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Arabsats—the Debate

The Arab 24-hour news satellite channels have come in for both strong condemnation and extravagant praise since the first of them, Al Jazeera, launched in 1996. Whatever their opinion of their methods and positions however, few would disagree that they constitute the most important phenomenon in Arab media for many years. TBS marshals here four perspectives on these channels. In The Political Impact of Arab Satellite Television On the Post-Iraq War Arab World, Hisham Sharabi writes that the Arabsats have played a crucial, and positive, role in "the beginning of the collapse of the Arab political order." On the other hand, Abdel Moneim Saeed, who reviews Al Jazeera's history up to and including the Afghanistan war in The Arabsats—Some Necessary Observations, believes that the latter, and Arabsats in general, have sought to substitute themselves for the sort of institutions that are needed if real democracy is to develop and in doing so have given a last-minute "kiss of life" to moribund regimes. Marc Lynch takes a middle-of-the-road, and US-based, perspective, arguing in Taking Arabs Seriously that the Arabsats have become a mouthpiece for "the consensus of elite and middle-class public opinion" in the Arab World that the administration may ignore only at its peril. Finally, Salih Al-Kallab speaks of the experience of the Arab satellite channels in Iraq and defends their record there in The Arab Satellites—the Pros and Cons.

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