities where the abuse only magnifies; prostitution, drug dealing, thievery. They have to beg for themselves, for their families, or for whoever manipulates them.
Because of poverty, underage children work in factories and the fields in violation of Egyptian laws that mostly bar them from working if they are under 14 years old, journalists in the country’s smaller cities tell me.
But because the families are poor there are no complaints from them. There seem to be countless community groups struggling to deal with this problem that does not vanish.
Because of poverty, people seek out smugglers who promise to take them to jobs in Europe. But more often the voyages are fatal death trips in boats that barely get beyond the Egyptian coast.
I talk with the head of a community organization in a mid-sized Egyptian city who boils all of these problems down to poverty, and that helps me understand the child brides and the trafficking and child labor and the people who say it isn’t an issue because there is nothing to be done about it and it is a custom, not a social plight.
He doesn’t think you can do much unless you understand the root causes.
So, I understand why on the train that pulled out just before mine from a town in central Egypt there was a group of young men clinging for their lives to a door on the outside of the last car. They couldn’t afford a ticket so they were willing to risk their lives on the railroad on this dark night.
And I understand why some of people mulling around in the dirty, decades-old train have a look of unease. It is because they are headed for Cairo, looking for a job and better life. But decent-paying jobs are rare in a country where many earn no more than $2 per day and in a city where swelling crowds are doing the same as them.
And so I understood too the luggage of twigs.
What I remember first is blood.
It wasn’t everywhere and it was only one day when I went searching in Iraqi hospitals for colleagues badly hurt in a blast that is stuck in my mind’s eye. A door swung open in one hospital and there was blood everywhere.
On the floor. On the walls. On the beds. And there didn’t seem anything else but blood. Or at least I couldn’t focus otherwise.
But that’s not what I talked about when I talked about Iraq the other day at a presentation on the Iraq war at the MCA, an exhibit that is amazingly brilliant for its reliance on dozens of people to sit and tell their stories one at a time, day after day: soldiers and refugees and anti-war activists and scholars and physicians.
I talked about the Iraqi psychiatrist in Baghdad who told me how Iraqis were too numb to feel because of all they had suffered and this was in the early days after the U.S. led invasion. I talked about the fear I remember seeing on the face of young soldiers headed out on patrols and how one night at a military hospital a young soldier waiting to hear what happened to a pal said he wished he got hit too so his waiting would be over. And I talked about the smothering oppression in the Saddam years and how I met people digging up mass graves and families searching for lost friends or relatives and people who had spent years in prisons for the slightest disregard to the former regime.
There was so much to say and I seem to have said so little and I wanted to say more. In the days to come folks will sit, as I did, on a couch in the middle of the very modest exhibit, drink tea and nibble on Middle Eastern sweets and talk about what they know from their time in Iraq or from their contact with those of us touched by Iraq: a VA hospital psychologist, soldiers who have fought in Iraq, Major L. Tammy Duckworth (Nov.7) who is now an assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, artists, anti-war activists, human rights experts, and Iraqis from Chicago and its long-established Iraqi community, some new arrivals and some passing through. Some of the sessions will also be Arabic. In so many ways this too is a Chicago story.
The picture up below is of the cafe in Muntabbi street, a street of booksellers, a revered place for Iraqis who sought books banned by the old regime, and a place the exhibit commemorates with the wreckage of a car blown up in an attack there. A place where I bought a caligraphy of great art work and lovely meaning from the Koran from a well-known caligrapher who was killed in a random attack some time after. The exhibit runs until Nov.15
click here to learn about the exhibit at the MCA:
Cairo – Heat. Endless Heat. It hangs in the trees. It hangs on the shoulders of the man carrying a heavy pack on his back. It hangs on the dogs sleeping.
Heat and dust that does not move, that seems glued in place and that is waiting for the wind to carry it away. Heat that does not go away. Heat that does not belong here and now. Heat that exhausts the exhausted.
No breeze here in Giza. No breeze here downtown. Nothing stirs in Bulak and Zamalek and on and on.
The sun sets and the Nile’s admirers gather, seeking haven.
Crunched together on the bridges, standing in the few dark places along the Corniche, stetched out on the tired grass, sprawled alone on benches, hunched over in bunches, tensely waiting on benches, couples talking, staring, wondering, waiting, hoping, thinking, sleeping, smiling, crying, they are waiting for the wind that they hope will flow through them. The wind that they think will refresh and give them a new spirit.
Heat. No relief
My thinking on writing about freedom of the press is that it should be normal and regular and remind people that without freedom of the press there really is no news media worth the attention. It needs to be fair and complete and to tell stories that give histories – stories that put countries and eras into context. Why does it matter that some people care in the Middle East about freedom of the press? That is the journalist’s job to explain. The reason needs to be explained and repeated and expanded every time a story is written, and every time there needs to be a sense of who is accountable.
Consider this story from al Masry al Youm
By Alaa Al-Aswany
May 31, 2009
Writing From Cairo —
Some years ago, I was invited to a relative’s wedding, and at the wedding, I sat next to one of the bridegroom’s relatives. He introduced himself to me by saying: “My name is such-and-such, police officer.”
The man was in his 40s, very elegant, polite and quiet. I noticed a prayer mark on his forehead. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, and I asked him, “In which department do you work?”
He hesitated for a second, then he replied: “State Security.”
We both kept silent, and he turned his face away from me and started to watch the other guests. My mind was torn between two conflicting options: Should I resume the previous polite conversation, or should I express my opinion candidly on the State Security Investigations department? In the end, I couldn’t help but challenge him, and I will reconstruct the conversation that followed to the best of my ability:
“Excuse me. You are religious, it seems,” I said.
“Don’t you see any contradiction between being religious and working in State Security?”
“Where would the contradiction arise?”
“People detained by State Security are beaten, tortured and raped, though all religions prohibit such practices.”
He started to get emotional and said: “First, those who are beaten deserve to be beaten. Second, if you study your religion thoroughly, you will find that what we do in the State Security department is fully compatible with Islamic teachings.”
“But Islam is a religion that safeguards human dignity.”
“That’s a generalization. I have read Islamic jurisprudence, and I am well aware of its provisions.”
“There’s nothing in Islamic jurisprudence that makes it legitimate to torture people.”
“Listen to me until I finish, please. Islam has nothing to do with democracy or elections. Obedience to a Muslim ruler is a duty for his subjects, even if he has usurped power, is corrupt or unjust. Do you know how Islam punishes those who rebel against their rulers?”
I kept silent.
He continued enthusiastically: “They face the haraba punishment, which is amputation of the left hand and the right foot. All those we detain at State Security have rebelled against the ruler, and by Islamic law we should cut off their limbs, but we do not do this. What we do is much less than the Islamic punishment.”
Our discussion went on for a long time. I told him that Islam was revealed essentially to defend truth, justice and freedom. I said that the haraba punishment was applicable only to armed groups that kill innocent people, steal their money or rape them. It should by no means be applied to Egyptian political dissidents.
He remained insistent on his opinion and ended the discussion by saying: “This is my understanding of Islam. I am convinced of it, and I will not change it. I will be responsible for it before God.”
After I left the wedding, I asked myself how this educated and intelligent officer could be convinced of such an erroneous interpretation of Islam. How did he extract from Islam such perverted ideas? How could he imagine for one moment that God approves of us torturing people? These questions remained without answers until, some months later, I read a paper titled “The Psychology of the Executioner.”
In it, the researcher argued that torturers can be divided into two groups. The first group are psychopaths, who behave aggressively without any moral restraints. The second group — and these are the majority — is made up of ordinary men who are psychologically normal and who, once they leave work, are upright and lovable, with good morals.
But to be able to torture people, two conditions are indispensable: submission and justification. Submission means the police officer carries out the torture in response to orders from his superior and convinces himself that he is compelled to obey. Justification comes about when the officer convinces himself that torture is ethically and religiously legitimate, usually because he believes his victims to be agents of the enemy or enemies of the nation, infidels or criminals. In his mind, that justifies torturing them to protect society and the country. Without this justification, the police officer would not be able to continue torturing his victims because, at some point, he would be unable to cope with his pangs of conscience.
I remembered this when I heard about the arrest in April of two university students, Omnia Taha and Sarah Mohammed Rezq. Campus security at Kafr El Sheikh University in the Nile Delta arrested the two young women and handed them over to State Security because they had incited their colleagues to go on strike. The prosecution accused them of plotting to overthrow the government and ordered that they be remanded in custody for 15 days for questioning. But honestly, how could two women less than 20 years old try to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak’s regime simply by talking to their colleagues?
Moreover, calling for a strike is not in itself a crime because Egypt has signed dozens of international conventions recognizing the right to strike as one of the basic rights of Egyptians. But what is really saddening is that I learned from colleagues of the two girls that at State Security they were violently beaten and tortured and that the man who beat them and ripped off their clothes was a senior officer. It’s not so terribly surprising — bloggers, leftists and Islamic activists are all arrested and tortured on a routine basis in Egypt, often spending years in prison without being charged — but it’s horrifying nevertheless.
How could a police officer, who was probably a husband and a father, beat with such brutality a student so like his own daughters? How could he face his conscience and look his wife and children in the eye? Didn’t this senior officer feel ashamed of himself as he beat a young woman who could not even defend herself?
As President Obama prepares for his trip to Egypt this week, the Mubarak regime is facing unprecedented waves of social protest because life here has become intolerable for millions of Egyptians, who now have no choice but to take to the streets to proclaim their demand for a life fit for humans. Today, between 40% and 50% of Egyptians live below the poverty line; Egypt has become two different countries — one for the poor and one for the rich.
As for the regime, it is now completely incapable of serious reform, so it pushes the police to confront, repress and torture people, overlooking the simple and important fact that police officers are, first and foremost, Egyptian citizens and that what applies to Egyptians in general applies to them too. Most of them suffer in the same way as other Egyptians.
I often recall the discussion I had with the State Security officer at the wedding. And I reflect that a political system that relies for its survival on repression always fails to see that the apparatus of repression, however mighty it may be, must be operated by individuals who are part of society and whose interests and opinions generally conform with those of the rest of the population. As repression increases, a day will come when those individuals can no longer justify to themselves the crimes they are committing against people. At that point the regime will lose its power to repress and will meet the fate it deserves. I believe that we in Egypt are approaching that day.
Alaa Al-Aswany is the author of the novels “The Yacoubian Building” and “Chicago.”
Here is an Arabic translation:
“What will you say when you go home about Saudi journalists,” Leila asks at the end of our class. Her question is a gift. Yani, kismet, too.
She is the only woman and a very smart journalist. She thinks like a journalist, looking ahead, figuring where the news, the scene, the human situation, the reality will take you next and is preparing her thinking to do so.
I’ve been thinking how to end our session and this is the perfect doorway. I want to leave them with hope and I want also to say how much some of them have moved me. Their determination to learn, to do a better job, and to make journalism more respected than it is today in Saudi Arabia.
So, I tell her that the journalists I have met in the last few days are very different from those I met nearly twenty years ago when I wandered across the Kingdom meeting journalists.
You are braver today, I say. You take on more challenges. You know more about our profession. You know our rules. You and I may come from very different cultures but we share the same professional standards. We care about what is right and true and our responsibilities as journalists.
But you tell me also that you face great challenges. Your pay is low and your training is barely enough to let you get started. You have few specialized reporters and far too many of you work part-time. Your profession doesn’t get the respect it deserves and so many do this work part-time because that is enough to do it.
You say many of your bosses often do not understand you or nurture you or know how to make you do your best. You face red lines where there are no red lines and red lines where there shouldn’t be any. You know what I mean.
I hear all of this from you and yet I’m optimistic. I see a difference. And you have no choice but to do better. No choice.
Every so often you read something in a newspaper that takes your breath away. It connects with its readers. It captures a reality they feel deep down. It moves them. It raises their eyes to a larger horizon. This is when the news media soars andwhen it is so needed and so importantly. Here is a translation of a column by Magdy al Gallad of al Masry al Youm newspaper. Read the Arabic as well.
By Magdi al-Gallad 5/ 4/ 2009
I am sympathetic with the April 6 Youth Movement in its attempts to search for a way out of the current situation in Egypt. However, I think its call for the annual strike has no big hope or feasibility.
Perhaps, this is because the change could not be achieved by an annual “Day” in which we celebrate saying “No” or perhaps because the strike will turn – year after a year – into a “repeated confrontation” between “excellent students” raising banners against the ruling regime, and “excellent young men” wearing security uniforms to arrest scores of protestors under strict orders.
The two parties are Egyptian and some of them may be living in the same home!
But I mean to call on those young people to open new windows of hope away from the regime and the government’s inactivity. This hope will never turn into fact without grouping up the young people’s ranks around a great dream to be imposed on the ruling regime!
We will clearly see this dream in lost eyes looking for inspiration to take them out of despair and alienation. It is the same dream that lives in strong arms that have not been used till now.
He started to talk about Egypt, which no longer has a single image. He surprised me and said: “I wish I could feel Egypt as my father used to tell me about.
He was speaking about it proudly. He used to say that Egypt will stay even if everything else was lost. If our dream turned into a nightmare, we will try again. My son you should know that Egypt is stronger than any force in the world. It will not be defeated either by external enemy or occupation.”
We do not know which Egypt we love. Is it Egypt that was ruled by corruption and tyranny or Egypt we see at Deweika or Egypt that is “raped” in resorts and nightclubs or Egypt that is lost in the eyes of the unemployed young people in cafes and “dens of drugs? We missed Egypt too much and we want to leave no stone unturned to turn it into the best country in the world!
How could I ask my child to study hard to be an excellent student? I studied and became an engineer, but I live at the bottom rung of society! How could I ask him to be good in a time in which everything has turned upside down and good people have become corrupt? How could I teach him values, which have no place in the age of the valueless?
They said painful words, but before leaving they said: “We want hope and a way to lead us to Egypt, which has left and hasn’t returned!”
To the Youth of April: Find this couple and start together, but from where will you start? That is the question we should both be looking to answer!
What is the price of saying what you think online? IN some countries it means prison and for some people, it means death. Here are accounts of a young Iranian blogger who the government says took his own life, and whose family says just the oppposite.
from a human rights activist in Farsi
the same report in English:
The pay is miserable. The dangers are great. Dangers from the known and the unknown, dangers from passing the red lines and the lines unseen. The material rewards are seemingly few. And the burdens – the daily burdens are endlessly exhausting, frustrating, suffocating – endlessly.
In all the world, journalists press on against terrible challenges, or challenges that are not so great. Yet challenges that others refuse to face. It’s a tormenting challenge that sometimes overcomes journalists. I was talking recently to an Egyptian journalist in Cairo who is doing incredibly important investigative work, but who was exposing herself and her family to great dangers in getting the story.
This is the problem, I suggested. You need to do your work. You need to be clear and need to give all the facts so that you are credible and you will certainly have an impact. But you need to protect yourself and others, so you can continue to do your work again and again and so those close to you, and those who reply upon you will not suffer. I cannot say that enough.
Yet sometimes the decision is not so clear or simple. Think of all of those journalists who have been silenced.
These are the last words of a Sri Lankan editor who was murdered recently – I cannot recall as profound and moving a statement from a journalist about why some of us struggle on in the name of freedom. He wrote:
“people often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted.”
And he ended his column, his last one, saying:
“Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.”
Here is the annual report from the International Federation on Journalists on the dangers and deaths faced by journalists in 2008
– الدليل الأساسي
1. يجب أن نبدأ الخبر بقصة يغلب عليها الطابع البشري. هذه القصة هي ما تربط الحقائق بالمشاعر.
ماذا عن هؤلاء الذين فقدوا مدخراتهم وخسروا أعمالهم؟ قليلة هي الأخبار التي تبدأ \ بقصص عن هؤلاء الأشخاص.
ماذا عن هؤلاء الذين فقدوا وظائفهم وتم تسريحهم؟ كيف يمكنك أن تضفي الطابع المحلي على فقدان الوظائف؟ ما هي المجتمعات الأكثر تأثراً، والصناعات، ما هو نوع العمالة – هل هم من المهنيين أم من عمال المصانع أم العاملين في مجال الخدمات؟
وماذا عن هؤلاء الذين تأجلت خططهم المهنية فجأة ودون سابق إنذار؟
إذا قمنا بزيارة إلى السوق، والمتاجر حيث يشتري الناس البضائع المختلفة، ما الذي ستعرفه عن الاقتصاد؟ هل يمكنك أن تصنع إطاراً لخبرك من خلال ذهابك إلى المكان الذي يلمس فيه الاقتصاد حياة الناس؟ كيف يمكن لزيارتك أن تختلف عما يكتبه الخبراء أو يقولونه؟
2. في الكثير من البلدان، تعتبر الأموال التي يرسلها العمال في الخارج إلى أسرهم من خلال الحوالات من العوامل الجوهرية في الاقتصاد القومي.
هل انخفض تدفق الأموال الآتية من خارج البلاد؟
من تأثر من جراء خسارة هذه الأموال؟
هل انخفض عدد الأشخاص الذين يسافرون للعمل في الخارج، وهل تغير هذا النمط؟ ما هي الفئة المقبلة على السفر؟ ولماذا؟
هل تزايد عدد الأشخاص الذي يبحثون عن فرص عمل خارج البلاد؟
إذن، يجب أن نتحدث عن واقع الأسواق ذاتها.
إلى أي درجة كانت هذه الأسواق تتمتع بالحماية اللازمة لمواجهة مثل هذه الانهيارات؟
إلى أي درجة تتوافر الشفافية حتى يتسنى للمستثمرين معرفة فيما تستثمر أموالهم، ومدى استقرار الأسواق، وكيف تعمل الأسواق اليوم في العالم العربي؟ ما هو وضع الشفافية في البورصة وبالنسبة للشركات؟
إلى أي درجة ترتبط الأزمة المالية في العالم العربي بالاستثمارات الأجنبية عالية المخاطر، والمقامرات المالية المشكوك فيها، والاعتماد على النصائح الخاطئة لمواجهة الأزمة؟
كيف تغيرت البورصات خلال العقد الماضي في العالم العربي؟ ما هي الأدوات الاستثمارية الجديدة التي بدأت الشركات والمستثمرين في استخدامها؟
ما هو الدور الذي لعبته الاستثمارات في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية وأوروبا في خلق وضع اقتصادي غير مستقر؟
ما هو تأثير الشركات الأجنبية على الاقتصاد؟
هل قامت تلك الشركات بالمساهمة في استقرار الوضع الاقتصادي؟ وكيف كان للاقتصاد أن يتعامل مع الأزمة في حالة وجود عدد أقل من الشركات الأجنبية؟
هل هناك نمط سلوكي معين متبع بين الشركات في هذا الموقف؟ بمعني، هل تقوم هذه الشركات بتحويل أنشطة أعمالها من دولة إلى أخرى؟ وما هي الإستراتيجيات التي تتبعها هذه الشركات؟
إلى أي مدى تتأثر البلدان العربية بالاقتصاد العالمي الآن؟ وأي منها الأكثر تأثراً؟
ما هو الأثر الذي ستخلفه الأزمة المالية على خطط هذه الشركات في المستقبل بالنسبة للدول العربية؟ ما هو الدور الذي يلعبه الاستثمار الأجنبي في قدرة العالم العربي على حماية نفسه؟
4. التطلع إلى المستقبل
ما الذي يعنيه الانهيار في أسعار النفط للمنطقة، ولكل دولة على حدة وللشركات والاقتصادات وعلى الصعيد السياسي؟
نحتاج إلى تفاصيل بشأن نظرة الحكومات والمستثمرين إلى المستقبل. هل كان هذا الانهيار متوقعاً؟ إذا لم تعد أسعار النفط إلى أعلى معدلاتها، ما الذي سيحدث بعد ذلك للبلدان التي تعتمد اقتصاداتها على النفط؟ ما الدور الذي سيلعبه الغاز في الاقتصادات العربية؟
وماذا عن مقارنة الإستراتيجيات المالية للدول المختلفة التي تأثرت بالأزمة الاقتصادية؟ ما هي الدول التي وفرت الحماية اللازمة لبورصاتها، وخفضت أسعار الفائدة، ودعمت البنوك؟ هل اختلفت النتائج؟
كيف تباين التأثير على الدول الفقيرة والغنية في الشرق الأوسط؟ كيف أثر ارتفاع أسعار الغذاء والوقود على البلدان الأقل ثراءً؟ ما هو التأثير الذي خلفته الأزمة على الفلاحين وأسعار الغذاء؟
هذه العناصر الخبرية يجب أن مترابطة وتتماشى مع السياق العام.
إذا شهد السوق انخفاضاً حاداً في الأسعار، كم كان هذا الانخفاض في الستة أشهر الماضية، وفي العام الماضي؟ ما هو حجم الدين العام الذي تأثر بهذه الخسائر؟
كيف تأثرت الأجور وتكاليف المعيشة وأساسيات الحياة؟ ما هي آخر الإحصائيات الخاصة بمعدلات البطالة؟ كيف تأثرت الضرائب والعوائد؟ ما هي مصادر الدخل مثل السياحة وغيرها من دعائم الاقتصاد التي تدهورت في ظل الأزمة؟
إذا لم تتمكن من الحصول على هذه الأرقام أو غيرها بسهولة من المسئولين بالحكومة، فما هي المصادر الأخرى التي تتيح مثل هذه البيانات؟ من الخبراء الأكاديميين والمنظمات الخاصة والمؤسسات البحثية والهيئات الدولية؟
ضع قائمة يمكنك الاعتماد عليها وبمواعيد التسليم الخاصة بالأخبار ومتابعتها وبالمشروعات قصيرة وطويلة الأجل؟ وبمناسبة المشروعات، ما هي الأخبار الاقتصادية التي حدثت اليوم والتي تعتقد أنه يمكنك متابعتها لمدة عام من تاريخ اليوم؟
اجعل أخبارك وتحليلاتك تتصف بالإنسانية والقوة وتتماشي مع السياق.
ما هو وجه الاختلاف بين الوقت الحاضر، وعام مضي، أو خمسة أو عشرة أعوام ماضية؟ ارسم صورة للاقتصاد من القمة إلى حيث تشتري الخبز وتملأ سياراتك بالبنزين. هل هناك علاقة بين ما يقوله مسئولو الحكومة وطريقة عمل الاقتصاد المحلي وما يعتقده المواطنون؟
استخدم الأرقام والرسومات البيانية لتحويل الأرقام إلى واقع، ومن ثم يضعها القراء في سياقها المناسب. أين يمكنك العثور على الأرقام والرسومات البيانية التي يمكنك الاستعانة بها؟