x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Press freedom and responsibility are at issue

Handling of freedom-of-the-press issues will be reveal much about the Muslim Brotherhood's methods and intentions, an Arab writer says. Other topics today: Yemen and Iran.

Freedom of the press will be the barometer of change under Brotherhood rule in Egypt

It came as no surprise to Arab readers that a number of notable Egyptian newspapers and media outlets referred to President Mohammed Morsi's speeches and positions as "historic" and that they allocated many pages and much airtime to covering his every move, the Lebanese journalist Diana Moukalled wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper AsharqAl Awsat.

"After all, he is the first president to be elected in a real electoral process, and since he began his term he has been trying to make as many public appearances as possible" the writer said.

In fact, the whole world is anxious to see how the Muslim Brotherhood's experience of rule will unfold in Egypt. Some level of journalistic nitpicking is to be expected.

However, what's unexpected, and certainly unacceptable any more, is that some major media outlets have been over-obliging to Mr Morsi, to the point that one of them had 22 photographs of him and 21 articles about him in a single issue.

Many columnists and writers have harshly criticised the exaggerated flattery and warned that it could lead to the creation of "new pharaohs".

"This sycophantic trend that can be observed in many a media outlet indeed conjures up memories of the state of the Egyptian national media under former president Mubarak where headlines such as Why do we love you so much, Mr President? and Millions take to the streets in support of Mubarak were regular front-page splashes," said Moukalled.

As Egypt takes its first steps today towards a new era, it is in dire need of a press of another kind.

There is no shortage of independent journalists in the country, but when it comes to the so-called nationalist press that includes about 55 publications, a radical review from the new authorities, and from the Freedom and Justice Party, is in order.

"How will the Brotherhood's relationship with media and the press be, and what kind of liberties will they allow in Egypt?" asked the writer.

Last week, it was announced that the door was open for candidates to run for the editorship of the nationalist newspapers that operate under the supervision of the Shura Council and the Supreme Council of the Press.

Is the adoption of the electoral process, albeit ordered by the same ruling entity that used to appoint editors, the solution for the nationalist press' problem, or will it secure these establishments' continued enslavement to the regime?

"Freedom of press and independence of the judiciary are the main pillars of any democratic state. The media must be independent.

"This requires an overhaul of the media beginning with the system of ownership of newspapers and ways to separate ownership from management," suggested the writer.

Iran oil embargo has serious implications

The European Union's oil embargo on Iran went into effect this week, and it marks a historic change in international relations that has developed in recent years, wrote Mohammed Al Assoumi in the UAE-based daily Al Ittihad.

For decades, the oil-producing countries had been calling the shots in world markets. Supply was a trump card in the hands of the exporting countries against the consuming ones.

"Now it seems that this card has moved to the consuming countries," the writer noted. "They have reduced their oil dependence, especially from the Middle East, and developed alternative energy sources."

The oil embargo is expected to take a toll on Iran's already shaky economy, along with previous sanctions. Oil exports are projected to decline by 50 per cent, for an estimated monthly revenue decline of $2.5 billion (Dh9.2bn). If other countries joined the ban, the figure gets worse.

The damages do not arise from the EU boycott only, Other countries had declined to take part but joined in indirectly, provided that the biggest share of their oil imports from Iran would continue, through bartering oil for goods.

Contrary to expectations that the ban would lead to price rises, prices have decreased due to other states' increasing outputs, the downturn in the consuming countries and also the euro crisis.

Yemenis must work towards their future

Yemen is in serious peril. First it has to face a heavy legacy of woes from the old regime whose rule was based on buying allegiance, and it must also find an alternative good enough to convince people that better times are ahead, wrote the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial.

No doubt great efforts are being made to bridge the gap between the new political leadership that came to power following a GCC-brokered power transfer, and ordinary Yemeni citizens aspiring to change and security.

"But the pace of change is still slow and the political will of the new leadership is impeded by the many policies of the old regime," the editorial went on. "The main obstacle to bringing political and social life back to normal is the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh."

People are looking forward to seeing a serious reform package to remedy wrongs and establish the rule of law. The new president needs to restore the state's reputation, damaged in the post-Saleh era. Political forces have to help with this and put the country on the right track through cooperation in implementing the recommendations of the national dialogue conference.

Some groups want the situation to go back to square one, but every one should eye Yemen's future first, not narrow political gains.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk