x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

US media underplayed protests

The "free" US media, owned by big corporate interests, downplayed protests against Wall Street, an Arabic-language writer notes. Other topics: the PA at Unesco, strikes in Egypt, bloodshed in Somalia.

US media boycotted protests at home

In an article for the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan, Egyptian academic Manar Al Shourbaji said one could have read the main newspapers and watched the big news networks in the United States through the third week of last month without coming across an essential piece of the news: a massive protest taking place in New York City.

Since September 21, thousands of Americans have gathered in Liberty Square near Wall Street to protest the deplorable state of the US economy, which is leaving 25 million Americans without jobs. The organisers of the movement, which calls itself Occupy Wall Street, said Liberty Square in New York is to them what Tahrir Square is to the Egyptians.

"The irony is that the US media has dealt with the Liberty Square protests in the same way the Egyptian media [initially] handled the Tahrir Square protests," the writer noted.

US editors were forced to break their boycott of the protests only when the police intervened rather heavy-handedly, using pepper spray against US citizens and arresting close to 100.

The "free" US media can also be partial and collusive when its own interests are at stake, for the large media networks in the US are owned by a handful of powerful businessmen - basically the same figures of rapacious capitalism who led the protesters onto the streets.

Unesco membership a promising step for PA

The statements by Unesco officials this week, supporting full membership of Palestine in the organisation at its General Conference at the end of this month, is a promising start for the Palestinians in their struggle to become a full member of the UN, the Qatari newspaper Al Raya said in its editorial.

UNESCO's stance represents a symbolic victory for the vigorous Arab efforts to help the Palestinians get their rights.

The organisation's executive board will need to vote, on a simple majority basis, for a recommendation made by Arab countries. The proposal suggests upgrading the status of the Palestinians from an observer to a full member. This is a very good step because 24 out of 58 members of the board have approved the recommendation. And unlike in the UN Security Council, the veto system is not applicable in Unesco.

This number of countries supporting full membership for Palestine is promising and is an indicator that the international community truly supports the Palestinian people in their effort to set up their own sovereign state.

If membership in Unesco is granted, Palestinians would be able to ask for the listing of many places as world heritage sites. It would also boost their cause for obtaining their full rights.

Striking is a legitimate right, not to be abused

The frequency of sit-ins and strikes has dramatically increased in Egypt with demands that reflect narrow sectarian and financial interests, remarked the Egyptian daily Al Ahram.

Some parties overstate their demands, asking for immediate responses, in disregard of the deteriorating economic situation.

"If demonstrations and strikes are a right guaranteed for all to express their demands, it is necessary, however, to take into account the current economic conditions. This right should be exercised in an organised manner but not at such a critical time … as not to trigger [further] crises.

"To have an idea about the seriousness of the situation, let us examine some statistics of direct losses caused by the series of strikes staged recently. Over five days of continuous strike in Ain Sokhna port, the Egyptian economy lost one billion pounds (Dh615.8 mn), corresponding to 200 million pounds per day."

And public transport, for its part, incurred losses of one million pounds per day.

If the industrial actions of different sectors continue, the government will fail to pay the salaries of more than five million public employees, not to mention how the educational process will be affected in case teachers object to going to classes.

Trade unions should have a bigger role in adopting the demands of employees on strike, and responsibly open a social dialogue with the government.

New violence extends the agony for Somalis

The Somali capital witnessed unprecedented violence which dashed the hopes of Somalis who had hoped a national reconciliation would come soon, the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan noted in its editorial.

The continuing war in Mogadishu has taken a new dimension, affecting all walks of life in the city as well as in the provinces in the south. This gives evidence of the expanding scope of the military conflict there.

The point is that the nature of the civil strife among Somalis at this time is less likely to change and persist longer. Furthermore, with the absence of a unified military strategy to end the influence of Al Shabab, the movement will have the opportunity to reposition itself and strike anew.

In this context, reconciliation and dialogue are the only glimpse of hope left for Somalis, who badly need to restore their life after long years of suffering.

Because of the positions of the parties to the dispute, reconciliation efforts aiming at achieving stability have staggered.

Those involved in talks were keen particularly to achieve personal gains out of the situation, knowing that the Somali issue has international dimensions that involve the settlement of accounts among some external powers.


* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi