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Cablegate: Deputy Commander Urges Al-Arabiya Management To

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Diana T Fritz 02/06/2007 04:40:38 PM From DB/Inbox: Search Results

Cable
Text:


UNCLASSIFIED

SIPDIS
TELEGRAM July 28, 2004


To: No Action Addressee

Action: Unknown

From: AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI (ABU DHABI 2520 - ROUTINE)

TAGS: PGOV, OIIP, PREL, KPAO

Captions: None

Subject: DEPUTY COMMANDER URGES AL-ARABIYA MANAGEMENT TO MAKE
IRAQ COVERAGE MORE BALANCED

Ref: None
_________________________________________________________________
UNCLAS ABU DHABI 02520

SIPDIS
CXABU:
ACTION: PAO
INFO: USLO DAO ECON POL DCM
Laser1:
ACTION: PAO

DISSEMINATION: PAO
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: CDA: RALBRIGHT
DRAFTED: PAO: PNEISULER
CLEARED: USLO: RSIMM, ECON: OJOHN

VZCZCADI864
RR RUEHC RUCNRAQ RUCAACC RUEKJCS RUEASRT RHMFIUU
RHRMDAB RUEAHQA RHEFDIA RUEHC RUEKJCS RUENAAA RUCAACC RUCAACC
RUEKJCS RUEAHQA RULSSAK RUEADWD
DE RUEHAD #2520/01 2101216
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281216Z JUL 04
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5291
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUCAACC/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP/ISA/NESA//
RUEASRT/COMUSARCENT FT MCPHERSON GA
RHMFIUU/COMUSCENTAF SHAW AFB SC
RHRMDAB/COMUSNAVCENT
RUEAHQA/HQ USAF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5292
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC
RUENAAA/CNO WASHDC
RUCAACC/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ1/CCJ2//
RUCAACC/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ3/CCJ4/CCJ5//
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-5//
RUEAHQA/OSAF WASHDC//IA//
RULSSAK/NAVY IPO WASHINGTON DC
RUEADWD/HQDA WASHINGTON DC//DALO-SA//

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABU DHABI 002520

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV OIIP PREL IZ TC
SUBJECT: DEPUTY COMMANDER URGES AL-ARABIYA MANAGEMENT TO
MAKE IRAQ COVERAGE MORE BALANCED


1. (SBU) Summary: In a visit to Dubai's Media City on July
19, General Lance Smith, Deputy Commander CENTCOM, told the
new management team at Al Arabiya that the Arab satellite
station put too much emphasis on violence and that he would
like to see more even coverage on the situation in Iraq.
Representatives from Al Arabiya insisted that the station's
only agenda was to become the premier channel in the Middle
East and that Al Arabiya had no desire to serve as a
mouthpiece for terrorists. They blamed Al Jazeera for
sensationalist coverage of the violence in Iraq, which
sometimes made Al Arabiya and other Arab stations, which
tried to present a more balanced view, appear less credible
to Arab audiences. They pointed to a lack of access to USG
officials as contributing to the unbalanced coverage, voiced
their perception that US officials in Baghdad gave better
access to Al Jazeera and urged CENTCOM to appoint an Arabic
speaking spokesperson to get out the US point of view.
End summary.


2. (SBU) On Monday, July 19, General Lance Smith, Deputy
Commander CENTCOM, accompanied by Centcom staff officers,
Charg d'Affaires, USLO BPAO, and FSN Information
Specialist, visited Media City headquarters in Dubai, and
later met with managers of Al Arabiya, also in Media City,
followed by a broadcast interview with Al Arabiya. At the
first meeting, Mahmoud Fakhour, Commercial Operations
Manager of Media City, and Ramy Jallad, Sales Manager of
Media City, briefed the General on the Media City's success.
General Smith next met with management at Al Arabiya: Nakhle
Elhage, Director of News, Shafaat Khan, Business Manager,
Fadi Ismail, General Manager, Muhammad Rashed, Asst. to the
COO and Legal Counsel, and Abdul Rahman, Chief Operating
Officer of the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
The second meeting was followed by a 30-minute interview,
broadcast July 19 on al Arabiya's "From Iraq" program.

----------------------------
Background: Media City Dubai
----------------------------

3. (SBU) Media City is part of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid's
(MBR) strategic plan to attract 4 million new residents to
Dubai by 2010, and to increase Dubai's economic independence
from oil. Media City was launched in January 2001, and now
boasts over 1,890 companies, covering IT, education, media,
and knowledge transfer. By 2005, they are hoping for 2,000
companies, employing 50,000 "talented workers." MBR has
five areas of focus: he wants Dubai to be an international
center for technology, media, finance and business, tourism,
and for health, leisure and entertainment. Altogether,
400,000 square meters of land have been covered in 3 years.
They have allotted 10 times that area for future building on
Sheikh Zayed road, and all of the plots have already been
sold.

----------------------------------
General Criticizes Biased Coverage
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) Speaking to a recently restructured management at
Al Arabiya, General Smith outlined USG concerns with the
station's coverage, saying that there was too much of an
emphasis on violence, and that he would like to see both
sides being reported. He admitted that the military could
be more forthcoming with information. He explained that
Central Command 2has restructured and put Public Affairs
under the Chief of Staff. This allows a broader view, and a
greater ability to be responsive. He stated that "anytime,
you can talk to us; I'm always available."

----------------------------------
Not a Mouthpiece for Bin Laden
----------------------------------

5. (SBU) Al Arabiya management emphasized that they have no
"agenda" aside from becoming the premier channel in the
Middle East. They said that they want Al Arabiya to be
"accurate, timely, and responsible," with no desire to be
the mouthpiece of Bin Laden. Muhammed Rashed, Legal Counsel
to the station, said that Bin Laden's followers "do not
represent Arabs or Saudis; they are a bunch of terrorists
with their own agenda." They accused rival Al Jazeera of
being sensationalist and of making Al Arabiya look like a
sell-out if it doesn't go out of its way to report bad news.
On the issue of airing tapes from Al Qaeda, they stated that
they have in some cases refused to air tapes only to see
another outlet such as Al Jazeera air them.

--------------------------------------------- -
No Access to USG; Need USG Arabic Spokesperson
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) Al Arabiya said that they have trouble gaining
access to important locations or information. They cited a
recent air strike in Fallujah and their inability to get USG
information regarding the intent and the results of the air
strike. As a result, they were not able to broadcast the
USG side of the story, and other, inaccurate reports
remained unchallenged. They also complained that they were
not allowed access into the Saddam trial. They claimed that
Al Jazeera gets more scoops from the US military. They
noted that the lack of a USG Arabic-speaking spokesperson
(in contrast to the British) is a problem and urged CENTCOM
to appoint a spokesperson who could engage with the media in
real time in Arabic.

--------------------------------------------- ---
The US and the Arab World: Mutual Misperceptions
--------------------------------------------- ---


7. (SBU) All participants agreed that there were serious
public misperceptions on both sides about the true nature of
the respective societies. Al Arabiya management said that
they were "doing their part" to correct Arab stereotypes
about America. They noted that many in the region do not
understand what America stands for. In October, Al Arabiya
will air a four-hour documentary using information from
reporters sent to the US, in order to introduce it to people
in the region. Referring to the US, Mr. Rashed said, "Some
like it; some hate it; few understand it." He noted many
activities under way to bridge the cultural gap, including
an International Film Festival planned for December. He
suggested doing a documentary on US soldiers - their lives
in Iraq and their attitudes toward Iraqis and their
situation.

--------
Comment
--------

8. (SBU) Management at Al Arabiya went out of their way to
blame competitor Al Jazeera for setting the bar so low on
the portrayal of violence in Iraq. Their claim that they
are forced to use similar images to hold market share is one
we can continue to debate, but it is not a practice we are
likely to change absent intensive engagement with them to
get out our story. The request from Al Arabiya's new team
for greater access to U.S. officials and readiness to
broadcast their views is an open door that we should work to
exploit. After General Smith's departure, Al Arabiya's new
chief suggested to Charg that given the rapid expansion of
Arab media outlets in Dubai's Media City, the U.S. should
consider posting to Dubai a press attach who could engage
with the pan-Arab satellite stations on regional issues. We
note that CENTCOM is considering basing an Arab American
civilian in Doha to do media outreach.

Albright

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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