Quest for truth in Arab media wars

War is good for ratings, but some Arab networks are being accused of affecting, rather than reflecting, the conflicts. Despite the regional media market being one of the most saturated in the world, there is still much space for unbiased coverage.

Beirut-based satellite channel Asia TV is a newcomer to the Arabic media world. The station promises to give viewers an impartial take on the events in the region. On top of its coverage is protest violence in Bahrain – a no-go territory for many of the industry's giants.

“We are trying to build the truth here and to send it to the other people and to other countries,” Nancy el-Sayed, an Asia TV anchor, told RT.

The channel aims to throw a spotlight on corrupt ion and mismanagement in government, but above all to be a watchdog of the Arab media themselves.

“Arab media channels are spokesmen for politicians, or parties, or movements, or countries,” Asia TV’s director general, Entifadh Qanbar, told RT. This being the position the channel distances itself from.

To many novice TV start-ups, war or revolution comes as the main TV catcher. Some channels, however, are actively involved in creating conflicts themselves.

Many blame Al Jazeera for false reporting and bias, pushing the Qatari government’s agenda on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Political analyst Omar Nashabe told RT that the channel is actively involved in information war against Assad.

“Al-Jazeera…is focused on one topic and that is to remove the regime in Syria with all possible means,” Nashabe said.

He noted that the government of Qatar, Al Jazeera’s sponsor, is calling for weapons to be smuggled into Syria, which is the member of the United Nations.

“Calling to smuggle weapons into a member of the United Nations is a matter that is almost criminal,” Nashabe said. “I mean you do not smuggle weapons into a country and give it to people to shoot at government institutions. That is totally unethical and illegal.”

Al Jazeera is one of the most prominent examples of setting the news agenda in the Arab world, but obviously not the only one.

Over the past year, Arab journalists have been increasingly seen riding tanks and warming up crowds. The problem here, according to Nashabe, is about knowing who the channel is working for.

“State media and official media if they are mouthpieces for the regime – that is not such a big problem because it can be predicted,” he said. “But the media that call themselves ‘independent media’ and in fact they are not independent, they are funded by some specific political forces – this is the problem.”