x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Kuwait programme shows satire's role

A new Kuwaiti satellite television programme, Wesel Sotak (Your Voice Was Heard), seems to have captured the imagination of Gulf audiences.

A new Kuwaiti satellite television programme, Wesel Sotak (Your Voice Was Heard), seems to have captured the imagination of Gulf audiences, as it intelligently lampoons Kuwaiti ministers and members of parliament regardless of their political or tribal affiliations, wrote Shamlan Youssef al Issi in the opinion pages of the Emirati daily Al Ittihad. The programme has, however, caused protests and a series of lawsuits filed by Kuwaiti MPs, which leads one to wonder: are those members of parliament really concerned with democracy and freedom of speech?

"The funny thing is that the Kuwaiti government, which is constantly panned by the parliament, has taken the side of the MPs and decided to cancel the show after only three episodes under the pretext that it conflicts with the broadcasting code." This decision revives questions about media freedom in Gulf countries. The crux of the media dilemma in the Gulf is that there is hardly any awareness of the fast-paced evolution of the concept of media freedom on the international scale. "In the name of 'preserving customs and religion', governments feel free to resort to censorship." Arab Gulf countries need to open up by first liberating their media and graciously accepting healthy self-derision.

The attempted assassination of Prince Mohammed bin Naif, the Saudi assistant minister for security affairs has, in a way, set a precedent in the relations between the Saudi government and al Qa'eda as it breaks a years-long "unwritten arrangement" between the two, the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi said in its leading article.

"al Qa'eda has always avoided targeting the ruling family in a direct way," the newspaper said, "but it seems that the group's leadership has decided to change its strategy." About a year ago, the Saudi authorities arrested 700 of "those who have gone astray" - a common expression referring to al Qa'eda members in the country - while another 44 were apprehended only a few days ago. There are many explanations as to why al Qa'eda has lately resumed its activity so intensively in the Arab peninsula, particularly in Saudi Arabia. A main reason is the mounting conflict between the liberal secular and conservative parties in the kingdom, knowing that the ruling dynasty leans more towards liberalism under the motto of modernisation.

The supreme leader of the Iranian revolution, Ali Khamenei, has put an end to the accusations levelled by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against dozens of former government officials, journalists and intellectuals regarding their purported collaboration with the West, opined Mazen Hamad in the comment section of the Qatari daily Al Watan.

By trying to halt spare reformists from condemnation, not only is Mr Khamenei trying to capitalise on the rifts between various political groups to become a privileged arbiter, but also restore his status as the neutral leader, which was considerably affected by Mr Khamenei's own bias in favour of the conservatives during last June's presidential elections. While he did not explicitly show willingness to help the reformists out of their current political impasse, Mr Khamenei knew how to negotiate the troubles of his own conservative clan by appointing conservative rivals of Mr Ahmadinejad as chief of justice and the main orator at Friday prayers. All in all, Mr Khameni seems to be navigating his way through post-election circumstances to make a strong comeback and balance the power relationships within various political circles.

The mutual accusations and sterile debates that followed Iraq's Black Wednesday - the bombings in Baghdad that left about 100 people dead and more than 500 wounded - have confirmed two key facts: one, the nature and the scope of the conflict in the country extends beyond the domestic sphere to regional clashes; two, the Iraqi political actors, whether incumbent or in the shadows, have proved incapable of solving the colossal challenge of rebuilding the nation in the complex socio-political structure of Iraq, commented Jaber H Jaber in the London-based daily Asharq al Awsat.

"The bombings were carefully planned, made use of a large amounts of resources and certainly had big goals. But they have also had politicians and commentators consulting crystal balls to pinpoint the party responsible according to their own taste, while trumpeting their own unearned accolades." All signs point towards the same conclusion: it is going to get worse in Iraq, and this situation may outlive the next presidential elections, especially as US forces are pulling out, leaving behind a huge gap for troublemakers to occupy.

* Digest compiled by Achraf A ElBahi aelbahi@thenational.ae