arab media 58.
(photo credit: AP)
Arab information ministers representing
22 member states of the Arab League discussed the formation of a new
transnational body to monitor Arab satellite TV stations on Sunday,
amidst calls from media freedom groups that the move would increase
censorship and limit journalistic freedom across the Middle East.
“The International Press Institute is
wary of efforts to engage in that kind of monitoring particularly
given the record of most, if not all, Arab Middle Eastern countries
on press freedom,” Anthony Mills, Press Freedom Manager with the
International Press Institute, told The Media Line. “It’s an
example of states in the Arab world using the notion of security to
in fact monitor and stifle independent reporting.”
“In particular not so long ago, there
were efforts to get Arab countries to sign on to a convention that
would in effect be a pledge to make sure that broadcasters could not
insult Heads of States or attack other states’ security,” he
The initial proposal for a
transnational media monitoring organization was launched in 2008 by
the secretary general of the Arab League, former Egyptian Foreign
Minister Amr Moussa.
“The proposal is partly a response to
a bill adopted last month by the US House of Representatives,” the
Paris-based Reporters without Borders said in a statement. “[The
bill] could result in satellite operators themselves being branded as
‘terrorist entities’ if they contract their services to TV
stations classified as ‘terrorist’ by the US Congress.”
According to Reporters without Borders
the 22-member Arab league is divided into a pro and con camp
regarding the proposal.
On the pro side are political and
economic heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia, home to the two
dominant satellite carriers NileSat and ArabSat, while on the
opposing camp is Lebanon’s Hizbullah-affiliated Al-Manar, which
would likely be scrutinized by the new organization, as would
Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. Al-Aqsa, a Hamas station broadcast from the
Gaza Strip and viewed as a terrorist organization by the US, also
might be targeted.
Professor Hussein Amin, head of the
department of Journalism and Mass Communications at the American
University in Cairo and one of the organizers of the ministerial
meeting, told The Media Line that the “meeting is taking place
behind closed doors.”
As yet, he said, there is “no
information” regarding the outcome.