A panel discussion sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Arab Studies Journal, Georgetown University, Jan. 24, 2002. The transcript is published here with the kind permission and assistance of CCAS.
Moderated by Michael Hudson, Professor of Arab Studies and International Relations, Georgetown University.
Marvin Kalb, Executive Director, Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy
Hafez Al-Mirazi, Al-Jazeera Washington bureau chief
Rami G. Khouri, Internationally Syndicated Columnist and Nieman Fellow, Harvard University
Jacques Charmelot, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, Agence France-Presse
[Editor's note: The session tapes and thus this transcript begin partway through Marvin Kalb's presentation. Mr. Kalb is the executive director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy. He is a former chief diplomatic correspondent for CBS News and NBC News, and a former moderator of NBC's Meet the Press.]
Marvin Kalb: At a certain point in the very beginning of the coverage of this war, the American press corps was kept totally away from the operation in Afghanistan. When the US began the military operations in early November, the Pentagon allowed a limited number of reporters to go along on certain operations that they, the Pentagon, controlled. When it was clear that the Taliban government regime was being defeated, it became more difficult for the Pentagon to control the press corps, and many, many reporters began to go with the Northern Alliance forces into Kabul and then later into Kandahar and began to report pretty much as they should have from the very beginning, if the circumstances allowed them to go in—and many times the circumstances did not allow them to go in. There was a time in the middle and at the end of November when it was almost customary for the American press corps to belittle the American military effort in Afghanistan, to put out stories saying that the US is involved in another quagmire similar to Vietnam. Two or three days after cascading stories of this sort, the Taliban regime was finished, the al-Qaeda network had been dispersed but not destroyed, and then you began to see a lot of stories about the great success of the American military operation, and we were moving into the next phase, which is pretty much where we are today.
What we are seeing, basically, is two rights in collision. It is the right and the responsibility of the Pentagon to protect its military operations, and not to provide information to the American public that it feels the public should not have at that time. That is their judgment, their professional judgment, and it is my belief that they have not only the right but as I said the responsibility to do exactly what it is that they have been trying to do. It is also the right and the responsibility of the press corps to find out as much about the military operation as it can, and then each journalist has to ask himself or herself whether, in possession of information that could end up harming American soldiers, those reporters should go forward and actually report that information. But it is not for the government to stop them; it is for themselves to stop them, if they believe that kind of information could or would be injurious to American forces. So in this collision of two rights, no one can end up being the victor, and no one can end up being the one who is proven to be correct and the other is wrong—neither side is wrong. On the journalists' side you can have lousy reporting, and there's a lot of that, but there's also some terrific reporting. I've spent the last two or three weeks reading side by side from November 8th and 9th right through to December 15th what was going on in the Washington Post and what was going on in the New York Times, and I can only say, not as a newspaper man but as a television guy, reading this stuff, there was first-class journalism. On the television side, and on the radio side with NPR, there was also a lot of very good reporting, but I have a feeling it could have been better. But that's my view sitting here; I was not covering this war, the other reporters were, and I have a feeling that overall I would not be here to criticize them but rather to say my hat's off to them for doing as good a job as they could under the circumstances. Thank you.
Hudson: Thank you very much. We now turn to Hafez Al-Mirazi. Mr. Al-Mirazi is the bureau chief of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel here in Washington, he is a veteran journalist with lots of experience in the Middle East and lots of experience in the United States as well. He has been a correspondent for the BBC World Service Arabic service, he's been a talk show host on the Arab News Network, based in Washington, he was a writer and editor and broadcaster for the Voice of America for a number of years, from 1985 to 1997, and was also for a time a news broadcaster for the Voice of the Arabs on Cairo radio. He has a master's degree in World Politics from our friends at Catholic University across town, and his BA is in political science from Cairo University. The floor is yours.
Al-Mirazi: Thank you, Dr. Hudson, and thank you for inviting me. I took one of my graduate courses here at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, and am grateful for this invitation. I don't really have much to say except maybe to make some observations that may open the door for question-and-answer later. But I will start with some remarks that Dr. Hudson also started with comparing how the networks put the flags and put the war as an American war against the "evildoers," and Al-Jazeera calling that war "the first war of the century," and actually we adopted the term from President Bush, who called it the first war of the century. The first thing is that we are actually just repeating the American terminology. Bin Laden's picture in the background is with President Bush, there's both of them, so we've tried to keep the balance. Keeping the balance and covering the story from both sides is the main motto of Al-Jazeera, and also the main source of problems and controversy for Al-Jazeera, whether in the Arab world and the Middle East or as we witnessed here in our coverage of that war. Al-Jazeera had many problems and many critics in the Arab world at the beginning, accusing Al-Jazeera of trying to drive a wedge between the Arab peoples and the governments, because of the kind of coverage, the kind of discussions in our talk shows.
Al-Jazeera, as many of you might know, started just five years ago. It is modeled after the BBC example, in which it's a public corporation, receiving funds from the state of Qatar; however, it has its own independent board of directors. It was hoped at the beginning that in five years we would start to break even and rely mainly on commercials and advertisements; that did not happen. Part of the reason for that is the pressure or intimidation on advertisers from their own governments.
In our coverage of this current war we witnessed, I believe, two confusions or two kinds of messages. The first one, on the American media side, is mixing patriotism with journalism. Al-Jazeera never said "we," as compared to the American media and the American anchors when they covered the war, saying "we" moved from that place to the other. We did not put any Arab or Afghani flag with our anchors. We felt there is an Arab perspective and an Islamic perspective in covering that war. The main thing is that we distinguished between the condemnation of what happened on September 11, that is, a terrorist attack, and nobody actually appeared on Al-Jazeera and said anything else—except bin Laden; we aired his tapes and we believe this is his right and the right of the other side in any conflict to be heard, and I believe had bin Laden been caught today or captured at any moment he would be given that chance to speak out and express his views in a court of law, if he is captured alive.
The other mixture is confusing the message with the messenger, and this is what happened with Al-Jazeera when we played bin Laden tapes or we gave a chance at the beginning of the war for people from the Taliban to express their point of view or to counter the US argument against them. Al-Jazeera has been partly vilified for that reason. Many people asked why Al-Jazeera was favored by Taliban or bin Laden to be their favorite choice or their favorite channel, and we always explain that Al-Jazeera has been in Kabul for two years, before the beginning of that war, before the beginning of the whole crisis. At that time CNN itself was offered to be there, to have a license to operate, and they declined for their own economic reasons or because there was nothing in Afghanistan at that time except Afghanis killing Afghanis, civil war in a Muslim country in an obscure place, bin Laden hadn't gained that much prominence and he was not in Kabul, in the capital. Al-Jazeera accepted that, and because of the coverage of Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera being there in Kabul two years ago, we did cover things that really made the Taliban a pariah in the international community before September 11, which is the filming of the demolition of the ancient statues over there in Afghanistan. It was Al-Jazeera's exclusive footage and taping of that event that really turned the majority of the international community against the rule of the Taliban. Later on, whatever access our correspondent had at that time, he put it out.
The problem on the American side is that they did not like the ten percent of the coverage of Al-Jazeera because the other side has already been vilified, it's a message of hatred, and we don't want to hear that message. And actually that argument we did not buy, and we considered that this is something we have to put. We were saying that there is no moral equivalency, of course, between both sides, although it is not up to us to judge. We were not dividing fifty-fifty coverage. Al-Jazeera has been putting out five to six hours during the crisis of live coverage from Washington to cover all kinds of spins, as you'd call it in Washington—live coverage of news conferences by President Bush, by Secretary Rumsfeld, by Secretary Powell, interrupting our daily programs to put it out. And every maybe two or three weeks you'd get a tape of ten to twenty minutes from bin Laden or al-Qaeda and you put it out, and then everybody will forget about Al-Jazeera and just remember one thing: that this is the channel that is bringing bin Laden to them. At the beginning the US media and the networks did carry, even some of them like ABC and CNN, they carried the first tape of bin Laden live with us on October 7, and there was no problem until they were summoned by the White House and were told that at best that would be propaganda, at worst there must be coded messages in his speech, and they shouldn't put that out to the American audience.
Unfortunately I believe that the executives of most networks did abide by that, and they didn't even make a sincere summary of these tapes to put it out for their own public without using bin Laden's gestures and all of that stuff. We didn't see, and nobody made a case for us, that there were any security or coded messages in them. We thought, and I believe until now, that nobody made an argument for any coded messages. And the idea of coded messages came out from the same National Security where Ollie North used to use coded messages to communicate with the ayatollahs during Iran Contra. We don't think that bin Laden needed messages, we don't think that if there are any sleeper cells within the US that they would wait for messages for them to bring harm to this country. We considered it could be perceived as propaganda, fine, but some of what we broadcast from the US side was perceived as propaganda also for that audience. So the self-censorship that we felt in the American media made Al-Jazeera's case; we had a chance to carry one side of the story and of course we have the other side of the story from Washington, but they made it very difficult and put us in a defensive position, just because they opted not to put both sides of the story as credible journalists. In that regard I think it is not only that the Pentagon deprived them of the chance to roam around, but I believe they took that on their own initiative.
Another example of that was the civilian casualties out of Afghanistan because of the US bombing in Afghanistan. Some networks, when they were offered the footage of Al-Jazeera of the civilian casualties because of the US bombings, the chairman of the network wrote a memo that was leaked to the press asking all anchors in that US network, and correspondents, to be careful about putting this kind of civilian casualties that could be a propaganda from the Taliban, to remind your audience always, if you use some of it, that we lost our own civilians, and thousands of them, in New York and Washington—as if two wrongs could make a right, or you'll accept it as the other side of the coin if the terrorists did that to your civilians. I don't think that would be a good argument to make. The US started to do what they would call "public diplomacy" or the propaganda war, and I believe the main propaganda war that the US won was the domestic one, as Mr. Kalb explained very eloquently, how the Pentagon managed, really, to control partly the coverage of the Gulf War in 1991 and then mastered the coverage of the Afghan war this time. I believe the propaganda war has been won mainly domestically. And even the bin Laden tape that was being verified and considered only a message of hatred, we found that the Pentagon and the US government itself, that accused Al-Jazeera of putting that out and warned the networks not to put any bin Laden tapes out, they themselves came out with big propaganda and big news coverage, and put out a bin Laden tape that had nothing but hatred, that really insulted people, that offended the feelings of many of the victims, just to score some political points, although the audience didn't need to see any more evidence for a war that they almost finished in December. What was the need to interpret into English a tape that, if it had some value, would be in Arabic for the Arab audience if you feel that they are not convinced that bin Laden did it or had knowledge of it? On the contrary we found that the tape of bin Laden was played mainly domestically at first with subtitles in English and later on was given with Arabic subtitles to the Arab media and the international media. I believe the propaganda war was first targeted to be for the US, and to win the will of the people in order to benefit from the lesson of Vietnam, to make sure they would support this kind of war. Then we would have a media that really got used to being pro-government, to receiving the government line, and mixing patriotism with journalism.
Finally I would say some people wrote against Al-Jazeera editorials that really looked like the same editorials that others wrote against Al-Jazeera in government-owned Arabic newspapers, accusing Al-Jazeera of being a surrogate for radicals or being a plot or a conspiracy against their own people. Some Arab cartoonists put Al-Jazeera anchors with the King David star over their heads, saying that this is an Israeli ploy in order to divide the Arabs. At that time Al-Jazeera was covering Arab opposition vs. government debate. Because of that coverage the Israelis put Al-Jazeera on their own cable, which is very rare to find in the Arab world. Most of our satellite stations are just that, through satellite dishes, but not through cable. The Israelis made that bold decision, and we give them credit for that, and put us on their cable to reach the Arab Israelis. Prime Mininster Barak reached out to Al-Jazeera to give him an interview during the last days of his campaign, because he wanted to reach out to the Arab Israeli voters at that time. And at that time Al-Jazeera was "nice" and most of the American media coverage positive, including the 60 Minutes piece that called Al-Jazeera "the tiny station with the big mouth," which aired about eight months before Sept. 11. That was a very positive one. My sense is that at that time we were only bothering Arab governments.
Then came the Intifada, the uprising, and the Israeli government did not feel comfortable with that. I believe during the last three weeks we heard controversy about the communication minister in Israel reconsidering the decision of putting Al-Jazeera on their own cable, of taking it out. So far they did not do that. But the Israelis started to put their own negative spin on Al-Jazeera. And come Sept. 11 or Oct. 7, we got our share from the American media. Ironically enough, a specific writer who put a piece in the Washington Post against Al-Jazeera, accusing us of anti-Americanism, was the same one who put in an Arabic daily newspaper in Egypt a piece about Al-Jazeera two years ago accusing us of being pro-Israel and pro-American. I believe there is a problem with this, and until we get people who for academic and objective purposes do a content analysis, a real one, of what we air on both sides, to decide whether Al-Jazeera really sticks to their motto of covering both sides of the story—until we get that we'll still hear these kind of people. Thank you.
Hudson: Thank you very much. Rami Khouri is one of the most distinguished and influential columnists writing in the Arab world. He's based in Jordan. He is currently a fellow at Harvard University in the Neiman fellows program for journalists, and that has made it easier for him to be with us today. His column is internationally syndicated, he is also a TV personality in Jordan and runs a very fine program on Jordanian television called "Encounter." He is the co-owner of a publishing house in Jordan. In addition to his news interests he has a passion for classical archaeology. He was editor in chief of the Jordan Times for a number of years, he comments frequently on the international electronic media outlets as well. Most important, he is the chief umpire for Little League baseball in Jordan. The only bad thing I can say about him is that he has a degree from Syracuse University and is quite fanatical when it comes to the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry in basketball. The floor is yours.
Rami Khouri: Thank you very much. I came here having been guaranteed security protection for being a Syracuse fan by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. I was hoping they could postpone the seminar until the 27th, so I could be here for the 28th game, Syracuse-Georgetown, but we'll have to do it next year. I'm grateful for the invitation, and very happy to be here. I would like to give you a perspective from somebody who has worked and who still works basically for the Arab and the Western media. All my professional life I've worked in the Arab world but always in English, and I've written for the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, and op-eds appear in the New York Times, and I've worked for the Financial Times. All my life has been in both media, in the Middle East—the Jordan Times, TV, the Daily Star—and in the western world, and I think I have a pretty good view of both of them, and I follow both, especially the electronic media. Sitting in Amman I can watch American and Middle Eastern media, and here as well. So what I'd like to do is try to give you a perspective from my bicultural situation, where I work in both media and look at both media, and know the people and the personalities and the contexts of both media.
I think the first thing I would say is there's a general tendency—there has been for many years and it's been accentuated by the situation now with this conflict—to go to maximalist superlative absolutes when looking at these things, that this is good and this is bad, this is right and this is wrong, this is fair and this is biased. I think that is untenable because it's inaccurate, and in this case I think the reality is much more complex. In the Arab mass media, especially the new wave of satellite television, Al-Jazeera is the one that's gotten the most attention, and I think unjustifiably. Hafez is right; I remember a year ago people were writing columns in the American media saying, look at Al-Jazeera, it's a great thing and it's going to change the Arab world. That was exaggerated nonsense, and now when people blame Al-Jazeera as the epitome of evil that's also exaggerated nonsense. So I think the reality in both cases in the performance of the Arab media and the western media is a much more complex one in which you have some really outstanding professional performances by people and institutions on both sides, and you have some really junk journalism and gutter ideologies and low-grade morality and distorted professionalism and some of the worst things you can think of happening on both sides. I'll try to explain that with comments on both sides.
I think when we look at the situation with the war, we can really look at the American mass media, and you do have a difference between the electronic and the print; I think the quality print has done a better job, as Marvin said, I think that's true. Generally there's a commonality among all of the mass media in the US, broadly speaking. Then you have the Arab media, and I would put them all together, the state-run ones and the satellite ones and the freelance ones. The Arab media have covered this media in a certain way. And then you have a third party-other media, mainly the Europeans are the ones that I think have been the most balanced and the most fair. But I'm going to talk about the Arab media and the US media, and when I talk about the Arab media again I said Al-Jazeera should not be singled out. It was singled out because of the bin Laden tapes, basically, but even before when people were praising it as a great opening of democracy and free thinking and all that in the Arab world, there were actually many others that were doing it. Orbit was doing it, and MBC, and even to some extent state-owned television stations were starting to provide debate about issues that had been taboo. So I think it wasn't fair to only single out Al-Jazeera, although Al-Jazeera was the most dramatic, clearly. It was the one that took this process of opening up the media and debating contentious issues and ran with it the fastest, and that's why it got the most publicity in the West.
Both of these media, the Arab and the US media, in the end reflect their societies. They reflect their political culture, they reflect their value system, and they reflect the ideological and commercial interests that tend to drive media anywhere. When we talk about the media we're also talking about the societies from which these media emerge. I would say that if you look at the US media and coverage of the war, I have seen a very impressive range of coverage, analysis, debate, opinion in some quarters of the mass media—some of it has been absolutely astounding and very impressive. As somebody who went to journalism school in the United States, I think that some of the stuff we've seen, especially on NPR, PBS, the major newspapers in the country, you've seen the finest standards of depth, of analysis, of balance, of fairness, of debate, of giving the other view. Some of the American media have done a tremendous professional service to the people and have lived up to the finest standards of this country, and I think that needs to be pointed out.
But that's only some of the media; I think that the majority tone that I see in the American media is less impressive, because the coverage has tended to be very emotional—and emotions are normal, it's normal to be emotional, but when the press becomes very emotional I have problems, I think the press needs to control its emotionalism. It's become extremely patriotic to the point of being jingoistic sometimes, and I think this is a serious problem, but again it's a normal human reaction. It's normal for people to react in situations like this, but I think the patriotism, the flag-waving that has been done in the context of what is supposed to be news reporting I think has been very problematic. When you have people on cable TV—I won't mention names—talking about "the bad guys," I have a problem with that. They are the bad guys; people who commit terrorism are more than bad guys, they're criminal, immoral people who commit unconscionable acts. But when the news media covers these people I think it needs to use more careful and measured language. The American media I find has been engaged in a lot of sloganeering, easy, simple phrases. I has followed the lead of the president and the leadership of the United States to try to paint this as a one-dimensional, stereotypical contest of black and white, of good and evil, of right and wrong, of moral and immoral.
This is in fact a continuation of what we started to see in the Gulf War in 1991, which I would call a kind of "cartoon morality"—the kind of stuff you see with Popeye and Roadrunner, that kind of cartoon-based value system in which you have bad and good. And the bad is also stupid, and the bad guy keeps getting beaten up and he keeps coming back for more, and he keeps getting beaten up, and the only language the bad guy understands is to beat him up. This is a cartoon, simplistic, one-dimensional, easy-to-understand black and white world, but the real world isn't like that. But I've seen a lot of tendency in the American media to present this as a situation essentially reflecting cartoon values.
There has been a tinge of imperial sentiment, I think, in some of the coverage in the American media, that the war against terrorism was launched only when Americans died in large numbers, and despite the criminality and the unacceptability of the acts of terror, the point is that this global war was only launched when Americans died in large numbers, while you had tens of thousands of people who have been killed in acts of terror and violence committed sometimes by their own governments against their own people in many other parts of the world. So there is an imperial and almost a racist element in some of the manner in which the American media has talked about the situation, and that troubles me a lot. The media reflects the anger of the American people, justifiably so. It also reflects the frustration and I would argue even the confusion of the American people in trying to understand why this attack happened, what's going on in the war. This is my greatest criticism of the American media, broadly, and this even applies to the quality media. I think there has been either an inability or an unwillingness or a fear to probe the deeper issues and to provide the full context of the attack against the United States, of the nature of the war that the United States has launched against terror with other people around the world who are supporting it—and a war that I think must be launched. I'm all for a war against terror but I'd rather it not be a unilateral American war, but it's a war that must be fought. I'm all for fighting a war against terror. But it's not clear to a lot of people in the US if this is succeeding, what's happening.
But most importantly I think there is great confusion and ignorance still in the United States about why there are so many people out there in the Asian/Middle East/Arab/Islamic region that didn't line up with the US, that opposed the US, that are skeptical of the US, that resist the US, that are angry at the US. There's a lot of people, probably 1.5 billion people in the Arab/Asian/Middle Eastern/African region who don't buy the line that we're getting from the White House or the American media. I'm not saying that line is necessarily completely wrong, I'm saying that most of the people in the world don't buy it, and are sitting around watching this process, this war. The American media has done, I think, a dismal job broadly speaking, with one or two exceptions—the New York Review of Books, Harper, and the Atlantic, the New Yorker in some instances, the New York Times and a few others in spot instances, those are the exceptions—but broadly speaking the United States media has done a really dismal job, I would give them a D-minus, in trying to explain to the American people this deeper context. The American media can do this. It did it for example in covering the collapse of the Soviet Union. It does it in China, very well—the US coverage of China is pretty good. It did it in South Africa. Look at what it's doing on Enron. The media can do it, we know this. But why it doesn't do it in this case is an important factor for people to come to grips with.
So I think we're in a situation now where the general tone of what the media is doing I think reflects the general sentiments and emotions and perspectives in American society as a whole, a combination of anger, confusion, revenge, militarism, all wrapped up together in a patriotic, emotional context. All of which is absolutely natural, but I would argue a potential catastrophe for the United States, because if you go back ten years, the United States was doing similar things in the Gulf War with the cartoon morality, with the bad guys and the good guys, with the militarism, with all of the other issues not addressing the underlying context. It's a cruel and terrible irony that out of the Gulf War would emerge some of the key issues that sparked the terrorism of the bin Laden people. This is a terrible, terrible lesson for the United States to deal with, because bin Laden says that some of his key complaints are the situation in Iraq and the presence of American troops in the Gulf, both of which directly emerged from the Gulf War. The Arab-Israeli issue, supporting dictatorships and all that are deeper issues and older issues. So I think this is an important time for the United States media to live up to its best standards and understand its responsibility to its people. If the government is pushing a line, the press' responsibility is to go beyond that line, and its responsibility is to the well-being of the American people, and I think there's a strong case to be made for the press here to really transcend the emotional context which the American government is trying to set, and really understand the greater dangers and threats to the American people.
A few quick words about the Arab media: I think we have this new phenomenon of the satellite stations, and I would say broadly speaking the Arab media, the mass media, the satellites reflect a similar context to what I just said about the American media. They've done some really wonderful things, pioneering things, covering news, live coverage, on-the-spot coverage of correspondents, pretty professional correspondents most of them, debates, talking about issues that were taboo—political issues, religious issues, global issues, economic issues—so we have to give the Arab satellite stations some really high marks for pioneering some very professional and important kinds of activities. But at the same time, the broad tone of most of what you're seeing on the Arab satellite stations is emotional, confrontational, ideological, and like the American media panders to the sentiments and emotions of its own people and the corporate interests that drive it, so do the Arab satellite stations pander to the emotional needs and ideological concerns of their own audiences too. I have a lot of respect for what Al-Jazeera and MBC and Orbit and others have done and their pioneering work, but I have also some really grave reservations, and I'm fearful that in fact these stations may not be the precursors of a democratic opening and liberalization of the Arab societies—I fear they may actually be contributing to an opposite direction, that by providing an emotional outlet to get people's tensions out by watching these TV stations and hearing these Arab people arguing against each other and criticizing their own regimes and criticizing Israel and the US and the British, this allows a release of tension and stress and pent-up pressures that is a kind of safety value, which leads to a complacency among the citizenry which then allows the tradition of autocratic Arab governance to continue unchallenged and unabated. I think this is a real problem, and we see the difference. Look at how the Arab people were reacting at the beginning of the Intifada, when they saw the coverage from the West Bank and Gaza. There were demonstrations and people were in the streets. That lasted for about a month and a half, and you had rather complacent acquiescence ever since, all over the Arab world. I think we need to understand this phenomenon much, much more.
The other problem I have is that there is no link between what these Arab media are doing in terms of better reporting, better debates, dealing with public issues, and the electoral or political processes that lead to decision-making in the Arab countries. So you watch Al-Jazeera and MBC and Orbit and you hear these guys debating and saying that their governments are awful governments, and then the next day there's an election and we know who's going to win before the election happens in most Arab countries. It's rare that you get a surprise in any kind of election. So there's no link between the liberalization and professionalization of the Arab media and the growth of accountability and democracy and pluralism and transparency in Arab political governance. I think this is a real problem, that we can have the media developing in certain ways, but the autocracy of the political culture remains as it is.
In some ways the Arab satellite stations have done some very good things, which I must stress, but in some ways they've combined the worst of Arab culture with the worst of American media. That is, the tendency for a type of entertainment: you bring an Arab nationalist and you bring an Islamist and you bring a government foreign minister and you bring an opposition journalist and you let them bash heads on TV, which is the tradition of both Arab political culture, of ideological battle, and of entertainment values in the American media. You put these together, and this is a lot of what these stations do, and I think that's a problem if this is the main thing that they do. This is where I have some concerns as well. I have not seen any really good investigative reporting by the Arab satellite stations; maybe there has been some, but I haven't seen very much of it. There has been very little holding of formal accountability of government authorities, there has been very little in-depth reporting, doing series, looking at issues in the real documentary type sense. Very little of that, if any, is done at all. So I think the press has been moving towards an entertainment value rather than a value of political accountability and developing a vibrant political culture among the citizenry. What we're seeing is mirror images, of the American media and the Arab media doing some things that are really important and significant, and some things that are really pretty trashy and underdeveloped and stunted, in emotional or political or professional terms. What we need is to get Arab and American journalists together to talk about these issues in a non-confrontational setting and to really discuss them in a mature and responsible way. This is one of the things that centers such as this here at Georgetown can do. Thank you very much.
Hudson: Thank you very much. Our final speaker is Jacques Charmelot. Mr. Charmelot is the head of the Paris bureau and the international service of Agence France Presse. He's also the advisor to the innovation department for the development of a new worldwide info-management system. He's had long and very distinguished journalistic experience, he's been editor at AFP Africa/Middle East desk, he's covered the war in the Balkans as the AFP bureau chief in Sarajevo and Zaghreb, he's been the military affairs correspondent, he has been AFP's State Department correspondent, he's been AFP's bureau chief in Baghdad, Beirut, Tehran. He's covered the war in Chad, covers Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Sierra Lione and Liberia. That's pretty impressive, and we're very happy that he could join us here today. I should add that in addition to his degrees from the Universite de Provence and the University of Paris he has a master's in international relations from American University in Washington. We look forward to your comments.
Jacques Charmelot: Thank you very much, professor. Indeed, I'm very happy to be here tonight. I've been a very lousy student at AU and always wanted to be a lousy student at Georgetown, but I didn't make it. Thank you also for presenting my career. My company is a very boring company. As you know, a wire service provides facts, and we're a provider of raw material to my colleagues here who work for print or electronic media. Media's role is to bring the facts to the public, second is to open their media to different opinions and the third in my vision is that they have to put everything into perspective.
I think that with the war in Afghanistan bringing the facts to the public has been done well. There's a large access to what happened on the ground; the war was not waged in Washington, it was waged in Afghanistan, and before the first days of the campaign companies like mine, Reuters, AP, the BBC, we all had stringers in Kabul, so we obviously reported on the bombings and what was going on in Kandahar. It's not to say that the electronic media didn't do a great job, they did do a great job. It's just to point out that if you want to have access to facts, we knew what was going on on the ground without having to rely on what the Pentagon, on what official Washington was telling us about what was going on in Afghanistan. The facts are there; whether they get published or not is a different issue, and I'll give you an example. There was a couple of days ago a very interesting report out of Afghanistan about an American mission, a group of people, families of victims of the 9-11 events, went to Afghanistan to meet with people that had family members killed in the bombings. That information to me is a very interesting encounter of the two sides sharing the same grief and the same pain. That little piece of information got almost no play in the press, it was not really picked up, even though not only the event itself was interesting, but some very disturbing information came out of this visit, especially a figure that is almost now accepted as an official figure on the number of civilians killed during the bombings. Those people from Washington who had some members of their families killed during the 9/11 attacks brought back with them this figure of 4,000 people that died during the bombings in Afghanistan. Again, the facts are there, they can be found on the Internet or elsewhere; whether they are getting the play they deserve, that's different. That's a decision made by the newspapers, magazines, and the electronic media whether to pick up that news or not.
What I'm trying to stress here is that for citizens who want to be informed about what is going on, it takes a little research on the Internet, it takes a little legwork, but you can get the news. It's there, it's provided by hundreds of reporters on the ground, surrounding Afghanistan or in Afghanistan, and as it was pointed out by the panel, they've done a very, very good job. In Washington obviously what we are doing is very different from what our colleagues have done in Afghanistan, and by the way I'd like to remind the public that there were more reporters killed during this campaign by "enemy fire" than soldiers. Eight reporters were killed and so far two or three American soldiers. So again, the facts are there. Here in Washington what we're getting and are working on every day is the official version of the war—again, that's the rule of the game. As Marvin pointed out, official Washington has a very clear objective of preventing the news from coming out, and we have the opposite objective, to try to publish as much as we can of what we can learn here in the city. So of course you have these briefings where whoever is there responds to questions, but this is only one little piece of the puzzle that is creating the picture of this war. What comes out of Washington in only ten-fifteen percent of the news necessary to understand the war in Afghanistan. By and large, the press have done a good job in trying to bring those facts and put them together for the public-and in all different languages, I'd like to remind you also that big companies like Reuters or AP or AFP or BBC or the VOA have services in Arabic, Farsi, different languages. It's not only here that the news is spread out, it's all over the world. More people worldwide get their news from the BBC World Service than from any other sources.
If you want to be informed you can be informed. When it comes to opinions, obvious the press, whether it's the electronic or print media, have done a great job in bringing together different opinions. In a free country everybody is entitled to share with others opinions that person has on the conflict, and there's where you have the editorial columns of the newspapers. Again, they've done a great job. It plays out, some people are pro and some against, and that's the work of the press to bring out those opinions. Where I'm very skeptical about whether the press has done a good job, and this is throughout the world, not only in America, what is lacking to understand what's going on is a good perspective. The reporters have not done a good job in putting this conflict into a historical perspective, and this is acutely true when it comes to military operations. I could give you a wide number of examples of where the press was not doing a great job of trying to bring to the forefront and bring to the public examples of past mistakes that were done in a military operation and that are being repeated now in Afghanistan.
Let me give you a couple of examples. At the early stage of the campaign, there was a great fuss made about the tunnels. The press was full of stories about the difficulty of fighting in tunnels, how we'd do it, and we were relying on experts of the former Soviet army and were even digging out information about how the Brits fought their war in Afghanistan. The case was built by the press on the perception of how difficult it was to fight this type of war. I might be mistaken, but I didn't find any reference to the Vietnam war, where the American army had great experience in fighting in tunnels—the Cu Chi tunnels are very well known, all Americans remember that. And there was no attempt by the press to bring those facts together, maybe because every single team that went into tunnels in Vietnam had a fifty percent loss. Other examples come to mind. Recently we heard the information about this camp being built in Kandahar, and that's very interesting aspect to this war. The army is deploying Kandahar, they are building up a camp. We've seen that in every war that we've fought, creating a situation where you become a target is extremely, extremely dangerous, and I've seen very little in the press, either in the American press or in the foreign press, of this type of analysis, saying we've done that before and got burned. That was presented as being completely new, but in fact we're revisiting situations and mistakes that we've made before. My point here is just to try to make clear that if the press has done a great job in reporting the facts and in bringing to the public opinions and debates about the value of this war, there was little effort put into putting the war into perspective when it comes to the military operation. Also when it comes to the global perspective, trying to explain or bring to the forefront the impact of this war on terrorism on other issues. We touch upon the Middle East, which is clearly one aspect of it, but even on globalization or the freedom of the citizens of this country.
There's one very interesting aspect to what this administration is doing in trying to wage the war on the domestic front. By creating new rules and by trying to improve security for the citizens of this country it indeed also creates limits, and that clearly seems to be one of the objectives of the terrorists, to create the impression that the very foundations of a society that is built on freedom are attacked from within, that the very government that should defend civil liberties is in fact reducing those civil liberties, and that would be a victory for the so-called terrorists. The major aspect in my vision that is lacking in reporting on the war in Afghanistan and the war against terrorism is a lack of historical perspective that is preventing us from having a better understanding of where the war is going.
Hudson: Thank you very much, and thanks to all four speakers. We have time for open discussion, so I'd welcome anybody who would like to ask a question or make a comment.
Q: I have a couple of questions and comments. The first is to Mr. Al-Mirazi of Al-Jazeera. I've always been curious to know if Al-Jazeera has any problems doing reporting on political, social, cultural, economic events in Qatar. I've seen a lot of your reporting in other places, but being based there and getting funding from that government, does that affect reporting there. Another thing is that you mentioned Al-Jazeera had been hoping to become independent and pay for itself through advertising, and I want to say, don't go that way. I'm saying that because it's nice not to have corporate sponsored media, it's nice to have perspectives that are not totally influenced by CEOs of companies who can threaten to withdraw advertising if they don't like your reporting. We've seen that in this country—"Politically Incorrect" has been pulled off a lot of stations because of some comments that Bill Maher made, and it wasn't because the network decided they didn't like the show, it's because the advertisers wouldn't pay for it anymore.
I wanted to also give Mr. Kalb a chance to revisit the last comment you made as you ended your presentation, where you said you felt the TV media has not been doing as good a job as the print, which I totally agree with, but you thought that perhaps they'd been doing the best job they could given the circumstances. I was wondering if you could talk about what you think those circumstances are that you think are keeping them from doing a good job. I've been appalled by a lot of reporting on TV—on Larry King, at the end of every show now, someone comes on and sings a patriotic song with a big flag in the background. He never did that before, and now it's all the time. Aaron Brown on CNN—I stopped watching after one day his monologue before the news was, today was the most tragic day of the war so far, this is the highest number of casualties yet in this war, and he was referring to a couple of Americans who had died. To the American military it's maybe the biggest tragedy of this war, but there had been hospitals bombed earlier, by accident, but dozens of Afghani civilians had died. And they report that it's the biggest tragedy when three Americans die. It's so American-centric that it's almost intolerable. Dan Rather says I'll do anything my president asks me to, Cokie Roberts says when I see the generals with their big stars I just melt. How can we expect someone like that to ask any hard questions? Finally, of course, there's Geraldo [audience laughter] right. So the point is the comment that they're doing the best they can given the circumstances-I'd like to hear you elaborate on that, because I haven't see that.
Al-Mirazi: I'll respond to the second question in a way that will be relevant to the first. I'd like Al-Jazeera to rely mainly on commercials and advertisements in order to give you a more frank answer about the first question. [Audience laughter and applause.] However, if you're looking for examples of whether the government of Qatar has been criticized, did we put points of view against things that they did which weren't that acceptable or satisfying for the majority of the audience, yes, we did, and we have many examples. For example, when they hosted the Middle East-North Africa economic conference and they invited Israel, at that time I think during the government of Netanyahu, Al-Jazeera brought a Qatari government official and someone who was against him, and they debated the issue as if the story involved Egypt or Sudan or any other government. Also, when the Qatari foreign minister met with Shimon Peres six or seven months ago here in Washington, he was interviewed, and the anchor actually almost grilled him about whether it's good timing, whether he's breaking the Arab League recommendations to freeze all contact with Israel, for countries that have not signed peace treaties them, which is all but Egypt and Jordan. Even during our coverage of the war in Afghanistan, some officials in the government of Qatar said that they have nothing to do with it, no bases, no effort from the government of Qatar in the US military operation. Later on we found that the first casualty related to the war was in Qatar, in a French-built air base that is used for logistics by the US for the war in Afghanistan. I didn't hesitate to say that contrary to whatever the government officials are saying, that air force man died there, and that's proof that an air force base in Qatar is used in the war in Afghanistan, even if just for logistic matters. Also, the body politic in Qatar is so limited that you don't have much to report about, which is different from the case in Egypt or Morocco or Jordan, and this is part of it. This is not the government of Great Britain, that the BBC could relax and say we're going to keep getting public funds. It depends on who is coming next to rule Qatar, if he has the same philosophy as the current emir, but for all of these reasons we would rather rely on people who pulled out the advertisements from Bill Maher's show than to rely on a government.
Kalb: In response to your second point about which is better, to have commercials or money provided by corporations, or you didn't quite fill in the other point. My own experience would lead me to conclude very strongly that I will any day of the week take a network that gets its money from any number of corporations, whoever will provide the money, rather than from a government. If you can do it in some other way, and there are middle grounds there, for example one now unfolding in Sweden, which is very interesting. I'm not saying that corporate sponsorship is ideal, but I have never known a time when corporate sponsorship has prevented me from saying anything on the air, anything. So when you talk about Bill Maher, that is not in my book any way journalism, it's a form of political entertainment.
My second point, which I'd like to make, and it's not going to get us very far-one of the most difficult things today is to define the media. Up until Spiro Agnew in 1969, most journalists knew pretty much what it was to be a reporter, because you worked for a network, you worked for a newspaper, you covered the news, and we understood what "the news" was, and we understood what a reporter was. Today, one gets overlapped with the other, and it's extremely difficult to find out what journalism is. You mention Larry King doing something, then you mention Aaron Brown doing something. Theoretically Aaron Brown is the reporter, and Larry King is a talk show host. If we put Larry King in the same category of journalism, we are all in serious trouble, because he is not a journalist. He doesn't even make a claim to being a journalist. When we have talk shows, that isn't news, that's commentary about news. That's different from the reporting of news. And I think one of the most difficult things we face today, not just in the US but in the countries I've studied and where I've reported from, is that one overlaps into the other so that very intelligent people, graduate students, lose sight of the fact that journalism is the reporting of news. Information, commentary, opinion, that is something different, and when on the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post, you have the two coming together as has happened, that is a serious flaw in contemporary journalism, and we ought to be aware of it, and I think we ought to define much more clearly what it is we have in mind when we talk about journalism and news.
Charmelot: I'd like to add a comment about Marvin's point about big corporations funding networks. The BBC exemplifies the capacity of a government to finance a prestigious news outlet without interfering in the way this outlet provides news to the public. My company is funded half by the clients and half by the government, and again there is no interference in the journalistic activities by the government. So I think we could also have a more balanced approach. When it comes to the remarks you made about our friend Larry King not being in the same league, I think he's making $7 million or more a year, which is a hefty amount for a journalist.
Q: Mr. Khouri, you said that the emotional coverage Al-Jazeera does is an obstacle to democratization and liberalization. My question is, why so we assume that secular democracy, democratization, liberalization are the answers to the Arab world and the Muslim world's problems? I see the same thing when I read columns and read the news, that non-Muslims and Muslims alike always go to the same conclusion, that secularism is the answer to our problems. For me this is a little baffling, and I'd like to hear your opinion on this, because in the end what is so appealing about secular democracy when we end up with so many corrupt politicians and a disillusioned political base in this country? From my perspective, the more Muslims that move to these Western ideals, the more we seem to suffer and become more exploited by other countries. The only time the Muslim world has been successful and prosperous has been under the times of the khalifa. Let us not forget that Jews and Christians have fared the best under Islamic government 500, 600, 700 years ago. We need to take a middle road between the extremes of secular democracy and Talibanism. The moderate approach is moderate Islamic government. Why isn't that considered a viable approach by the media, whether it be by non-Muslims or Muslims?
Khouri: Those are very good points. What I said is that western commentators lauded Al-Jazeera as a harbinger of democracy and opening up, etc., and I'm not sure that that's the case. I agree with you. I've repeatedly written over the years that the western model of capitalist, liberal, republican Jeffersonian type democracy is not, clearly, catching on in the Arab world. The answer is simply to turn to the Arab people and give them an opportunity to decide what they want. If they want something that is rooted in their cultural values and their religious values and their historical legacy, whatever system the Arab people want to devise that reflects the will of the majority and protects the rights of the minority is the system that we should develop. This is the great challenge for us in the Arab world. What I'm saying is that the impact of the Arab satellite stations is not yet clear.
We see these characters debating on TV—and I agree with Marvin, this is entertainment. Larry King is entertainment, it's not journalism. It's very effective entertainment; I love watching this guy on Fox, O'Leary. I think it's tremendous entertainment. And I see it as entertainment. Sometimes I learn something, but it's just great fun to watch. I flip from that to the Syracuse-Georgetown basketball game [audience laughter] and I view it with exactly the same criteria. I think what a lot of the Arab satellite stations are doing is political entertainment. Now, they're also doing a really good news service in some cases, but even the news reporting is not always as professional as I'd want it to be, it's a little bit colored. But so is the news reporting here. The key thing we have to remember is that we have to work not to emulate Western traditions or reject them, but to turn to our own people and figure out how we can unleash the energy and creativity and power in Arab culture and the Arab people and to stop the situations as we have today with people like Saad Eddin Ibrahim and his colleagues at the Ibn Khaldun Center being in jail and being tried, while they should be given medals of honor for the promotion of decency and dignity and respect and pluralism and human rights in the Arab world. I mention Saad Eddin Ibrahim and the Ibn Khaldun Center as often as I can because this represents to me the worst of modern Arab political culture, and this is a situation that defines the lives of most people in our region. We have to keep fighting against that, not copying the West but finding the answers through our own traditions and on our own decisions. [audience applause]
Al-Mirazi: I agree with Rami on most of the things that he touched on before, but I beg to differ about if we can replace the slogan "religion is the opiate of the people" to "Al-Jazeera or the satellite TV is the opiate of the Arab peoples." I don't think it's a positive sign if we want to broadcast in order to get people out in the street demonstrating and it's a negative sign if because of this coverage people aren't active any more. I think if we can get something out of that coverage, which is building some kind of consensus among our people about the main issues-we didn't have this kind of dialogue before between the whole Arab community and Arab countries-if we can get this kind of consensus, of what the borders of Israel are, what's the role of religion, other questions like that, if we can debate it long enough I think we can get something good out of it. We don't have this kind of consensus on most of our values in our society, and that would be good. Of course we aren't going to get democracy in five or ten or fifteen years out of this experience.
Charmelot: I just wanted to point out that in the Arab world—if there's such a thing as the 'Arab world', we have to be very careful in using that term—there are other media where you can have the political and democratic debate. There are great newspapers with a tradition of political debate in the Middle East-Al-Nahar, Al-Hayat, the Daily Star. You have also radio that is broadcast all around the Middle East in Arabic like Radio Monte Carlo. Al-Jazeera is a great experience, there's no doubt about it, it's the new kid on the block. But there's been a tradition of political debate, democratic debate, great reporters, great journalists, great thinkers that have expressed themselves in press of the Arab world, and that should not be forgotten.
Q: A man by the name of Ralph Peters, who is a retired army officer, has written a series of editorials for the Wall Street Journal since Sept. 11, and his latest in that series is an article entitled "The Saudi Threat," which I believe was published the second of January. In that article he calls for a diplomatic split between the United States and Saudi Arabia and even goes so far as to advocate the seizure of Saudi Arabian oil fields by the US military. This article is filled with emotional, hurtful and jingoistic rhetoric, and it's also misinformed and based on unsubstantiated claims and poor factual research. My question is, is it the responsibility of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board to include such views, or is it the responsibility of editorial boards like the Wall Street Journal's to make sure that they don't make it to print?
Kalb: It is the privilege of the editorial board of any newspaper to decide what it is that it wishes to publish. If it wishes to publish this stuff—I've read it, by the way, and I was as taken aback by some of the comments that Peters wrote as you apparently are—but if you're raising the issue of whether an editorial board has a responsibility to convey a certain image of the world or of the country, I suppose in one way you could argue yes, it does, but it's it's responsibility and it's privilege, it's right to decide what that is. There is a new editor of the editorial board and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, Paul Gigot, who used to appear regularly on the NewsHour, and there's no question that that page reflects to some extent his view. I would say, write him a letter. Argue. Complain. Let him know that you don't buy it.
Charmelot: And I'm sure that if the Saudi ambassador wanted to respond he will.
Kalb: Oh, he does. He's not shy.
Charmelot: And he could get into the Wall Street Journal too. These are just opinions and they can be published.
Q: I have a question not so much about the grand policy of reporting the war and Sept. 11, but more about a specific set of issues which I understand are being discussed in the Arab world and perhaps discussed on the Internet in this country involving the connection of Israel with the Sept. 11 activities. I don't know the answer to this question, but I know there are rumors flying both in the Arab world and in this world about for example Israeli companies in the World Trade Center which had prior notice of the bombings, the arrest by the United States government of Israeli spies shortly after Sept. 11. These stories are floating around in the background, indeed there's a reporter named Carl Cameron who reported for Fox News who is complaining that his stories have been suppressed by Fox News. I'm interested to hear if any of you have knowledge of these rumors, the truth of them, or what is going on in journalism about them.
Charmelot: The rumor as such is a story. If that rumor is spread on the Internet, in chat rooms, in itself it gives a dimension to the event that we have to report-not saying it's true or not, this is not the point. The fact that the rumor itself is propagated through the Internet, the fact that someone is at the origin of that rumor, the fact that people are responding and arguing about it, that itself could be material for reporting. But to the first part of your question, if it's possible to find out if the information itself is true, I think it's impossible to know. It's beyond the means of a normal news outlets. We don't have the capacity to investigate this kind of allegation. That's the duty of intelligence services, not news organizations. But again, the fact of the rumors itself is an interesting story-why those people are spreading them, why are they talking about it, where does it come from, how many people are sharing that information. That could be a valid story.
Kalb: Very reluctantly I'd like to offer a demurral on that. I think one of the great problems that we have in contemporary journalism is that rumor, when it is reported even as rumor, becomes fact. It changes its very nature, and at what point is a rumor justified. What the gentleman has discussed has been denied all over the place, and if every Israeli company were out of that building before it was attacked, that would have been a front-page story in every newspaper in the world. But it wasn't, and therefore I assume it never happened, and I believe that all of it ends up-and you can investigate this because it's also on the Internet-being an invention of some people in Brazil, where the rumors started. It didn't start in the Middle East, it started in Brazil, and then it was picked up on the Internet, which is one of the enormous problems today in understanding what it is that we're talking about. That's why I appealed before for some measure of concern about defining the media and what it is that we're talking about, what is reliable. Rumors ought to be handled as rumors, meaning that unless you know they're a fact, there shouldn't be reporting.
Charmelot: But the point you were just making, that these rumors came out of Brazil, that it's clearly information that has no grounds, that is to be reported. It is in the air, it's out there, some people are putting it out there. Our duty is to investigate that part that we can investigate. You just pointed out that it's not coming from the Middle East, it's coming from Brazil. Those are facts. What I'm trying to say is that we're not giving any credence to the rumor as such, we're just trying to articulate the mechanism that brought the rumor into being and trying to point out the danger of that rumor.
Khouri: The real story about this rumor, to me-and it's obviously a false rumor-is why so many people in the Middle East believe it. That's the story, and that's the great story that the American media has completely flopped on covering. The real story is why do people spread these rumors and believe them as fact. It's fantastic when you think about it, that the big-sticker items in this are why did this attack of Sept. 11 happen, is it likely to happen again, what can we do to prevent it or minimize the chances of it happening again. I would argue that on those three crucial big-sticker issues the American people today are no more well-informed than they were on Sept. 10. We have no idea, no answer to any of those three questions. And this is the real challenge I think we have to address, and I wish more people in the United States would raise these issues in a serious way.
Al-Mirazi: Carl Cameron's story on Fox News was really four parts on different days, starting Dec. 11 or 12 to Dec. 15; he did do a lot of investigation. He had two years earlier a story about whether there is wire tapping in the White House, or Bill Clinton telling Monica Lewinsky that he feels there is a foreign embassy that is spying on him. Unfortunately when I did some research just three days ago about that story about the rumors—and it's not a widely circulated story in the Arab world—I couldn't find any other media outlet in the US that researched or investigated to say that this rumor is not true. This is a case where we should ask why nobody dared to discuss it, after Fox News killed the story, and also why hundreds of people are now in prisons because of rumors and nobody cares to get them out or investigate them. This is very important. We shouldn't have taboos when we discuss about Israel, or Saudi Arabia or Egypt.
Q: I just want to say that for me Al-Jazeera has been heaven-sent more than anything else. Mr. Khouri, you say that it's had emotional reporting, but I say, so what. First of all, at least when I go to Al-Jazeera I'm going to see raw footage, I'm going to see the issues being covered that are near and dear to me, such as when Israel occupied Lebanon and then finally pulled out in 2000. These kinds of stories, the atrocities that Israelis commit every single day against Palestinians, the sanctions on Iraq. I think it's about time we had a media service that caters to our needs, our perspectives, and our opinions. I get mad when somebody criticizes that, because this is the only media outlet that we have, and we need it.
Q: I was somewhat disturbed, frankly, when I heard people speaking about journalism and the influence simply of government and corporate sponsorship, when I really feel that the most significant influence on journalism today is whether or not people are going to buy it. I think it's easy to forget that if nobody buys the news that people are selling, it just won't be published any more. That's a central fact, no matter where in the world we are.
Khouri: That's a very important point, and that's what I was saying by saying that both the American and many of the Arab media are pandering to what their markets want, what their audiences want. These are largely market-driven, entertainment-value-based operations. There's some good hard straight news reporting, but what you're getting now is largely a market-driven process. It's so competitive, and the market is fragmenting-it's fragmenting here, and it's fragmenting in the Middle East. We don't have a golf channel yet, but we're on the way. We're getting these specialized stations, and the radio stations are fragmenting more quickly than the television stations. So, yes, you're absolutely right, and the hope is, the ideal is that when you open up a system you get the Foxes and the CNNs and the PBSs and the NPRs and the New York Times, you get a range. This is what so impresses me about the United States, the amazing range of material that's available at your fingertips. The Internet, of course, exponentially expands that. But I think these are the rules of the game now, this is market-driven modernity, and this is what a lot of people are rebelling against in the Arab and the Islamic world and other places. They want not market-driven but morality-driven modernity, they want a modern world that is based on some values and some integrity, and not just by the market forces of catering to what people want.
Charmelot: I think there's a huge body of information available to every single citizen around the world without having to pay anything. You can listen to very good programs almost everywhere in the world without having to pay. Again, the market aspect I don't deny, but if you feel the need or make the effort to access the news you can do so without being constrained by any kind of economic imperatives or dimensions. I think by and large the information is circulating pretty widely in the world and pretty freely.
Hudson: I'd like to thank all of the panelists, we've covered a lot of ground, and thank the audience for your attention and your comments.