IS AL-JAZEERA DUCKING THE NEWS?….Marc Lynch reports that democracy advocates in Egypt are feeling sold out on all sides:
Al-Jazeera reported, and everyone has picked up, Gamal Mubarak’s casual meeting with Bush, Cheney, and various worthies ? which rather undermines the State Department’s strong statements. The restoration of diplomatic relations with Libya, whatever the strategic justification, have been taken by many Arab democracy advocates as a clear message that the United States can not be counted on to support democratic change ? that the US will abandon them the second it sees some slight advantage in doing so.
As for satellite TV, I had heard many complaints from Egyptian activists that al-Jazeera had sold them out, presumably in exchange for the release of their correspondent who had been arrested over his coverage of the Sinai bombings. I had seen some coverage on al-Jazeera of the protests, and thought that this might be changing. Evidently not. Having learned well the lessons of the potential power granted by Arab satellite TV, Egyptian security forces have been engaging in rather savage repression of television cameras attempting to cover the protests, attacks on journalists, and intimidation of others.
As Marc says, effective attacks on the Egyptian regime depend on “satellite TV again intersecting with popular protest and some signs of American / external pressure. Now two of the three legs seem wobbly.” Not a single episode of al-Jazeera’s key nightly prime time news/interview program Behind the News, he says, has been devoted to Egypt.
I happen to agree with Marc that satellite TV stations like al-Jazeera are probably far more important drivers of democracy than anything the United States does in its official capacity. If they’re taking a dive, that’s bad news for the region.