Worldfocus’ Mohammad al-Kassim writes about bias in the Arab media’s depiction of events in Iran.
The post-presidential election demonstrations in Iran have been closely monitored by U.S. and Western media outlets, and the coverage is sympathetic with the reform movement.
But the coverage in the Middle East — especially the Gulf region — is conflicted.
Middle Eastern news outlets’ coverage of the events in Iran generally reflects the political ideology of the companies’ owners.
The Arabic-language satellite channel Al Jazeera, which is owned by the Qatari government, is the most influential channel in the Arab world — with an average of 45 million daily viewers. Al Jazeera continues to operate from Iran because of its favorable coverage of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Qatari government is Iran’s only ally in the Gulf.
Al Jazeera’s main rival satellite channel is Al Arabiya, which is based in Dubai and partly owned by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Al Arabiya has been very aggressive in its coverage of events in Iran, which led to its ban on reporting from there and the closing of its offices by the Iranian government
In Lebanon, the pro-Iran Hezbollah news web site Al-Manar is clearly in support of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government. On its website, it reported on remarks made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during which the Iranian supreme spiritual leader said that the protesters were a tool of the West and that opposition leaders were responsible for Iran’s problems.
Al-Manar also reported positively on the tens of thousands of government supporters who turned out for state-sponsored rallies.
Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic newspaper based in London, reported that Iran’s Foreign Minister said yesterday that if Britain doesn’t stop its support of the demonstrators, “it will be slapped on the mouth.”
That quote was the paper’s headline.
We can expect more of the same in the coming months, as Arab media organizations vie for political influence.
– Mohamad al-Kassim