Sunday, March 06, 2011

The state of journalism in the GCC

Mideastposts praises a recent editorial in The Peninsula, a Qatari newspaper:
In a ground-breaking newspaper editorial, the Qatar Peninsula is pointing to a giant elephant in the room – despite the high praise for its flagship Al-Jazeera news outlet, the local press in Doha doesn’t do a very good job.

In the masthead editorial entitled “A crippled fourth estate,” the paper writes that the timid local press results from a combination of weak legal protections for journalists, self-censorship from top editors who favor job security over good journalism, and the media’s tangled web of loyalties to big businesses and the government.

Such a description could equally apply to most press outlets in the GCC.
The entire Peninsula editorial should be read to understand the breadth of issues. Here's a part from the concluding paragraphs:
The Al Jazeera network is often cited as an example of free media in Qatar. But, of late, the famous TV station has been at the receiving end on Qatari social networking sites. It is being criticised for focusing too much on the outside world and ignoring the very country of its birth — Qatar.

Critics say there are enough areas in Qatar which require media attention. From delays in holding parliamentary elections to loopholes in the public health and educations sectors, there are issues that need to be raised. Then there are cases involving official corruption being heard by Qatari courts.

Al Jazeera is at the receiving end also because of what viewers in the country claim is its “poor” coverage of public protests in neighbouring Bahrain and Oman. Some say they are “perplexed” by the unevenness of the channel’s coverage — it is zealous in some countries and uninspiring in others.

According to analysts, the problem in this part of the world is that people like to have democracy in their midst but at the same time they abhor criticism. Free expression being an indispensable feature of a democratic polity, it is thus hard to see a democracy at work without people being allowed freedom of speech.

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