Variations in Rhetoric and Coverage: How American and English-Language Arab Newspapers Differ in Their Presentation of International Conflict
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In regards to print media, how does the information Arabs receive in the Middle East differ from the information we Americans receive? Intrigued by this question and motivated by a desire to better understand the Arab world, I embarked on this summer?s research, studying how the American and Arab newspapers differ in their coverage of a story. Major differences between the Arab and American media institutions and audience exist, making any comparative analysis difficult. Specifically, newspapers in the Arab world reach far fewer people, are often repressed by the government, and are viewed with ?defensive skepticism? by a population weary of controlled nationalistic presses. Due to the sparse and often distorted information flowing from the Arab world to the West, and due to my current language barriers, I based my project on the American papers and the English-language papers published in the Arab world, which offer an Arab perspective to a Western audience. After pouring through newspaper articles on topics from the London terrorist attacks of 7/7 to various prisoner abuse scandals, speaking with experts and journalists, and reading other pertinent material, I found three generalizations that can be made about the difference of American and Arab-based papers. First, the Arab-based papers pay more heed to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In the Arab presses, the events in the War in Iraq are often linked to the years of turmoil wrought by the occupation of Palestine by a Western-backed Israel. American newspapers indiscriminately use the term ?occupation forces? to describe its presence in Iraq; the mere mention of ?occupation? in the Arab-based papers elicits the emotive image of a subjugated Palestine. Second, the means America employs are given more attention and scrutiny than any American pronouncement of freedom or democracy by the Arab-based papers. Unaccounted for ghost prisoners and cases of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, among others, has irreconcilably damaged America?s image as a justice-seeking nation in the watchful eyes of the Arab newspapers. Finally, the Arab papers give more attention to the daily role of Islam in the Arab world, separated from the extremist interpretation professed by the terrorists.