Saturday, March 12, 2011

Crafting of Middle East Journalism by Claudia Kassab

     International news journalists risk their lives reporting recent on-going developments in the Middle East thus bringing light onto new dangers. Journalists have been a target after the recent attacks in Iraq and amongst the on-going anti-government protests in Egypt. On dangerous territory, many in the field risk their lives being the eyes and ears for millions of people around the world.
             Baghdad suffered a series of bombings in anticipation of upcoming parliamentary elections. Monday, three bombs exploded in the capital minutes apart each at a different hotel known for catering to international journalists and foreigners. With 36 dead and 71 wounded, the attacks were meant to cause fear within the already unstable region. In their article on the event for the New York Times, Anthony Shadid and John Leland quote political analyst, Hazim Al-Nuami: “The attackers wanted to send a message to the world. The message is that Iraq can’t provide security for foreigners.” While this may in fact be true, journalists continue to travel throughout Iraq and other unstable parts of the Middle East.
             Of the latest bombing in Iraq, Leland wrote “The bomb left a crater about 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep about 50 feet from the Hamra Hotel. It destroyed the house in front of the hotel, where rescue workers pulled bodies from the rubble. A woman who gave her name as Um Riyadh emerged from the ruined hulk of a house across the street from the hotel, blood on her head and face.” This artistic imagery helps us to best understand the depth of chaos civilians experience on a daily basis. The in depth details of the events depicts a sense of cruelty and gore, that which many Arabs are used to. Bombers feel no pain or sorrow to those they call their enemies for their purpose behind such cruel attacks is to show the world the lack of progress Iraq in particular is facing. Stirring emotions of fear, it is only evident that no one not even international news personnel are safe within the boundaries of this forbidden territory.
            International journalists continue to depend on their embassies for safety but merely get the protection they need to carry out their work. Information concerning a country’s politics isn’t just handed to you on a silver platter; journalists have to fight for the answers to puzzles in which they wish to convey to the public eye. Known for reporting on issues pertaining to the Middle East, John Leland, who works out of the Times Baghdad Bureau,  is one of many journalists who focus on foreign turmoil. Leland explains, “To these dangers, the government adds constrictions, including nuisance lawsuits that make it impossible for some media to continue their work. These suits constrain the free press. Other than that, I do not think we need more special protections. This is a dangerous place, for everyone here, journalists included.” The government offers no real support to those risking their lives reporting news.
                 Many organizations work to secure the safety of journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an independent, non profit organization established in 1981. Committed to the freedom of press, the CPJ defends the rights of journalists around the world to report the news without any form of consequences or punishment. The organization conducts surveys, reports any maltreatment and publicly shines a light on the ongoing abuse journalists undergo daily. As of December 1st, 2010, statistics show that there are currently 145 journalists imprisoned worldwide ( HYPERLINK "" ).  The highest in about ten years, Iran and China top the scales with 34 journalists each. These statistics is appalling leaving me hopeless on the control these organizations really have when it comes down to taking care of our people in foreign countries. According to the CPJ, a 140 anti-press attacks on Egyptian news media has occurred thus bringing about a lack of freedom of speech for the most part. The CPJ can do only so much for journalists in unsafe locations around the world.
           Journalists sacrifice their own safety to discover a story that has both its brutal aspects and rewards. Leaving their lives and families behind, journalists courageously live in war stricken countries taking accounts of day to day occurrences. It is about being the first one there to report any new dangers. A well-known CNN news journalist, Christianne Annapour has been one to witness such dangers. Recently reporting from Egypt, she was confronted by angry civilians on the lack of aid from American. The video was posted online where she blatantly interviews people in the street, she finds herself surrounded by anti-American people. You can sense the hopeless fear in her eyes as she backs away.
          A new generation of journalists has sprouted to the Middle East with a passion for the torn nation. It is time for parts of the world to fight for democracy and against tyranny and dictatorship. The closure from the outside world in Egypt has the world spinning. The cut off of communication and physical force against Egyptians by its current president has the residents all in the streets protesting angrily for their freedom. This is the time for change. With the strongest tool known to mankind, the internet forms as the easiest form of access to every individual worldwide. From blogs to articles, people are able to gain knowledge as well as spread it from all four corners. The disturbing Iraqi bombs and the struggle of the people in that region surfaced many articles in newspapers and the internet. Some were even published within the Middle East by actual eye witnesses to the event.  The truth will be known as look as we have fresh youthful journalists edging for the resources and facts.
       Whether it has to do with personal interests or the undying loyalty to their allies, the US media has become less of a reliable source especially when it comes to international politics. The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) has realized this and thus taken the initiative to report accurate information about the Middle East, especially Palestine. The IMEU is one of many non-profit organizations continuously providing journalists in the US with insightful information and a sense of public understanding on the Middle East, mostly pertaining to Palestine though its website and staff members. A speaker at the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY), Yasmin Hamidi, is among the staff members at the IMEU dedicated to enlightening many on Palestinian politics and current events. As PR of the IMEU, Mrs. Hamidi contacts journalists situated in Middle Eastern regions reporting on current events providing her with pictures, information and description of events. Having had previous experience as a PR worker for a corporation, Mrs. Hamidi dedicated her time to the non-profit organization working around the clock in contact with many people from all over the regions for news never sleeps. The organization files up data on their website being a reliable source to journalists in America working for newspapers and media.
           It is not only words that matter but the emotions and detailed descriptions that provide readers with the image of a corrupt region. It is not only the adrenaline rush that fuels people into reporting current events but also the passion to better the people of disturbed politics and unfortunate events. It is also vital to be open-minded to both aspects of a conflict. In the article for Business Day (South Africa), Journalists should shoot for understanding first, Wyndham Hartley coveys the naivety of youthful journalists: “So there are passionate young Arab journalists telling only one side of the story and an Israeli media that is uninterested unless there is a massive body count. Not exactly a recipe for conflict resolution.”
           A danger and a vice, journalism is not only a profession but also a craft. It’s not about finding what happened, writing it down and publishing it. It’s an art, an exquisite choice of words to better dictate the scenario. It’s about living the situation and helping your audience live it too fascinating their curiosity keeping them informed. From instances of self-emulation to street protests, the Middle Eastern people want their lives to be known to the world.
         The articles, photographs, interviews, are all aspects in finding out the truth behind foreign people and their ways of life within governments. Iraq will continue to have corruption as part of their daily lives, but reporting it is a benefactor to help the cause against tyranny and abusive regimes. The Middle Eastern people are in desperate need of world aid and must not be left alone in solitude. We need not history repeat itself but for change to be the outcome of many sacrifices, turmoil and deaths.

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