June 28, 2008
I received many comments regarding my previous piece “On Building Bridges and Winning Hearts”, mostly of readers accusing me of being “Pro-Western Media” and turning a blind eye to the many biases and inaccuracies that occur in American and European media.
To those I say please go back and read what I wrote again, I never said that ‘Western’ media is flawless or argued that biases or mistakes don’t occur.
In fact I am a fierce critic of any mistakes or imbalanced reporting, whereever it happens.
I would also like to invite you to read my opening statement of “The Truth Behind The Myth” which was story I wrote last year for Asharq Al Awsat after visiting a number of media outlets and meeting with top journalists in the US (as part of an International Visitors Programme that coincidentally carries the name of American journalism icon, Edward R. Murrow).
If you have read that piece ( available on http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=5&id=9052) you would have understood that I am with the school of thought that argues that there is absolutely no such thing as completely unbiased media to start with.
However, where Western media is at an advantage is that is exists in a democracy, which in theory means that the media is there to serve the public interest and that it is subject to accountability on what it reports; which also means you can ultimately correct an inaccuracy or shame a bias once spotted and proved.
Of course democracy has its flaws, I agree, especially when mixed with capitalism.
One could argue that this has resulted in many media outlets serving advertisers’ and owners’ interests rather than the public’s, and that spin doctors and pressuare groups will always find ways to sway you away from the truth. (and one should also mention that the West itself realizes these issues and debates them all the time).
Having said that, there are two points to consider here, first: what is the alternative? and the second is the fact that with all the plagues that Western media is infected with, it still is able to produce ‘breakthrough’ journalism.
We have to admit, although I know many might not want to, that Watergate and Abu Ghraib were not a work of fiction… and that those were real stories written by real journalists (who are still alive) and have achieved real results.
But the issue doesn’t end there, the interesting part is that the reporters who have worked on those stories weren’t later banned from writing, labelled as traitors, arrested or suddenly killed in a car accident (or a car bomb for that matter!) as the case was several times in the Arab World when journalists sought to challenge authority.
Once we have admitted that the above is true, we could discuss Western media’s biases and inaccuracies all you want… and the beauty of it is that in theory; we can actually do something about it… that is the advantage of democracy.