Thursday, March 3, 2011


We saw the Arab revolutions coming

Al Jazeera's director general Wadah Khanfar asks why, when Al Jazeera saw the uprisings coming, the West did not.

February 11, the day Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president of Egypt, Al Jazeera faced a welcome dilemma: Scenes of elation were playing out not just in Cairo but throughout the region, and even with our vast network of journalists, we found it difficult to be everywhere at once. From North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, Arabs were celebrating the reclamation of their self-confidence, dignity and hope.

The popular revolutions now sweeping the region are long overdue. Yet in some ways, they could not have come before now. These are uprisings whose sons and daughters are well educated and idealistic enough to envision a better future, yet realistic enough to work for it without falling into despair. These revolutions are led by the Internet generation, for whom equality of voice and influence is the norm. Their leaders' influence is the product of their own effort, determination and skill, unconstrained by rigid ideologies and extremism.

It is now clear to all that the modern, post-colonial Arab state has failed miserably, even in what it believed it was best at: Maintaining security and stability. Over the decades, Arab interior ministers and police chiefs devoted enormous resources and expertise to monitoring and spying on their own people. Yet now, the security machineries in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have disintegrated in short order, while the rest of the authoritarian and repressive regimes in the region can see the writing on the wall.

These revolutions have exposed not just the failure of traditional politicians but also the moral, political and economic bankruptcy of the old Arab elites. Those elites not only attempted to control their own people, but also sought to shape and taint the views of news media in the region and across the world.

Indeed, it should surprise no one that so many Western analysts, researchers, journalists and government experts failed to recognise the obvious signs of Arab youth movements that would soon erupt into revolutions capable of bringing down some of the most pro-Western regimes in the Middle East. That failure has exposed a profound lack of understanding in the West of Arab reality.

US and European allies, supporters and business partners of the Arab regimes persistently preferred to deal with leaders who were entirely unrepresentative of the new generation. They were detached from the emerging reality and had no way to engage with the social forces that now matter. It is the growing periphery of the Arab world - the masses at its margins, not its feeble and decaying centre - that is shaping the future of the region.

These unfolding transformations have been less of a surprise for us at Al Jazeera. Since our launch nearly 15 years ago, we have chosen to keep close to the Arab street, gauging its pulse and reflecting its aspirations. It was clear to us that a revolution was in the making, and it was happening far from the gaze of a tame and superficial establishment media that allied itself with the powerful centre - on the assumption that the centre is always safer and more important. Many media outlets in the region failed to recognise what was happening among the Arab grass roots. Keen to conduct interviews with high-level officials and ever willing to cover repetitious news conferences, they remained oblivious to what was happening on the ground.

At Al Jazeera we have spared no effort to search for the real actors, wherever they happen to be: Whether in the cities, in the countryside, in camps, in prisons or in the blogosphere. We have been guided by a firm belief that the future of the Arab world will be shaped by people from outside the aging elites and debilitated political structures featured so disproportionately by most other news outlets.

The real actors did not appear on most television screens or magazine covers, whether in the Arab world or in Western media. Cameras were not attracted to them; columnists rarely mentioned them. Yet that did not deter them.

Al Jazeera swam against that dominant current. We gave all the players the avenues they needed to communicate, providing diverse viewpoints on the issues. During the recent uprisings we were inundated with videos, pictures and writings from the new generation. We opened our screens to them; it is their voices that viewers found so compelling in our coverage.

We refused to compromise on our editorial policy, which gives priority to the grievances and aspirations of ordinary people. Neither threats of punishment nor promises of rewards from information ministers, intelligence agencies or royal courts persuaded us to ignore or betray the oppressed and persecuted who demand nothing but freedom, dignity and democracy.

As I tweeted during the Egyptian uprising and as our reporters were being detained in Cairo: "When opinions crowd and confusion prevails, set your sight on the route taken by the masses, for that is where the future lies."


Anonymous said...

Nope! Aint gonna happen in Sarawak. You lot can make all the noise but nothing is gonna change. In Sarawak, Taib is GOD.

Anonymous said...

Well written. From the roots the trees shall flourish. The people had spoken and their voice shall be heard.

Anonymous said...

I ain't gonna happen in Malaysia, either. People in Malaysia are more interested in "America's Got Talent" and see Obama as their president.

sampalee said...

Taib will still go and he may succumb under the demand of his new bride.

Anonymous said...

no back bones BUT instead lots of back biting.

Plight of the natives.

Anonymous said...

So, feel the pulse of the youth of our country.

Are they ready to fight for change? or take the easy way ........ out of the country and let the old folks rot.

mauriyaII said...

It may take more time in Malaysia to overthrow an oppressive and corrupted regime that does not care for the majority of its citizens.

Taking down this regime that has become a police state is a bit more difficult when the police who are supposed to be the guardians of law and order are used to brutalize any form of opposition to the government of the day.

It is difficult when only glorified news about the regime is allowed to be aired or published in the mass media which is wholly at the mercy of the government. The mass media is shackled by the government which uses the printing and publishing act as the threatening tool to make the media print or publish what is favourable to them.

The majority of the rakyat especially the Malays in the rural areas do not have access to any other alternate media except the ones like the UMNO controlled newspapers which write everything except the truth and what is happening in the country.

The rural Malays and the other races are threatened with a non-existent bogeyman in the form of racial riots and mayhem of the infamous May 13. They are told in uncertain terms the status quo is the best under the circumstances.

Revolution of the kind that is happening in the Arab world and the Middle East is not possible in Malaysia because the majority of the rakyat who are Malays have been brainwashed to think that their race and religion is facing grave danger from the other rakyat.

This is a sheer and blatant lie but only the knowledgeable and urban Malays know about it.

When finally the Malays glean the truth about this corrupted and evil UMNO/BN government to rise and demand their lost rights and freedom, they may face another intolerant demon worse than Ghadaffi.

So much is at stake for the UMNOputras and their running dogs that they have already said that they are prepared for blood letting just like what Ghadaffi is doing in Libya.

Uprising to topple an evil and corrupted regime in Malaysia is ONLY possible if the Malays together with the other races take to the streets.Street demonstrations by any one minority race will be put down mercilessly by the government. Those demonstrations though exposing the true nature of the government to the outside world will not bring about any tangible shift in the apartheid policies of the government.

In short only the Malays can bring about a change in government. The other oppressed races can act as allies for a common good cause.

Anonymous said...

You see, there’s a big different between our country and the ones in the middle east. The Pakatan is SO SURE that everybody in Malaysia supports them. IT’S NOT TRUE! There’re some who hated the Pakatan, some that don’t even bother, and of course, there’re some who supports the Barisan.

Now, for things to turn like the Egypt and Tunisia, EVERYBODY has to supports Pakatan. That’s a BIG problem because PAKATAN IS NOT REALLY A GREAT political party. PAKATAN HAVE A LOTS OF ISSUES that need attention.

Unless Pakatan is able to do that, you can say bye-bye to revolution or whatever you want to call it.

Anonymous said...

Just cancel the names Egypt, Tunisia or Libya and replace it with Malaysia, don't the descriptions fit to a tee?

Antares said...

To open our hearts to love also means to expose ourselves to the possibility of disappointment and hurt feelings. Many times I have felt betrayed by people's robotism and their stubborn addiction to mind-deadening activities like watching TV, reading newspapers, watching football, playing mahjong, poker, and the stock market. Yet I keep on loving humanity and giving people all the time they need to change from within. Only problem is, we are on the cusp of a massive evolutionary transition and humans may not have much time left to decide whether or not to make that leap of faith into the unknown...

sampalee said...

From the various posting,one can detact confusions coming from various directions and powered by the intellects the powerhouse of Duality that stalemate any form of thinking as one man's meat is anotherperson's poison.
The many sages that grace earth have left behind teachings that trace the confusion to its roots.When one is clear about confusion,one will be cleared From confusion.We removed the delusion of Ego from its roots and moves freely without moving.
The collections of these teaching forms the kithabs of the various religions.Remove the veil from our vision first and be Surprised that all is Already perfect and nothing need to be done.Bring out the kithabs NOW.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much our FL is going to spend on her shopping spree down under?

Anonymous said...

Anwar Ibrahim and Taib Mahmud look like twins, except for the matured grey matter.

If Taib dyes his moustache and goatee with black shoe polish, people will support him, because they may mistake him for Anwar.