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Arab Media versus the Iraqi Elections


Most Arab media did not have good things to say about the Iraqi elections, reports Adel Darwish

The pebble of the high turnout in the Iraqi poll Sunday created stormy waves in the pond of authoritarian Arab regimes. Government controlled media, especially in secular autocracies, reacted with hostility to the election. 'The Tragedy of the Iraqi election,' shouted the editor of Al-Arab, London based pan-Arab Colonel Gaddafi backed daily, ' [ President George] Bush's insistence on holding the election aimed at creating sectarian strife through splitting the Iraqis,' declared the editorial of the paper that supported Saddam Hussein in his last three wars, with Iran, Kuwait and his last one, citing 'closing down the al-Jazeera bureau in Baghdad ,' as an example of barring news organisations from reporting what really took place in Iraq. Meanwhile al-Jazeera itself, which is received in all parts of Iraq, basked in the violence in parts of Iraq 'clashes between insurgents and Iraqi security in Basra...two US marines killed in Al-Anbar, 15 British soldiered in air-crash [ they later aired a film claiming the insurgents shot it down, without checking with a single aviation or air-defence expert]……Thousands[ of Israelis] demonstrate against [ Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza ,' were the repeated headlines on the hour in the Qatar based network.

The London based Palestinian radical daily Al-Quds asked 'What kind of democracy is it that American President Bush is applauding while electorates don't even know the names of candidates and the international observers are observing it 1500 miles away in the Jordanian capital Amman?.'The editor of the paper, which has been consistent in its support for Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden's war against America and her allies, said the election was rigged: 'they [ Iraqi interim government] started falsifying the figures of participation even before the polls were closed.' The paper predicted that the elected Iraqi government was 'politically dead.'

Paradoxically, the view was shared by papers which have been bitter enemies of al-Quds. ‘ Democracy is not occupation and blood shed,’ declared Cairo Daily al-Goumhouriya, which normally takes its green light from the Pro Washington Egyptian Government, ' the terrifying future of the Iraqi experience affirm that foreign intervention and occupation of other countries are not compatible with any reform in the region.' The paper predicted that America's plans for the Greater Middle East reform were doomed to fail.

Its sister al-Akhbar, also pro-President Hosni Mubarak's government, said America has isolated itself from the rest of the world which the paper said was engaged in 'international issues' while America was preoccupied with a 'minor' issue like democracy. US democracy, said the papers'’ leader, was just a 'rotten commodity which the USA was trying to market worldwide with the aim of serving its goals.'

Another paradox was that Shia owned, or pro-Shia and pro Iran papers, who traditionally opposed American policy, applauded the Iraqi election as a democratic turning point in Iraq. 'Iraqis succeeded in conducting their elections amidst an extraordinary situation filled with worries,'said the Sharjah ( UAE) daily Al-Khalij which is owned by a Shia merchant family.

A headline in the Pan Arab Liberal London Daily Asharq al-Awsat summarised the view held by a sizeable minority pf liberal media outlets in Egypt, Lebanon and North Africa: 'Iraqis voted for Iraq.'

Adel Darwish
Reporter, Author and Broadcaster

Adel Darwish is a veteran Middle East commentator who reported from and on Iraq for many years, and is author of several books. He is on the editorial board of MidEastWeb.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000328.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 1 Comment

"What kind of democracy is it that American President Bush is applauding while electorates don't even know the names of candidates and the international observers are observing it 1500 miles away in the Jordanian capital Amman"

This is a very good point. To further explain 'the other side' - which is the goal of mideast dialogue - we should listen to what they have to say. Don't discredit the above statement by saying the author is pro-Hussein etc. Ask the important questions: Why is he pro-Hussein? What does pro-Hussein mean? What does anti-democracy mean?
For example, according to Bush my opposition to the war would make me pro-Hussein. But is that a fair assumption? NO!

Posted by Erez @ 02/13/2005 11:58 PM CST

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