Arabic media review

Catherine Ashton’s Egyptian failure

Arab press unequivocal about outcome of EU effort to broker Cairo compromise

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (photo credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko/File)
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (photo credit: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko/File)

Arab newspapers on Thursday focus on the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Syria and its neighboring countries, discussing competing claims of responsibility.

In an openly critical report, the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat focuses on the UN Security Council’s demand that Damascus “open corridors” of aid to civilian populations. It attacks the Assad regime’s human rights violations and the brutality of its troops, stressing the looming “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The daily cites opposition accusations that the Syrian regime is implementing a “campaign of systematic starvation and displacement of the civilian population of the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh,” relegating Assad’s counter-claims to an afterthought.

In addition, it accuses both Assad and the opposition of carrying out a campaign of intimidation against professors at the University of Damascus.

“The professors revealed exposure to a campaign of intimidation from both the government and  the opposition. One individual found his name included in a ‘list of shame,’ as published every now and then by opposition activists on the Internet, for [the professor’s] choice to stand on the sidelines of the crisis.”

The London-based daily Al-Hayat stresses accusations of human rights atrocities and violations of international law by both sides in the conflict.

“Security Council calls for ‘cross-border operations’ to save the Syrians,” reads the daily’s headline.

Al-Hayat nonetheless draws particular attention to government violations of human rights, leading with a picture of a man carrying a child shot by a government sniper in Aleppo. It cites one of the more ludicrous statements by Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari.

“Ja’afari again attacked France, saying that ‘a historic mistake happened in the Security Council when it was founded: it gave France a permanent seat.’”

Despite carrying the same picture as Al-Hayat, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi chooses to focus on the political shenanigans between Moscow and Washington at the UN over the disposal of Syria’s chemical weapons.

It spotlights the hopes of Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, for success at the Geneva II peace conference and his criticism of Washington’s eagerness for military action.

“For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that he hopes to begin the preparatory process for a peace conference ‘Geneva II’ about Syria as soon as possible,  pointing to attempts by some to thwart this conference and return to the military option.”

Ashton in Egypt to talk reconciliation

Dubai-based news channel  Al-Arabiya reports that “Baroness Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief of the European Union, will meet a number of political and religious leaders in Egypt, amid calls for escalation by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Al-Hayat is critical of her support for ousted president Morsi, reporting that “Ashton will leave Cairo today without achieving any breakthrough in the mounting Egyptian political crisis.”

The daily’s headline reads “Ashton fails in solving the political crisis.”

Independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm gloats at the failure of the European diplomat, considering it a failure of its Islamist rivals.

“The government spoils the Brotherhood’s reliance on Ashton,” reads its headline.

Hasbara, Gulf style

In an op-ed for A-sharq al-Awsat, Saudi columnist Tareq Homayed comments on the creation of a new radio station in the Gulf, established to combat a new television station created by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, intended to spread “their point of view.”

“Is it possible to fight this concerted attack on the Gulf and its security with a radio station?” wonders Homayed. “Of course not, especially given the huge flood of information we face due to technological advances. My intent is not to say that the era of radio has ended, but to stress that relying on radio stations alone is certainly not enough.”

Despite the plethora of media sources in Arabic, Homayed continues, many of them lack sophistication and are based on rumors or regurgitation of other people’s work, disregarding intellectual copyright.

“What we have said a thousand times is that it is necessary to impose strict laws to protect intellectual property rights in the Gulf, just as we tackle narcotics, given [the media’s] economic returns and capacity to stimulate creativity.”

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