02 January 2007

Newspapers

I can vaguely recall reading newspapers pre-2002. There were two, Akhbar Alkhaleej and Al-Ayam. Both lacked any sort of guts, both were in deeeeep denial of reality, and both did the best job possible to remain un-interesting and irrelevant to anything going on in Bahrain.

Nowdays the government claims we have "free press." Of course any person who has mastered the art of reading can tell you this is a total lie. Leaving our retarded "press law of 2002" aside, almost all of our writers are ruled by an unwritten law of sacred cows and self-control for understandabe reasons. Not to mention, of course, those known writers to be bought by the government (prices vary - occasional sales and promotions apply). That in mind, here is the LuLu review of Bahrain newspapers:

1. Akhbar Al-Khaleej
I can't stop reading this newspaper. It's border-line addiction, even as I disagree with almost everything in it. It walks the government line and will go to any length to undermine the opposition and convince us that everything in this country is all good and dandy. It selectively also omits news that it doesn't like (no need to distress the people!) The editor is shameless, basically. He makes the most insane comments ("let's not politicize elections") with a straight face! But if we get passed the editor and the news pages and the bias, the paper has a good variety of columnists. There is Sayed Zahra, who is a Palestinian I think and is still living in the pan-Arab-greatness world. There is Ali Saleh from Wa'ad whose anti-corruption columns are definitely the most courageous in the newspapers - and other nationalists like Radi Al-Samak and Abdulla Khalifa. There is also some nut called Al-Mahmeed who gets his attention by attacking the opposition and sucking up to the PM. He once called for a campaign to give flowers to security servicemen and policemen "controlling" demonstrations (not sure who in the world does that?)

2. Al-Wasat
Now I have to salute Al-Jamri for establishing a long-due independent newspaper in Bahrain that is not directly or indirectly bought by the government. I love the diversity it created and I love that it raised the ceiling of expectations. I think the only reason Akhbar Al-Khaleej and Al-Ayam even showed meager signs of openness and diversity is due to Al-Wasat's competition. Anyway, on news, it is entertaining to read Al-Wasat after Akhbar Al-khaleej and see the many angels of a story. On columns, I think it has a brilliant selection of writers who are diverse in orientation (Shia, Sunni, Islamist, nationalist) but are all willing to critique the government, the existing establishments, and the pro-government forces here. Personally, I think Bahrain really needs this newspaper as a balancing act - and a venting tool.

3. Al-Ayam
Oh this is an interesting story! This newspaper was established in a classic corruption scheme that just slipped through the cracks! It is owned by this guy who was the previous Minister of Information (the regulator of the press) and was apparently a beneficiary of a good amount of Ministry money. Also, at the time just leading to 2002, he stopped giving newspaper licenses to ensure they don't create "too much" competition (nice, huh?). But then the new King came and things opened up (irony #1: the guy is now media advisor to the King.. only in Bahrain!!) Anyway, fast-forward to 2006 and the newspaper gets into a deep rift with Islamists in parliament who question its resources. It then decides to wage an all-anti-menbar-Islami-war. It is entertaining in a way. Its columnists are almost all uniformly secular nationalists and mostly decent, but are unfortunately less-read today because of the Isamists' war on the paper.

4. Al-Waqt
This newspaper is very interesting. It is the newest addition to Bahrain and I'm starting to really enjoy it. The editor is a center-line journalist, but its news pages are exhibiting an opposition-leaning perspective and columnists are almost all opposition nationalists. Abdul Rahman Al-Noaimi, of Wa'ad of course, is the jewel of the newspaper in my opinion. It also has some distinguished contributors (e.g. Abdulhadi Khalaf, Abbas Busafwan, Afaf Al-Jamri, Hana Buhiji), some of whom are ex-Wasat. I can probably say this is the second Bahraini newspaper that does not seem to be bought by the government.

5. AL-Meethaq & Al-Ahd
No one reads them (I'm sorry)

6. Al-Watan
Evil in its purest form. It feeds on sectarian hatred and fears. I wish Sawsan Al-Sha'er would leave. Her writings are too decent for that paper (but they pay like insane & have good resources** wink wink)

Note:I'm only talking about Arabic papers.. the English ones need a whooole section of their own!

22 comments:

moonshallow13 said...

A well piece written my friend....but some of the parts look biased when you were explaining about some papers. I would love to read what you think about the English papers. I believe they have a long way to go rather than going brouhaha about employer-sponsor problem. But please do let me know what you think about the English papers.

I forgot to wish..... Happy New Year ! This is the first blog I have read of the year and would want it to be read all year round.

Cheers!
Sandy

moonshallow13 said...

A well piece written my friend....but some of the parts look biased when you were explaining about some papers. I would love to read what you think about the English papers. I believe they have a long way to go rather than going brouhaha about employer-sponsor problem. But please do let me know what you think about the English papers.

I forgot to wish..... Happy New Year ! This is the first blog I have read of the year and would want it to be read all year round.

Cheers!
Sandy

moonshallow13 said...

sorry ........lol........guess I posted my comments twice

Broken said...

Well I totally agree with u and I think ur blog will be added to my daily visited blogs.
And about Sayed Zahra he is an Egyptian I think, thank u for this great post and long live the free Press policy… huh

Hussain said...

Broken said...
Well I totally agree with u and I think ur blog will be added to my daily visited blogs.

Broken, I second that :)

Lulu keep it up and all the best dear

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, Lulu. (I am terribly sorry I couldn't say this in Arabic.) I have been reading Mahmood's blog regularly, because it is very comforting to see, in the midst of all this terrorism hysteria, that you Middle Easterners aren't child-eating monsters from outer space after all. Keep up the good work, and Allah bless you.

- A learner of Arabic

Anonymous said...

Anon,

I appreciate that you don't think that we are "child-eating monsters from outer space" anymore.

What an outrageous realization!!!!

Anonymous said...

For me you have never been monsters from outer space, but the hatred and xenophobia on some web forums even in this country (although we have never been very anti-Arab as a country) is such that you get kind of stained and subconsciously contaminated by it yourself. And I mean mainstream forums, not some exclusively neo-Nazi forums.

- A learner of Arabic

TariqKhonji said...

"Note:I'm only talking about Arabic papers.. the English ones need a whooole section of their own!"

Looking forward to it. ;)

-Tariq

nurox said...

nice read! will visit more often.

isagreatphilosopher said...

Your blog is beginning to recieve more attention, just wanted to congratulate you, well deserved. Keep it up!
Completely in agreement with you about al-Wasat's contribution in expanding the space for effective freedom of press, rather than just the pretentious chatter we regularly get bombarded with. I sincerely hope others will follow suit and provide the Bahraini community with much needed unbiased, and hopefully more intellectual, journals.

LuLu said...

@ moonshallow13
Thanx Sandy-- yes I suppose there is no avoiding biases when you write an opinion piece.. the only thing I can say in my defense is that my biases are not personal but are based on what I believe the truth is-- and I welcome corrections!
Happy new year to you too & please do visit again.

LuLu said...

@ learner of Arabic: thanx! and I totally understand. Poeple (esp. in the west) will never see the good side of Arabs unless we proactively show it-- I really hope we get more bloggers like Mahmood and more readers like you!

LuLu said...

@ Broken, Hussein, Nurox: thanks guys..
@ Tariq: Good articles btw-- keep writing plz!
@ isagreatphilospher: thanks too-- I'm kind of having fun with it now-- Plz keep visiting

Costa-guy said...

Nice written, nice blog too.. I just disagree with you that Al-Meethaq newspaper do have their share of readers. In fact, I am one of them my own, along with me reading the other newspapers.

I believe they had the best site for a newspaper for a while (1st live website for local newspaper) & then other newspapers followed. They have no bias towards people nor government. They speak the truth with the least tensed language compared to (ALL) the other newspapers.

Not do I know someone work in it nor do I say I would prefer it on others. It's just that they raised the level for other newspapers as they were competing with Al-Wasat and had the best & most variant (ideologically) newspaper columnists for a period of time and also then other newspapers (had to) follow.

I believe they (all) do an excellent job in ensuring or helping the freedom of speech in the country.

Good luck & nice work :)

Anonymous said...

Poeple (esp. in the west) will never see the good side of Arabs unless we proactively show it

...and here, in the West, there is of course the fact that good news are no news, while bad news sells papers. "Ahmed put a bomb on a school bus and killed twenty innocent children" - now, that's news. "Ahmed has never stolen anything, cheated on his wife or beaten his children, and being a peaceful and just man of a friendly disposition towards all people, he is well liked and respected by all the community" - well, such a dull guy as him isn't any good for the big front-page headlines, is he? (Of course, they might write a feature about him if one of his grandchildren were among the children killed by the other Ahmed.)

- A learner of Arabic

LuLu said...

@ Costa-guy: thanks & interesting opinion re-almeethaq. I went through the website again.. it's quite advanced and user-friendly, I agree. The written materials has improved a bit but it still lacks strong columnists.. I hope they continue to improve and attract more readers.

Nabeel said...

Very well written analysis and I totally agree with your conclusion. Why Alahad and Al-Methaq continue to waste paper? I think they should be closed down and instead open a shesha place..will certainly make more money for the shareholders, haha. Thanks also to Mahmood for telling us about this nice blog.

LuLu said...

lol Nabeel-- thanx for visiting!

Bahrani Expat in Bahrain said...

Well said...

I agree with about 80% of what you said, because I believe that ALL newspapers in Bahrain are in some way or another leaning towards the government side, and that is due to the forces and pressures they get posed to.

King Regards,
Bahrani Expat in Bahrain

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