The Al-Hurra Controversy
Al-Hurra, the American-sponsored Arabic television network, has been embroiled in controversy in recent weeks. The controversy has gained center attention through the writings of Joel Mowbray in The Wall Street Journal who has lashed out at high-ranking members of the network’s current leadership. He suggests that al-Hurra is so badly run that they’ve allowed active support for terrorism and a sympathetic view towards Arab autocrats to become an evident part of their news coverage.
This whole controversy, though, is quite misleading. Mowbray seems to suggest that the network was successfully promoting democracy and supporting human rights until new, corrupt leadership suddenly made it all go astray. The problem with this line of reasoning, however, is that al-Hurra has never been successful in this regard. Indeed, they’ve rarely challenged Arab regimes or taken a strong line on important human rights issues. It’s quite amazing, actually, and somewhat bizarre to note that they’ve been extremely tepid in their coverage since their inception in 2004.
A more accurate critique of the network would point out that al-Hurra has always been a failed venture at public diplomacy, it has never gained a sizable viewing audience, and it has never furthered the causes that we wish it would. Criticizing the new leadership as soft on Arab autocrats and Islamic extremism is to miss to point: that’s the way it’s always been.