Sakr, reporting from inside Arab dictatorship

Sakr, reporting from inside Arab dictatorship -...

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Gazette International Communication The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/1748048509350337 2010 72: 35 International Communication Gazette Naomi Sakr Dictatorships News, Transparency and the Effectiveness of Reporting From Inside Arab Published by: can be found at: International Communication Gazette Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations: at MINNESOTA STATE UNIV MANKATO on November 5, 2010 gaz.sagepub.com Downloaded from
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NEWS, TRANSPARENCY AND THE EFFECTIVENESS OF REPORTING FROM INSIDE ARAB DICTATORSHIPS Naomi Sakr Abstract / Contradictions in Egyptian media laws, whereby draconian emergency censorship powers coexist with apparently lively media output, seriously affect the content of foreign press reporting from Cairo. Taking account of theories about the way news production norms in free societies marginalize insights into the political structures of societies that are not free, this article examines treatment of struggles that took place in Egypt in 2008 over the licensing of news media and jour- nalists. It finds that, because these struggles involved legal processes not marked by obvious crisis, the full extent of repression they reflected was rarely conveyed in foreign news reports. Keywords / censorship / Egypt / journalism / licensing / satellite television Introduction How to convey the many-layered facets of dictatorship to people who have no experience of living or working in one? Writing in Le Monde Diplomatique in March 2007 about how impossible it is for western journalists to explain to their readers the challenges of reporting accurately and effectively from dictatorships in the Middle East, Joris Luyendijk confessed that he had apparently failed to get the difficulties across even to his own Dutch publisher. His ‘intelligent, well-read’ publisher had returned from the Frankfurt book fair with the glad tidings that an Egyptian publish- ing house was interested in the rights to Luyendijk’s book, People Like Us . 1 The book’s first 100 pages are, according to its author, ‘based around a single idea: to explain what it means to live under a dictator – the fear, the distrust, the brainwashing, the corruption and the deliberate destruction of human resources, self-respect and public opinion’ (Luyendijk, 2007: 16). Despite his personal familiarity with those 100 pages, the book’s publisher had found the Egyptian publishing proposal credible, either because he had not drawn any link between Egypt and the symptoms of dictator- ship, or had not grasped the way censorship works in a dictatorial political system.
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