In This Review

(Un)Civil War of Words: Media and Politics in the Arab World
(Un)Civil War of Words: Media and Politics in the Arab World
By Mamoun Fandy
Praeger Security International, 2007, 176 pp

To those who believe that the Arab media, spearheaded by al Jazeera, have achieved enhanced professionalism and autonomy, Fandy offers a stern counterargument. The emir of Qatar does not just pay the bills while leaving al Jazeera free to broadcast all the news that's fit to air. Al Jazeera carries out Qatari political sniping at Saudi Arabia, and, in turn, the many different media outlets financed by Saudi Arabia (such as the news channel al Arabiya) advance Saudi political objectives. Nor is the situation different with other Arab outlets, whether controlled by states, parties, or individuals. Fandy sees an overall pattern in which journalists manning these diverse print, radio, and television media are either contentedly on message with the political line to be conveyed or readily discern that to depart from it risks loss of job or worse. That line is at least negatively nuanced toward the United States and often downright anti-American. A later chapter exploring the possible role of U.S. media diplomacy in addressing this imbalance sees the U.S.-sponsored al Hurra TV and Radio Sawa as having all the worst of the Arab media without even the advantage of the popularity that the more prominent Arab media garner.