Generally speaking, most members of the Arab Spring club have two types of media: state-controlled and independent. Both were often cautious about offending their country’s leaders, and in reality, there was not much that differentiated the two; it was a mix of obvious bias and not-so-obvious bias.
Saying this, I’m thinking back to the Egyptian independent television channels that I am most familiar with. Most of them had nightly talk shows, which presented Egypt’s problems and posed questions about them to a government official over the phone or in the studio.
With an inquisitive mind, I would watch them, become frustrated, and then grow bored. The interviews were dry, and the host would not ask the questions we, the viewers, wanted them to ask. Quite simply, the broadcasters were being cautious. Or cowardly, to be frank.
Egypt now has some new additions to its satellite television family after the success of the Egyptian revolution (“success” meaning it resulted in the expulsion of former President Hosni Mubarak, achieving its primary goal).
“Tahrir TV,” “Modern Horreya (Freedom)” and “CBC (Cairo Broadcast Center)” are among the TV and radio newbies in Egypt. Meanwhile, Tunisia’s post-revolution offering is “Sawt al Naas,” or “Voice of the People.”
Meanwhile, Libya’s new revolution-based offering, simply named “Libya TV,” was launched with an initial team of 19 young staffers, brought together partly over Facebook.
And so, the Arab Spring has presented the perfect opportunity to launch new media outlets and present new broadcasters who stand for freedom of expression.
But my immediate inclination is to be wary of these new post-revolution outlets.
These upstarts are ultimately a celebratory offering. That is their post-revolutionary purpose; it is not to change their country’s media or bring something new to the table.
The Arab world does not need them to introduce a braver form of coverage; this can be done with adjustments to existing media outlets, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, where protesters have successfully toppled their leaders.
You may realize that I have not (yet) gone so far as to suggest that these new additions to the Arab media landscape have been established mainly for financial gain.
I need to watch them for a while to see whether this is the case, because hidden agendas will eventually come to mind.
I’ll quote Yasmine Shehata, the editor of Egyptian lifestyle magazine Enigma: “It’s an amazing time to be in the media,” she said, referring to the post-revolution freedom she assumes is now being spawned.
But I think Arab Spring events also offer an “amazing time to be in the media” if one can make money out of them. That’s just a passing thought, however. Maybe post-revolution television will be more than a celebration of events that once happened. Like I said, I’ll watch and find out.
(Eman El-Shenawi, a writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)