Al Mayadeen Tv: New Kid on the Block
By: Bassem Alhakim
Published Monday, June 4, 2012
The new satellite news channel, launching June 11, is promising to be an independent and unbiased commentator.
With the rigid political alignments in the Arab world and the sharp divisions within the Arab satellite media landscape depending on which regime funds the different channels, an alternative third voice that does not necessarily support the authorities or opposition movements is missing.
It is into this sensitive setting that Al Mayadeen satellite news channel emerges, presenting itself as a “free and independent media project” with 500 staff and reporters in Arab and Western capitals. The channel’s slogan is “Reality As It Is” and their editorial policy insists that Palestine and resistance movements wherever they are found are its point of reference.
The channel is intent on “broadcasting the most precise information possible, the news we receive and what our cameras prove,” says the chairperson of the board of directors and director of programs, Ghassan Ben Jeddo. Ben Jeddo stresses the channel’s objective and unbiased approach.
Concerning the station’s launch next Friday,
Ben Jeddo says: “I wanted it to be in one of the Palestinian refugee camps since Jerusalem will be our point of reference and our central cause, but the guys convinced me of the need to hold the press conference in a closed room and so we decided to have it at the Bristol Hotel.”
The Tunisian journalist distances himself from the sharp division in Arab politics “which is no longer a legitimate political division as it is threatening the region and its stability.”
He alludes that that he will not fall in the “trap” that Al Jazeera fell into by abandoning professional standards, which is what led him to resign from the station over a year ago.
He is surprised by the contradictory analyses which accuse Al Mayadeen of implementing contradictory agendas, once claiming that it is funded by Hezbollah, Iran and Syria and another time by Qatar, Turkey and Gulf businessmen.
He stresses that Al Mayadeen is going to “disappoint two segments within the audience. First, those who believe the channel is going to raise the banner of extremism and second, audiences sympathetic to the mumana'a (obstruction) and resistance axis who think that the channel is going to launch an assault on other channels.”
Both sides will notice that Al Mayadeen is a “professional channel that reflects reality. If we are able to speak to the silent majority that is looking for accurate information then we will have succeeded,” says news director Sami Kulaib.
He told Al-Akhbar that “all sides will be represented without bias and without excluding anyone,” adding that “this will be implemented at the internal experimental stage of the news broadcasts.” The Lebanese journalist said: “Our project is a new and fair media where a journalist feels respected by people.”
Kulaib does not believe that journalistic standards alone drive him to take a professional approach to the news. “The need to have wide viewership compels us not to take sides so we won’t lose the other side. The test is to present objective news and make people believe you.”
He hopes that they “will succeed in creating dialogue between different sides,” adding that, “freedom at the channel will be unparalleled anywhere else and we have no taboos except ethical standards.”
The channel will include prominent Lebanese journalists such as Kulaib, Zahi Wehbe, Lina Zahreddine, Lana Mudawwar, Muhammad Alloush, Ahmad Abu Ali and Dina Zarkat. In addition to two Syrian journalists, Ramia Ibrahim and Futoun Abbasi, Palestinian Kamal Khalaf and Ahmad Sobh, and Yemeni Mona Safwan.
The head of the reporters division, Ali Hashem, says “the channel will have offices in Arab and world capitals.” There are offices in Beirut, Washington, New York, London and Moscow.
The channel will also have a regional office in Tunisia, equipped to broadcast news and other programs, another in Cairo with three reporters and a big studio, and a third in Tehran.
Al Mayadeen will also have a network of reporters in Palestine - Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem. Their job is to provide the channel with a daily segment in the news broadcast entitled “A Window Into Palestine.”
In addition, there will be reporters in Amman, Tripoli (Libya), Rabbat, Khartoum, Mauritania and Comoros. Concerning the Gulf countries, Hashem says: “We are working on signing contracts with reporters in the Gulf.”
Many challenges face Al Mayadeen, especially the task of reconciling its values with professional standards such as objectivity, an ideal that is hard to achieve amidst the dramatic upheavals and changes in the Arab world.
Al Mayadeen has high hopes for stars who will appear on its screen like George Galloway, Ben Jeddo, Kulaib, Zahreddine and Mudawwar as well as an array of programs such as the daily Hadith al-Watan (Talk of the Nation) which discusses Arab political issues, most importantly the Palestinian cause as well as Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Another program is Min al-Dakhil (From the Inside), a social-political program hosted by Zeinab al-Saffar who will look at issues that touch ordinary people. Another program is Ajras al-Sharq (Bells of the East) with Ghassan Shami, which explores the situation of Christians in the Arab world and Alef Lam Mim (ALM) with Yehia Abu Zakaria.
Political and social programs and women’s issues will be highlighted in documentaries.
The People First and Foremost
Ben Jeddo expresses his fear of “the dangers besetting the Arab world, its unity, stability and social fabric.” He points out that “we do not want to be partners in bloodshed in the name of democracy, neither in the defense of a revolution nor in support of a regime, otherwise it would be a crime against the people.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.