Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Lebanese Crisis and The Media

You sure have heard about what was going on in Lebanon, when the government there wanted to get rid of Hizbullah's communication system, and the Hizb's response by seizing control over the streets of Beirut and its airport. Anyway, I am not going to talk about the Lebanese crisis here, since thousands of articles were written about this subject everywhere here in the Middle East during the previous month. What I want to shed some lights on, is how the Media here dealt with this issue.

Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya News Channels

Let's face it, these two channels are considers the only two news channels in the region. Some people may follow channels like Al-Hurra, BBC-Arabia, Nile News, etc. But still Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya are the two major key players here.

They both have their own Web Sites as well, but for me, following Al-Arabiya's site is much easier than Al-Jazeera because of their News Feed service.

Let's first focus on Al-Arabiya. Al-Arabiys is owned by Saudi Businessmen, and as you know Al-Hariri family have strong relations with the Saudis. And that's why Al-Arabia was biased towards Saad Al-Hariri and the rest of "14th of March" coalition.
"In 1978 Hariri was made a citizen of Saudi Arabia by the Saudi royal family as a reward for the high quality of his entrepreneurial services, and became the kingdom's emissary to Lebanon", Wikipedia.
"After his father's assassination and the Cedar Revolution, Saad Hariri returned to Lebanon and took up his father's political path rallying behind him the biggest political movement in Lebanon. He ran for the Lebanese parliament on an anti-Syrian coalition, working for the sovereignty, independence and freedom of Lebanon as part of the 14 March coalition. Like his father before him and he favors negotiations to disarm Hezbullah, withdrawal of Israel's military forces from Shebaa Farms, and has become resistant to Syria's longstanding influence in Lebanon", Wikipedia.
Al-Arabiya's headlines during the crises were mainly against Hizbullah's. They sometimes portrayed the Hizb's act as a Coup D'etat in order to overthrow the legitimate government, they also focused much on Hizbullah's arm and how they pointed their weapons towards the civilians, and they forgot that the "14th of March" coalition do have their own guerillas and their weapons that were used during the crisis too. Some other times they portrayed it as a sectarian struggle between Shiites and Sunnis. As you know, Hizbullah is a Shiite party, and the Saudis always like to play the role of the Sunni elder brother who bare the responsibility of protecting the Sunni majority in the Arab world.

Al-Jazeera on the other hand know how to capture the hearts and minds of Arab viewers. They know that the more they attack USA and Israel and praise the resistance the more people will like them. So they tried their best not to be biased, in fact I felt their confusion, on one hand they know that the Arabic street is with the resistive and anti-Israel movements, but on the other hand the majority of the street are Sunnis, and this is sometimes enough reason for them to be against Hizbullah. But to some extent the way Al-Jazeera dealt with the Lebanese crisis was far more reasonable and somehow fair compared to Al-Arabiya.

The Egyptian Blogosphere.

The blogs are - at least for me - the second source of news and information beside the Satellite News Channels and Newspapers. And to some extent, I can divide those bloggers who wrote about the Lebanese issue into three main groups.

The Salafi/Wahabi Bloggers, those guys have two main reasons to be with the Hariri et. al. against Hizbullah. First of all, the Salafism/Wahabism is the product of the Saudi clerics and regime. In fact Saudia uses the religion most of the time as a way of Soft Power beside their Economical Power, thanks to the Saudi Oil. And they helped in spreading the Wahabi thoughts as a mean of shaping the minds hence the decisions of the peoples of their neighbouring countries. The wahabis also consider the Shiites infidels and they even consider them their major enemies and even more dangerous than Israel!

The Muslim Brotherhooders Bloggers, those guys like many other Sunni groups are subject to the Salafi effects, however as a political opposition movement, they sometimes consider Hizbllah as a role model for opposition and resistive movements. The MB's are also more pragmatic than the Salafis, and that's why they were with Hizbullah.

The third group is those Secular bloggers who were somehow divided into sub-groups. The pro-western pro-American ones were mainly with the Lebanese government, while the pro-resistive pan-Arabists were mainly with Hizbullah.

The Government-Owned Media

Finally, there is the government-owned media, such as Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers and the Egyptian government-owned TV channels. In fact, we needn't to be that smart to know that the governmental media supported the Lebanese government and attacked the opposition, even before reading what they wrote. The government here have their own opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and they have experience Strikes and Demonstrations few days before the Lebanese crisis, so they don't want the opposition parties in any of their neighbours to achieve any kind of success that may encourage the local opposition groups to follow their steps.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stupid Shareٍٍٍٍٍ

I came across a very nice blog called We Love Music today. But you know, their only problem is that most - if not all - of the music there are stored on Stupid Share, aka Rapid Share.

Rapid Share is a big maze of human stupidity, you have to follow one link after the other in order to reach the file you want to download.


And during your journey there, you will meet stupid counters, where you have to wait for them to finish in order to get promoted to the next level ... ehm ... page. Then you have to face their evil CAPTCHA's where zeroes look like O's, and some letters are just hidden.

And please keep in mind that you are not allowed to download more than one file at the same time, and after downloading the first file, they may see that you have to wait for an hour in order to download another one.

They also have never heard about "Searching" features before.

In fact, Rapid Share is a perfect example of how technology can turn people into real assholic dumb maniacs.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pangea Day - Cairo, Egypt

Let's start by the official introduction to the Pangea Day event, the one that is printed in their Media Guide and Press Releases.
Pangea Day is a global event bringing the world together through film. On May 10, 2008, live events in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro will be linked to produce a 4-hour program of powerful films, live music, and visionary speakers. The program will be broadcast live to millions of people worldwide through the internet, television, and mobile phones.

In 2006, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim won the TED Prize, an annual award granted at the TED Conference, which honors three individuals with the potential to change the world. She was granted $100,000 and more important: A wish to change the world. She wished to create a day in which the world came together through film. Pangea Day grew out of that wish.
Ok, enough about the official stuff, as you can find more information about the Event in their site.


As as author in Global Voices Online, they offered to give me a ticket in order to attend the Pange Day event, in fact it was a Press Pass. To tell you the truth, I wasn't really sure that I'll attend the event, may be because most of the fellow bloggers were not going to show up, and also I thought that it's going to be a small not well organized event, at least here in Egypt. But you know what, what am I going to loose!?


I reached the Pyramids, at about 8:00 PM. There I realized that it is not going to be a small nor a not well organized event at all. There were Egyptian policemen organizing the flow and showing people the way using some hand held lights. And after seeing my Press Pass, they put a VIP sticker on my car, that gave me access to the VIP area later on, thanks to GVO ;)


The Egyptian actor "Khaled Abu El Naga" presented the event, he started by giving an introduction about the event, and Jihan Noujaim, the documentary film director who have a mixture of Egyptian and Lebanese origins, and how TED (Technology Entertainment Design) made her wish come true. He also described the word "Pangea", which is what our World was called thousands - or may be millions - of years ago when it wasn't divided into continents yet, and hence came the name as a symbol to bringing people from different countries and cultures close to each other. Then after this short introduction it was time for the Egyptian band "West El Balad", which means "Down Town", to get on the stage.


Let me tell you something, I've never been to any of "West El Balad" concerts before, especially that many of my friends have attended their concerts especially those they used to give in "El Sawy Cultural Wheel". Anyway, I listened to many of their songs before, but I never really liked them that much, but you know, it seems that when you listen to them in a live concert you are going to like their music, also you know, the scene of the pyramids in the background while they were singing was really magnificent.


By they way, Noujaim's parents were there attending in the first row.


Later on they started to air scenes of those concurrent events taking place in the other four cities. I liked that expression, when one of the hosts shown on the screen compared the event to a "Huge Camp Fire". Then people such as Christiane Amanpour, Queen Nour of Jordan, and many other gave short speeches.

As you know, the main part of the event, was those 24 films that were going to be shown.
The 24 winning short films have been selected from an international competition that generated more than 2,500 submissions from 100+ countries. They were chosen based on their ability to inspire, transform, and allow us see the world through another person's eyes. The winning films will be announced in late April.
So they started to show them, one after the other, with various people giving shot speeches in between. During that the waiters started to put food on the tables.


In fact, I didn't like the movies that much, they were some how, ehmm, too amateur to my taste. And may be that's why after a couple of hours I started to get really bored and decided to leave.


But before leaving, I wanted to have a look at the non VIP area, it was almost empty compared to the VIP one, may be more than half of the seats were empty. But may be it wasn't there from the beginning and people decided to leave in the middle. One more thing that I noticed was that big percentage of the people there were foreigners.


That's all folks for today, and you may find more photos of the event on my flickr account here. You can also read Ricardo Jordão Magalhaes' impressions on Pangea Day from Brazil here.


P.S. While writing this post there is a show on the TV called Creature Comforts, I really want to know how can someone create something that silly and ridiculous!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Egyptians, You've Been Punk'd

Egypt - You've Been Punk'd

"Egypt's parliament endorsed Monday a government bill to raise taxes and fuel prices less than a week after President Hosni Mubarak announced a 30 percent salary increase for all government employees", Associated Press.

I am waiting for Ashton Kutcher to appear on the TV now and say:
"Egyptians, you've been punk'd"!!