How Terrorists and Dictators Silence Arab Journalists

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Thirty-five Arab journalists have been fired since the beginning of April as a result of a campaign of intimidation and terrorism waged against them by Hamas and Hezbollah.

The journalists were working for the Saudi-owned pan-Arab Al-Arabiya television news channel, based in Dubai Media City in the United Arab Emirates. The network was previously rated by the BBC among the top pan-Arab stations.

But life for Al-Arabiya reporters has never been easy. Like most Arab journalists covering the Arab and Islamic countries, they too have long faced threats from various parties and governments.

That is the sad state of journalism in the Arab world: “If you’re not with us, then you must be against us and that is why we need to shut your mouth.” A journalist who does not agree to serve as a governmental mouthpiece is denounced as a “traitor.”

The absence of democracy and freedom of speech in most Arab and Islamic countries has forced many Arab journalists to relocate to the West. In the past four decades, some of the Arab world’s best journalists and writers moved to France and Britain, where they could work without fearing for their lives.

But in the Arab world, freedom of the media remains a far-fetched dream. There, if you are not threatened by the government, there is always someone else who will find a reason to target you.

The case of the Al-Arabiya journalists is yet another example of the dangers facing media representatives who do not toe the line or who dare to challenge a government or a terrorist group.

Earlier this week, Al-Arabiya announced that it was firing its eight workers in the Gaza Strip — three years after the Hamas government decided to shut the station’s offices there. The workers are Mohamed Jahjouh, Jamal Abu Nahel, Hanan al-Masri, Rula Elayan, Mahmdouh al-Sayed, Sha’ban Mimeh, Ala Zamou and Ahmed al-Razi.

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