Thanks to Marc Lynch for writing about a meeting of the information ministers of Arab League countries rejecting a Congressional resolution calling for sanctions against Arab satellite television stations that allegedly incite terrorism or promote anti-Americanism.
It would be pretty pathetic that the Arab League — the Arab League!! — is taking a stronger position in favor of media freedoms than the U.S. Congress. But don’t worry — leading Arab states still seem quite keen to find their own Arab ways to repress and control the media.
The Congressional resolution (H.R.2278), which passed 395-3 in December (and hopefully will die in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) is a perfect example of mindless grandstanding which pleases domestic audiences while hurting American interests in the Arab world.
The resolution complains of anti-American incitement on Arab TV, specifically mentioning Hezbollah’s al-Manar, Hamas’s al-Aqsa, and the Iraqi al-Zawra. It calls for the Obama administration to produce a country-by-country list of Arab TV stations which incite violence and to urge official and private sanctions against those deemed to be carrying out such incitement. Who in the U.S. Congress is going to speak out or vote against complaining about al-Manar or al-Aqsa?
I have no great love for most of the Arab media or their tactics. The countries complaining about the U.S. action are hardly bastions of liberal media policies.
That said, it is a sad state of affairs that a brand of the U.S. government should advocate establishing some sort of punishment for news organizations that are just doing their jobs. Reporting the news is not supporting terrorism.
Perhaps instead of lashing out with statements like this, the U.S. Congress might want to think about providing more money for organizations that work to improve the quality of journalism around the world. (Think about the National Endowment for Democracy for one.) It can also provide more money to host more foreign journalists through embassy driven programs. And expanding the Fulbright program wouldn’t hurt.
But words are cheap and serious action takes time, money and thinking.
Other coverage of this issue:
Radio Netherlands: Arab ministers slam US congress satellite decision