From a Catalyst of Freedom, to an Element of Destruction

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Tue 6 June / Jun 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

The consecutive Arab crises and calamities have destroyed our media’s integrity.

Newspapers, satellite channels, and websites even, most of them have lost all sense of objectivity and independence.

Arab media has been reduced to mere travesty under the pressures and threats of suppression and censorship.

In general, Arab media has neither the space it needs to generate independent, objective news, nor the protection to do its duties, which are the mass communication of facts, and the quest for truth.

Whatever hope there was for the private sector media to give rise to an independent news and media agency is nearly gone now.

The hope was for the Arab peoples to break free from the confinements of the official Arab rhetoric, gain access to real, objective information and facts.

All these hopes for a professional media sector in this part of the world are obliterated today, by the fact that Arab authorities habitually overlap and restrain their work.

In the late 1990’s and early into the dawn of the 21st century, there was hope on the horizon, that media will finally break free.

The degree of freedom extended to the press and media was unprecedented to the point that we thought that there were no more constraints on the dynamics of the modern day media industry.

We all thought; with the spread of social media and the phenomenon of the Citizen Journalist, a prime catalyst in the ‘Arab Spring’, that the world of media, all its shackles gone, has changed for good!

However, things have gradually begun to change back to the way they were.

Instead of moving forward from there, we have actually begun to move backwards.

We have taken a completely opposite trajectory from the expected launch towards the unbound potential of the media.

Especially since the break out of the ‘Arab spring’ and the resurgence of counter-revolutionary currents, which have recaptured the media and reinforced various restraints on its operations.

The neo-conservative forces which have retaken power have tightened the noose around the media’s neck, both official and unofficial.

Systematic extortion of the media, by blackmailing private equity holders, has become characteristic of these powers’ governance of the public and media sphere.

Now, the explosion of domestic and civil Arab dispute, most recently the Gulf crisis, left very little room, if any, for professionalism and objectivity in Arab media.

Credibility is out of the window, and there no more freedom for the press.

Meanwhile, whatever space there is for the generation of credible, private media, in the vacuum of credibility in the official Arab media, is also shrinking.

It has become so bad, that private-equity media has become even more destructive than the official media itself.

In an earlier stage, under dictatorship, the media were allowed an extent of freedom, a fuming space for the masses, in this new era of technology and communication.

However, opposition today is prohibited; there remains no space for opposing views in the general sphere of the medial.

Nothing which contradicts with the official political direction is allowed to breath even, in the virtual world, let alone the real world.

The entirety of the media sphere these days, official or private, is encompassed by the same rhetoric and narrative of the authorities.

Either that, or hostility, incitation, and discredited reports, and tones which are disgustingly biased.

Media in our world has become propaganda; the thin line which overlaps the two different dynamics, with different purposes, given the use of the same tools, has blurred.

The industry has become fully integrated into the catastrophic, destructive, pan-Arab dynamics of the region.

Even social media, which at some point gave the masses an alternative to the deterioration of conventional media, has fallen under the same spell.

Authorities now employ and aggregate artificial virtual currents via the internet, centred around virtual proponent activists who fight the state’s virtual battles on their behalf.

These currents virtually amplify the same official media rhetoric via social media.

They attack opposition or rival groups, using mostly insult and defamation as a means for character assassination, on the side of infiltrating and hacking social media accounts.

Typically, this sort of trend gives rise to no less dangerous, and grotesque forms of media starts whose only talent is insult and loudness.

In the midst of this senselessness real, respectable journalist and media professionals are excluded from the scene, dulled out, or ousted.

They either detach themselves from the lowly indignity of the modern day media dynamics, or they are systemically marginalised.

As a result, the rise of undignified media, and stardom of its pioneers, has deformed the very organism and face of the industry.

Press and media has in the overall fallen from being a means of leverage for freedom and the alleviation of the intensities of the ‘Arab Spring’ aftermath, to merely an element of destruction.

Governments do not deal with media which do not convey its own views with zeal and dedication.

In the meantime, the private-equity media sector has not the tools to safeguard its autonomy.

There are no respectable traditions or customs for the media industry, nor laws to protect its integrity and professionalism from the unfolding destruction.

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.