Bogus reports plague Gulf press integrity

After the scandals of mock investments, fake diplomas and phoney professional status that have ravaged the Gulf society at large, it is now the media's turn to confess their "bogus reports", commented Qassem Hussein in the opinion pages of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

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After the scandals of mock investments, fake diplomas and phoney professional status that have ravaged the Gulf society at large, it is now the media's turn to confess their "bogus reports", commented Qassem Hussein in the opinion pages of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. During its general assembly last week, the Gulf Press Federation sounded the alarm on a significant number of newspapers that resort to certain research agencies for inflated reports on their ranking and volume of circulation.

"The warning came about only after the stink of the affair scattered everywhere." While some believe the warning to be overdue, it is still a laudable move. It says a lot about the rampant level of laxness with figures and invented facts in the region. Ploys were used to graft a halo of success on otherwise corrupt institutions hungry for revenue. "Victims in the press community are thus two types: the readers who are morally deceived, and the advertising companies that are financially duped, since they are the key targets of those kind of reports after all." In its final statement, the Gulf Press Federation admitted that some rating agencies have indeed undertaken "unprofessional dealings" in some Gulf states. "The trend has actually become so widely common that it's a given in press circles."

While Israel is boosting relations with China in all sectors, including cultural, Arabs are keeping their arms crossed, watching as the chance of bonding culturally with China drifts by, wrote Fakhri Saleh, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that Israel is "culturally penetrating" China, but culture has never been that far removed from politics, and Israel has never really concealed its worries, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, that the United States may endure the same fate. "In tandem with political activity and the reinforcement of economic ties between Israel and China, hosts of Israeli missions are sent to China to learn the Chinese language, specialise in Chinese studies and translate modern Chinese literature into Hebrew."

But the majority of Israeli authors assigned to liven up the cultural exchange between Israel and China are almost exclusively those who represent the left or "the camp for peace", those who oppose Israeli aggression and favour harmony in the Middle East. So, Israel is doing what it takes to export a positive image of its culture to ensure an easy integration into China, a favourable assimilation by the large Chinese readership and, by the same token, secure a stalwart future ally. "What are we Arabs doing?"

"A new-old Israeli story has surfaced once again: the Orthodox Jews," wrote Tariq al Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat. The history of the conflict between Orthodox Jews and the Israeli state is a complicated one, but both parties have long settled for a unwritten "live and let live" arrangement, which guarantees the religious group a number of privileges such as a waiver of military service and tax exemption.

The Orthodox Jews reject forms of entertainment like music and movies and believe that women's fundamental role is to stay at home, procreate and raise the children. They also resist modern aspects of daily life such as mobile phones, television and computers. Reports say the fertility rate among Orthodox Jewish women stands at 10 children per family. This obviously comes with expensive bills that the Israeli treasury has to foot, because the members of the religious group spend most of their time practicing rites and studying subjects that are incompatible with the job market. Now, secular citizens in Israel are demanding a firm stance from the government. The mayor of Tel Aviv said earlier this month that the government must do something about "the isolated and ignorant sectors that are growing at a frightening pace and menacing our political and financial resources."

The word "Bidoon" in Arabic literally means "without". It refers to a social group in the Gulf region that claims to be without proper documentation: no identity card, passport or birth certificate. The status of the Bidoons has been a serious subject of concern in GCC countries and more patently so in Kuwait.

Abdullah al Hadlaq, a left-wing columnist with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Watan, put forward the argument that not all Bidoons are genuine ones, that is, natives who, living in remote tribal areas, have never cared for proper documentation and now are demanding Kuwaiti citizenship. Addressing the issue during a recent international human rights conference in Geneva, the Kuwaiti minister of social affairs and labour, Mohammed al Affasi, said those who call themselves Bidoons are infiltrators who entered Kuwait some time ago and concealed their identification documents in order to obtain Kuwaiti nationality and enjoy the benefits that come with it.

"It is wrong to use names like 'Bidoon' or 'those without nationality' because these designations are not precise, nor do they have a legal basis. The right appellation for those who call themselves 'Bidoons' is actually 'non-Kuwaitis maintaining an illegal resident status'." * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi