Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New York Times on Al-Akhbar

So Robert Worth has an article about Al-Akhbar in the New York Times.  What do I think? Well, for one, it must be difficult to write an article about a paper that you can't read.  How does one judge a paper that one can't read even if you talk to many people?  I think that the article contains seeds of truth about the atmosphere of the paper.  As seasoned Lebanese mainstream journalist, Rafiq Khuri, told me over the summer: it is a reporters' newspaper.  He commented on the lack of a big shot publisher.  The largest owner of the paper, Hasan Khalil, really does not interfere in the paper whatsoever (I once witnessed how editor-in-chief, Khalid Saghiyyah nixed an idea by Khalil and in strong language.)  When Khalil first called me (before we met in Beirut) to discuss the paper and my articles, he asked me if he could offer comments to me about my articles.  I said: you can as a reader, but I won't accept them from you as the publisher.  The notion that Khalid and Omar "are Western-friendly" is outright silly: as if some diabolical conspiracy drive the paper--a paper that advertises (prominently) for Whiskey brands.  Of course, its Saudi and Hariri enemies have nothing to attack except to refer to the paper as "pro-Hizbullah" or as the mouthpiece of Hizbullah.  To them, I offer them a challenge.  They are indeed mouthpieces of House of Saud princes and Hariri family members: can they dare to ever mildly--to use the word of Worth--criticize any aspect of Hariri or Saudi policies, I would then accept their labels.  As Worth pointed out, the paper regularly carries criticisms of Hizbullah.  Worth did not mention that Ibrahim Al-Amin (who is friends with Hizbullah leaders) wrote one of the most strident attack on Hizbullah in the wake of the Salah `Izz Id-Din scandal referring to corruption with the party.  So has Khalid Saghiyyah.  I wrote a 2400 words article on how Hizbullah is a sectarian party.   But the publicity for Al-Akhbar is not bad these days: not that it needs it.  But Worth needed to place the success of the paper in the context of the bankruptcy of Arab media in general.  (thanks Mansour and Mirvat)