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9/5/03 - HATE MESSAGES IN EGYPTIAN PRESS - 2003-09-06


The forces of hate have been busy in Iraq. On August 29th in Najaf, terrorists exploded a bomb that killed more than eighty Shia Muslims who had gathered for prayers at the sacred Imam Ali mosque. On August 19th in Baghdad, terrorists killed more than twenty humanitarian workers at United Nations headquarters.

These and other attacks, as President George W. Bush has said, show that “terrorists are gathering in Iraq to undermine the advance of freedom”:

“Al-Qaida and the other global terror networks recognize that the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s regime is a defeat for them. They know that a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would be a further defeat for their ideology of terror.”

But the enemies of a democratic Iraq include others besides the terrorists themselves. They include those who cheer on the terrorists and those who by their hateful words may incite terrorism -- in Iraq or elsewhere.

It is especially harmful when these hateful words appear in popular media. This was the case on August 6th, when Al-Akhbar, a widely-read, pro-government Egyptian daily newspaper, published a vile and provocative column calling for “the fight against America [in Iraq] to continue.” The columnist’s diatribe was apparently inspired by the deaths of Saddam Hussein’s vicious sons, Uday and Qusay, in a July 22nd shootout after they refused to surrender to coalition forces.

As virtually the whole world knows by now, some of the Saddam regime’s most brutal atrocities were personally carried out by Uday and Qusay. Their crimes included rape, torture, maiming, and wholesale murder. But all of this seems to have escaped the attention of the columnist and the Egyptian newspaper editors who accepted what she wrote. She has not a word of criticism for Saddam’s monstrous sons.

The publication of this writer’s incitement to violence is irresponsible journalism. It is also detrimental to the credibility of Egyptian and other Arab media that seek to provide accurate and balanced reporting.

This incident, like the recent broadcast by Al Arabiya Television of tapes of masked thugs threatening Iraqis with terror, shows the need for serious reassessment of editorial direction at many media outlets in Arab countries. Media owners, including governments involved in the financing and direction of official and semi-official outlets, have responsibilities beyond providing resources. They must also assure accountability for serving the public interest.

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