Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Why does Arab media fail at self criticism and why can't Arab human rights NGOs pressure Arab governments the way their counterparts do in America?", asked the host of satellite news channel al-Arabiya's (one of the harshest critics of the United States) "Spotlight" news program. The follow up commentary was even more astounding, given the source. "The Americans exposed their own scandal, queried the officials and got the American Government to accept responsibility for the actions of its soldiers," stated the host before asking her guests why this sort of open and responsive action isn't taken in the Arab world.

One of the largest newspapers in the Pan-Arab world raised the stakes even higher yesterday with this editorial comment: "Bush has apologized and claimed that democratic regimes make mistakes, but that the guilty will be punished. What happened at Abu Ghuraib is not surprising as there are many stories of horror inside Arab jails. The abuses that the Arab governments condemn at Abu Ghuraib are nothing compared to what happens in these governments' jails. Will the Arab regimes go on TV and apologize to their people in the same way President Bush did?"

My colleague who heads our Arab media unit here in Baghdad called these statements nothing short of revolutionary for the Middle East media. And while they may not seem that profound on the surface, they are threads of a far greater, and still unfolding, story. Yes, the horrific actions of a few have tainted the good work of the many. But they have unwittingly done something else. The events of the past several days have given democracy a global stage within which to prove its worth.
(via Sarah)

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