BBC Monitoring[Editorial: "The Muzzling of Satellite Television Channels and Incrimination of Their Employees"]
The Arab media, namely satellite television channels, are threatened with losing the limited margin of freedom that they enjoyed in the past few years. This comes after a resolution passed by the Arab information ministers at their emergency meeting in Cairo yesterday to impose new and stringent restrictions on political programmes in particular.
The authors of the new regulation who call themselves media experts in the Arab governments enveloped this regulation with glossy terms, such as banning the encouragement of depravity and refraining from offending God, religious symbols and confessions, and God's messengers. However, it is obvious that this amounts to putting poison into honey. The primary aim is to muzzle Arab voices that demand freedoms, respect for human rights, fair and direct elections, just and independent judiciary, and fair distribut! ion of wealth.
Licentious satellite television channels are spreading like smallpox in the face of the Arab media. They ruin the minds of the new generations, spread depravity, and arouse instincts. Most of these channels are funded by the states that adopt the new media regulation or by businessmen close to them.
We do not believe that these channels will face any restrictions or harassment in the future because they operate in the framework of a policy, which is well studied by corrupt Arab regimes. These regimes seek to divert the attention away from their corruption, dictatorship, repression, and failure to perform their national and religious duties in liberating the land, by launching more of these channels.
The seriousness of this document lies not in muzzling the media, satellite television channels in particular, but in incriminating these channels and their workers and punishing them by withdrawing their licenses and banning them from continuing ! their operation.
The satellite channels that are targeted by the new regulation are well known and few, such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Manar, and Al-Hiwar, which follow a national line and give room to counter opinion, which ruling regimes' channels seek to obscure and confiscate.
The Arab interior ministers adopted this document and laid down its broad lines at their latest meeting in Tunis when they endorsed a resolution to incriminate the incitement to terrorism and promotion of terrorist material. However, they introduced no clear definition of this terrorism and did not state the difference between terrorism and resistance. What one regime considers resistance is regarded as terrorism by another regime.
Things have been terribly confused, while the Arab information ministers became subordinate to the interior ministers. They carry out the interior ministers' resolutions and recommendations to wage war on the freedom of the media and track down journalists who believe in the development of their countries, respect for human right! s, confrontation of corruption, and expansion of the scope of power sharing on the basis of democratic representation.
The Arab interior ministers' priority is to determine how to keep the existing regimes of repression in place by using torture and protecting corruption and the corrupt ones. The Arab information ministers' job is to falsify facts and beautify the muddy face of these regimes through backward media bodies that see media in one colour and consider them as a trumpet to promote rulers.
We support adherence to Arab and Islamic values and ethics. These values promote equality and justice, call for punishing corrupters and plunderers of public funds, and encourage restoration of the usurped rights. However, it seems that the Arab regimes' information and interior ministers see these values exactly the opposite way.
Because of these regimes and their ministers, our Arab region lives in a state of backwardness, ignorance, illiteracy, and corruption! that has no parallel in any other part of the world.
Democracy and waves of progress reached states and banana republics in Latin America, states of the former Socialist bloc, southeastern Asia, and all parts of the world, except our region whose countries continue to hold the highest international ranks in corruption, suppression, dictatorship, and backwardness in all spheres.
Source: Al-Quds al-Arabi website, London, in Arabic 13 Feb 08