Al Jazeera: A ‘tragedy’ for Arab media amid soft power failure

Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.
Updated 05 April 2018

Al Jazeera: A ‘tragedy’ for Arab media amid soft power failure

  • Hopes were high for Al Jazeera when it was launched in 1996
  • Al Jazeera has become a “mouthpiece” for terrorists, says academic

Dubai: Al Jazeera’s “ideological” stance has been a “huge tragedy” for the Arab media industry, which has failed to bring the real Arab perspective to the world stage, a leading academic has said.
Hopes were high for Al Jazeera when it was launched in 1996, but the Qatar-based network has become a “mouthpiece” for terrorists and pursues an “ideological agenda,” said Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.
This has caused “tremendous damage” to the media industry as a whole, the academic said on the sidelines of the Arab Media Forum in Dubai.
“In the 1990s when Al Jazeera started, it was one of the most promising media institutions in the Arab world,” Gerges told Arab News.
“Sadly and tragically after 9/11, Al Jazeera became … a mouthpiece of Osama bin Laden.”
The academic said that the TV network had failed to become a credible media institution or source of information.
“Al Jazeera has sacrificed its institutional rubric on the altar of its ideological agenda,” he said. 
“What has happened to Al Jazeera is a huge tragedy for the Arab media … It is no longer seen by large constituencies of the Arab world as a media forum.
“You turn on Al Jazeera because you agree with Al Jazeera. It has become more and more ideologically tilted toward certain perspectives.”
Gerges said that Al Jazeera and other Arab media institutions had failed in their “soft power” push.
“We had thought that Al Jazeera could really be an institution that makes a huge difference to raise public awareness of the Arab world in terms of democracy, information and debate,” he said. 
“Sadly and tragically, particularly in the past 10 years, Al Jazeera has really done tremendous damage.”
The academic had hope, however, that journalists at media organizations across the region could help portray a real view of the Arab world.
“Arab media has failed to develop soft power influences (on) world public opinion … We have failed to put the Arab agendas, the Arab perspectives on the international stage,” he said. 
“Every journalist, every correspondent, every media person must understand that he or she has a moral professional responsibility not to simplify, not to distort, not to exaggerate.”
Al Jazeera did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.


‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News takes a Deep Dive into Saudi history with a multimedia look at the siege of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Updated 19 November 2019

‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News takes a Deep Dive into Saudi history with a multimedia look at the siege of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

  • Featuring interviews with key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s English-language newspaper tells the full story of the unthinkable event that cast a shadow over its society for decades
  • As part of its Deep Dive series online, featuring documentary-style multimedia stories, Arab News looks back at this event in a way no Saudi publication has done before

Forty years ago this week, on Nov. 20, 1979, a group of militants did the unthinkable: They seized the Grand Mosque in Makkah, taking people hostage inside in a two-week standoff with Saudi forces.

Until recently, the crisis remained too painful for Saudis to examine fully for almost four decades. Now Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English-language daily, is looking back at the event in a way that no publication in the Kingdom has done before: with a multimedia Deep Dive story online at arabnews.com/juhayman-40-years-on.

“The 1979 attack on Makkah’s  Grand Mosque halted major social development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, negatively affecting a progressing nation for generations to come,” said Rawan Radwan, the lead reporter on the project, who is based in Jeddah. “At Arab News, we delved deep into the matter to uncover the story of Juhayman, the terrorist who seized the holiest site and shook the Islamic world. It’s a story that for many years struck fear in the hearts of the Saudi people, yet has not been covered in such depth in local or international media — until now.”

Arab News launched its Deep Dive series earlier this year as an engaging new way to showcase its in-depth storytelling on key topics, enlivened by audio, video and animated graphics. Its first story was an in-depth account of the space mission by the first Arab astronaut, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman; the siege of Makkah is another story from the Kingdom’s past that it chose to revisit.

Extensive research was conducted over two months in several cities, including Makkah itself, and involved teams in five of Arab News’ bureaus: Jeddah, Riyadh, Dubai, London and Beirut. The team interviewed key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, then head of the General Intelligence Directorate, and re-created what happened in a series of interactive maps.

 

Juhayman: 40 years on
On the anniversary of the 1979 attack on Makkah's Grand Mosque, Arab News tells the full story of an unthinkable event that shocked the Islamic world and cast a shadow over Saudi society for decades
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