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Writer Analyzes Saudi Minister`s Threat To Close Channels Inciting Sectarianism
Al-Quds al-Arabi Online
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Saudis watch a religious program in Riyadh during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan September 15, 2008. The sanctity of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan has been spoiled for some in the Arab world by an unholy row over “depraved” TV comedies and serials that have led Saudi clerics to demand the death penalty.

Article by Abd-al-Bari Atwan: "Saudi Arabia and the Satellite Channels of Sectarian Strife"

The Saudi minister of information and culture, Dr Abd-al-Aziz Khujah, surprised us two days ago with statements saying that his ministry was determined to shut down the satellite channels that prove to be inciting sectarian strife and racial discrimination in the society intentionally.

The element of surprise lies in the belatedness of this awakening to the danger that these Saudi-financed channels pose, not only to Saudi society, but to the Arab region and to the Islamic world as a whole.

We do not know what the standards are that the minister will follow in dealing with these satellite channels in terms of their closure or continued broadcasting; however, if he were to apply professional ethical standards, the overwhelming majority of Saudi-financed satellite channels would have to be closed, whether they be political, religious, or entertainment channels.

For the sectarian strife of which the minister speaks is no less dangerous than the political strife at which certain Saudi stations excel, stations that have constantly stood on the side of the enemies of the Ummah and enemies of the faith and have espoused Western-American agendas from the time of the war to occupy Iraq until the present moment.

Saudi money has funded satellite channels that have rent the Arab and Islamic nations and kindled loathsome sectarian conflicts. Now that the spell has recoiled on the magician and the dangers of these satellite channels have begun to reach the official Saudi house and shake it to its roots, comes this awakening and comes this decision.

When these satellite channels were sowing -- and they still are sowing -- the seeds of sectarian strife and conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, and the other Gulf countries, and inciting to murder and sabotage, they and their preachers were being inundated with funds, and their preachers became stars. But now, after we have seen a sectarian revolt against the Saudi regime and other Gulf regimes, the picture has changed and we have started seeing a desire for coexistence -- for nipping such strife in the bud and cutting off the transmission of the satellite stations that provoke it.

Isn`t it striking that most of the satellite channels that spread strife and depravity, laying waste to the minds of Arab and Islamic young people, proliferate and multiply like mushrooms strictly because of Saudi funding?

Isn`t it strange that the U.S. State Department officially praises the great role that Saudi channels have played in “Westernizing” Arab society? The same State Department states that these satellite channels have succeeded at accomplishing what all the media and public relations firms have failed to accomplish.

Again we ask about this strange, incomprehensible schizophrenia epitomized by the eagerness of the Saudi authorities to set up centers for dialogue among sects and religions in Vienna and hold conferences and panels on the subject everywhere in the world, while at the same time they fund religious stations that incite against other sects and religions.

What the Saudi authorities do not realize is that it is no longer easy to deceive the Saudi citizen, any more than the Arab citizen, by banning and blocking, by confiscating newspapers and arresting preachers and political activists. The world is changing. Modern advanced social communication media have broken the traditional censorship barriers, and a new generation of Saudis and Arabs is skilled at using them -- no less experienced and knowledgeable than their peers in the most technologically advanced Western countries.

We fear that the motive behind this decision involves explicit American directives, now that these sectarian channels have begun to mobilize thousands of people and incite them to join jihadist groups that do not wish to overthrow dictatorships and erect strict Islamic governments on their ruins, but to set out on a fierce war against Israel, near whose borders they have come to be lo cated.

Is it an accident that this Saudi decision comes out only a few weeks after another American decision, placing the Al-Nusrah Front in Saudi Arabia on the terrorism list? We don`t think so, because pure accidents are unusual in the Saudi political lexicon -- or so we think.

There are Saudi-funded religious satellite channels that deserve respect for their high intellectual and preaching level. There are preachers at them and at other stations who, holding themselves above all the tools of strife and incitement, explain the faith, its values and principles great and small, in a practical, moving way that unites and does not divide and that lays the foundation for superior, harmonious, conservative communities that deserve to continue and grow strong. But these channels and their good and honest message have become lost amid the many channels that broadcast the poisons of sectarian strife.

It is sad that the land of the two noble sanctuaries should be a source for the broadcasting of sectarian strife and rending the one Ummah into mutually hostile sects. It is even sadder that the country should use its tremendous wealth -- yesterday it announced a budget of $222 billion and a surplus of $100 billion -- for things that do not unify and lay the foundation for democracy, justice, equality, and respect for human rights.

Even when these authorities wanted to use the modern social communications media, they used them in the erroneous and disgraceful areas that demonstrate an extremely low level. Anyone who follows Twitter and Facebook will find there a veritable army of Saudi intelligence agents who display a high degree of obscenity, indecency, and vilification against all reformers inside and outside the kingdom, in a way that gives a mistaken impression about the people of the kingdom, who are a kindly, generous, polite, and learned people of high character.

Yes, there are Iranian-supported satellite channels. Some of them speak insolently of the Companions of the Prophet and of other sects. They are to be condemned, and those who stand behind them are also to be condemned. But we should not slide down this slope and respond to them with their own low methods. We should rise above that and give a good example of self-restraint and adorning oneself with the virtues of the Prophet -- may God bless him and grant him peace -- and of the noble verse that says: “And when the ignorant address them, they say, `Peace.`” (Koranic verse; Al-Furqan, 25:63). The land of Muhammad`s call is too pure for some of its people to be drawn into this odious sectarian trap.

When this weapon of foul language recoiled on them, the Saudi authorities issued laws punishing with fifteen years in prison and a 1 million riyal fine anyone who dares to vilify or revile princes and officials. But they are selective and immature in applying the law in a country that claims to be applying the sharia and its provisions strictly.

The barrier of fear has been broken in the land of the two sanctuaries. It has become difficult, even impossible, to rebuild it. The people who kept silent for decades have begun to stir and demand their rights, like all the other Arab peoples. Anyone who follows Twitter will find brave people who have decided to defend their rights and oppose all the privileged persons who steal the sweat of the poor and the toiling and who usurp the country`s land and public wealth.

Most importantly, there is the admirable legitimate campaign led by the prominent Saudi scholar Salman al-Awdah, with the participation of thousands of preachers and students, who have begun by it to demand an elected shura council with full powers to hold senior ministers and state officials accountable for every penny stolen from the state treasury and public funds, just as it would call to account for all the failed policies that have caused unemployment to spread like wildfire among educated Saudi young people. It is shameful that mansions should be ere cted on hundreds of thousands of meters, while eighty percent of the people of the country do not own houses.

Do not say to us, “Don`t interfere in our internal affairs.” Yes, we will interfere; for you are interfering in our affairs and tearing apart our national unity. You are funding groups, individuals, and satellite channels to sow the seeds of strife among us and unleash sectarian civil wars. As for us, we will interfere to offer advice and bring people together out of a sense of honor. For we are one Ummah. We are united by one divine faith that combats injustice, corruption, and strife and establishes equality between Arab and non-Arab.

(Description of Source: London Al-Quds al-Arabi Online in Arabic -- Website of London-based independent Arab nationalist daily with strong anti-US bias. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

`Media War` Between Gulf-financed, Saudi-financed Satellite Channels Predicted
Al-Quds al-Arabi Online
Friday, December 30, 2011

Iraqi men in Baghdad watch a live broadcast on satellite television on June 4, 2009.

Article by Ahmad al-Misri: “Heated War of Media Stations Starts With Beginning of the New Year, Paralleling Tension With Iran; Al-Walid Bin-Talal Moves Rotana to Bahrain; Sky Arabia Launches From Abu Dhabi”

The new Western year that starts in only two days will undoubtedly be full of political surprises. There are Arab revolutions that succeeded in overthrowing deeply rooted dictatorial regimes, other revolutions that are trying, and still others that are preparing to launch themselves and await the ingredient to trigger them. But at the same time, the greatest surprises paralleling these are the launch of many new satellite channels - we are speaking particularly about ones that focus on news and politics.

While eyes turn toward Abu Dhabi, anticipating the launch of Sky Arabia, which will appear next March as a partnership between the emirate of Abu Dhabi and British Sky Broadcasting, a large percentage of whose shares are owned by the well-known Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch, Prince Al-Walid Bin-Talal has made up his mind and has decided to choose the Bahraini capital Al-Manamah as the seat of his media empire and of the new news station that he will launch in the middle of next year - 2012 - to compete with such channels as Al-Jazirah and Al-Arabiyah.

Al-Manamah certainly was not one of the preferences of Prince Al-Walid Bin-Talal - talk centered around Beirut or Dubayy. This has raised all sorts of questions about the reasons behind this step. In particular, the statement issued yesterday by Bahrain`s Information Affairs Authority said that the Saudi billionaire also had decided to move Rotana completely from Beirut to the Bahraini capital - specifically to its media city.

Rotana owns a specialized group of music and entertainment channels, such as Rotana Clip, Rotana Tarab, Rotana Zaman, and Rotana Movies. This is the first time that the company has decided to move into the world of politics and news. It will do so in partnership with the American Bloomberg News Company, which owns a number of news channels, mostly of a purely economic character.

Prince Al-Walid possesses an enormous fortune estimated by the American magazine Forbes at approximately 19 billion dollars. Rumors are that he will directly supervise the new news station, for which he has selected his fellow-Saudi and prominent media figure Jamal Khashoggi (Khashuqji) as chief officer. Khashoggi worked as editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, and before that at Arab News. He is highly cultured and professional and is fluent in English.

People close to Prince Al-Walid say that the decision to move Rotana from Beirut to Al-Manamah came as a surprise to everyone. The motive may be primarily political. The Saudi prince, who holds Lebanese nationality by virtue of his mother, Princess Muna al-Sulh, may feel that the Lebanese capital could face a period of instability in coming years, given the increasing sectarian tension and polarization in Lebanon, in addition to Syria`s falling into a sectarian civil war, which will negatively impact its Lebanese neighbor.

Saudi sources have told Al-Quds al-Arabi that supporting the government of Bahrain and strengthening its media position vis-a- vis mounting Iranian pressures against it may be one of the main motives. One notes that Saudi authorities sent troops to Bahrain when it underwent a popular uprising demanding political reform and, if such reform did not take place, a change of regime.

Beyond being a political choice, the selection of Bahrain comes in the context of intense media competition in the Gulf. While Al-Arabiya is located in Dubayy`s media city, Sky Arabia in the rival media city in Abu Dhabi, and Al-Jazirah in Qatar, Bahrain and its media city lack any media project of consequence.

A Gulf media expert has expressed the belief that the Kingdom of Bahrain, which closed Al-Jazirah`s office at the beginning of the popular uprising, wants or hopes that Al-Walid`s new station will be its media arm to confront Al-Jazirah in view of the serious differences between the rival neighbors, differences that all GCC mediation efforts have failed to contain and that continue to smolder beneath the surface.

This expert, whom Al -Quds al-Arabi contacted, questions the station`s chances for success, given the strict limits on media freedoms in Bahrain, whose government has muzzled many newspaper sites, confiscated a number of newspapers, and prevented the publication or entry of others, not to mention the fierce state of sectarian division in the country. He ended by saying, “Bahrain is a country not at all friendly to the media and to journalists.” According to reports from well-known international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, its record in the field of human rights is not rosy.

The choice of Bahrain, not Dubayy, may raise questions about the motives for this decision and its implications for the Emirate of Dubayy itself, whose Shaykh, Muhammad Bin-Rashid, wishes to make Dubayy the Arab media capital. Was there a disagreement between the two men about the extent of freedom? Or did Prince Al-Walid, a shrewd businessman who looks for deals and easements, not receive a suitably alluring offer to locate his media empire on the emirate`s soil?

The coming year will be a year of media competition between the tycoons of the Gulf, a year when they struggle for zones of power and influence over public opinion. Billions of dollars are now being budgeted to dominate the media map. It is no accident that these media empires are being founded in a time of wars or of preparation for war. Six months after the 1991 war to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait, the Saudi MBC network was founded in London at the initiative of the Saudi ruler, King Fahd bin Abd-al-Aziz, personally. Al-Arabiyah, too, which is owned by Shaykh Al-Walid Bin-Talal, King Fahd`s brother-in-law - Fahd`s son Prince Abd-al-Aziz bin Fahd is also said to be behind it - was founded just a few days before the U.S. war on Iraq in March 2003.

Thus it is not strange that the launch of Sky Arabia from Abu Dhabi and of Al-Walid Bin-Talal`s station from Bahrain should coincide with what according to the predictions of many Western experts is an approaching war against Iran,.

A certain flabbiness has come over both Al-Jazirah and Al-Arabiyah nowadays, particularly due to their overdone preoccupation with Syrian developments. Al-Arabiyah fabricated a news report citing one of the Arab League`s observers as saying that the massacres committed by Syrian forces in the city of Homs were worse than what the Jews were committing. The League called the report untrue and said that the person mentioned was not one of its observers. This flabbiness will provide room for the other new channels to try to steal viewers from the two channels that have monopolized the market for the last ten years at least.

Finally, there are other channels that will emerge in the new year. There is Al-Mayadin, one of whose most prominent officials - if not the most prominent one - will be the journalist Ghassan Bin-Jiddu (Ben Jeddo). Bin-Jiddu says that the station “will not be at the service of wretched, corrupt rulers who entice foreign invasion; it will not turn into a vile propaganda mouthpiece delighting in inflammatory rhetoric; and it will in no way neglect the Palestinian cause or marginalize its people`s struggle.”

In addition to military and political wars, next year may also be the year of media wars.

(Description of Source: London Al-Quds al-Arabi Online in Arabic -- Website of London-based independent Arab nationalist daily with strong anti-US bias. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Saudi TV airs talk show on jihadist websites` impact on youth
BBC Monitoring Middle East
July 02, 2008

Actors play jihadists in the film "A Losing Bet," that was financed by the government of Yemen.

Riyadh Al-Ikhbariyah Satellite TV in Arabic at 1830 gmt and Riyadh Saudi Television 1 at 1845 gmt on 1 July showed the first part of a new series of weekly programmes titled “Our Concerns.” The series, which are produced by the Saudi Interior Ministry and presented by Abd-al-Rahman al-Husayn, deal with issues related to the impact of the Internet, especially Jihadist material, on Saudi youths` behaviour and actions.

The programme is a recorded talk show to which a group of Saudi young men were invited together with a panel experts, it includes: Shaykh Salih Bin-Awad al-Maghamisi, preacher and prayers leader at Medina`s Quba Mosque; Abdallah al-Bulayhid, the father of a Saudi youth arrested in Iraq; Abu-Sa`ud, a Saudi youth who used the Internet as the main source of looking for extremist material; and Dr Fayiz al-Shihri, a researcher in Internet usage and editor-in-chief of `Majallat al-Buhuth al-Amniyah [Security Research Magazine],` which belong to the Interior Ministry.

Once Presenter Al-Husayn highlighted the “massive” increase in Internet usage in the country over the past decade and the huge growth of extremist sites “from 12 in 1998 to over 5,000 sites today”, and how to protect five million Saudi users from their influence, he invited few young Saudis in the studio to talk about their personal experiences with the Internet.

The first young man says he started using the Internet out of curiosity. However, he adds, due to boredom and monotony he became addicted, spending over eight hours daily perusing various websites. He also says the lack of free press in the country forced him to try to find what he is looking for on the Internet. The second young man says he uses the Internet daily, spending up eight hours a day in front of the screen as part of his daily entertainment. He adds that the lack of public outlets of entertainment, such as theatres and cinemas, have forced him kill time using and chatting on the Internet. The third young man says he uses the Internet for everything, i.e. reading Islamic material, communicating with other Muslims, and defending Islamic causes, especially in view of the recent attacks on Prophet Muhammad.

After that Presenter Al-Husayn turned to the panel. He asked Shaykh Salih whether people should turn to the Internet for their religious education. Shaykh Salih says “of course the use of the Internet is a personal matter (...) however, in principle the Internet should not be used by people as a source of fataws on religious matters.” He also advised users to fear God when using the Internet.

Asked whether he could give a profile of people who are addicted to the Internet, Dr Al-Shihri says: Anyone who uses the Internet for more than “10 or 15 minutes a day” becomes addicted to it and personal life would be impacted by whatever material he reads. He adds “it not natural or right” for people to use the Internet for up to eight hour every day.

Talking about his own experience, Abu-Sa`ud, who is a young man already arrested for his association with extremism, says he joined an Internet forum out of curiosity, and that it was thanks to his forum that he started receiving, without elaborating, information about the jihad and the “Guantanamo prisoners.” Pressed further to describe the material he was reading, Abu-Sa`ud says it was an “appalling” material because it attacked honourable clerics and incited, citing uncorroborated fatwas, young people to carry out acts of violence by telling them that the road to paradise is through the jihad.

The programme then showed clips of young people who were caught using the Internet to incite others carry out terrorist acts.

It showed someone identified, according to a caption, Abu-Azzam al-Ansari, a non-Saudi who was indicted of being behind the creation of “an electronic magazine specializing in the promotion of extremism”. Al-Ansari says he started interested in the internet because he thought he needed more information about Islam and Muslims, as well as about the war in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the true figure of the US losses in these wars.

It then showed a woman, covered in black, only identified as Umm Usamah. The caption says she “was former activist in the women efforts to promote extremist groups -a non-Saudi who was arrested and then handed back to her family.” Umm Usamah says the Internet was at home so it was very easily to get hooked on it, and that through the forums she met with many people who were, like herself, very enthusiastic about Jihad.

The third clip showed a Saudi national identified as Abu-Umar who says he used the Internet to find information about the jihad and read statements made by Usamah Bin-Ladin and Abd-al-Aziz Al-Miqrin which, he says, after a while he started to believe in them.

It was then the turn of Abdallah al-Bulayhid, whose son, Thamir, went to Iraq five years ago but was caught and still held in prison in Iraq. Al-Bulayhid recounts the story of how his son got involved, without his knowledge, with jihadist circles in the Saudi city of Khmis Mushayt, as well as the heartache his son`s actions have caused his parents. He also talked how his son phoned him and wanted to come home because as soon as he reached Iraq he found there “no jihad” over there but only people who were prepared to use him as a commodity to further their personal and financial interests. He says those people were prepared to sell his son to the highest bidder, and that his son was sold for $250 10 days after his arrival in Iraq.

The programme concludes with Presenter Al-Husayn

Source: Al-Ikhbariyah TV, Riyadh, in Arabic 1830 gmt 1 Jul 08

© 2008 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


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