“Al-Hurra” – Not So Free After All.

"The same goes for TV stations — including al-Hurra, the U.S.-sponsored satellite channel, which is supposed to be providing uncensored news from an American point of view.  From the beginning, al-Hurra’s operation in Egypt was subject to the covert control of the security services, a fact that is not always apparent to those who oversee the station from Washington. The services have close ties to some of the station’s directors and handpick many correspondents. They even have final say over which guests appear on programs. As a result, anyone who has paid careful attention to the tone and opinions of the regular programming will notice that liberal, progressive, open-minded views are presented almost apologetically. While al-Hurra is supposed to be a vibrant, fresh forum for freedom, it has failed to provide a real space for balanced views, and so it has been incapable of competing with  the "Islamic" al-Jazeera and "pan-Arabist" al-Arabiya channels."  Hala Mustafa of the Al-Ahram center to the WASHPOST.

"Al-Hurra" is not just "sponsored" by the United States.  The network is the property of the United States government.  Its studios in Fairfax County, Virginia are guarded by General Services Administration police.  Its employees are US government employees or contractors to the US Government.  How many hundreds of millions of dollars of American taxpayer’s money have now been spent on "Al-Hurra" and "Sawa" radio which is its other "face?"  The salaries and fees paid to the the largely immigrant staff of "Al-Hurra" are such as to make the network the object of Congressional investigation. One must ask how much the directors of these exercises in foreign "information operations" have known about the degree of Egyptian police and intelligence control of "Al-Hurra."

The police control everything in Egypt on behalf of the presidency.  There is no aspect of Egyptian life that is not subject to police inspection and control.  Since our government now seems to think it is a good idea to make all aspects of our lives "open" to police and intelligence agency surveillance, perhaps it is not surprising that "we" have not exerted ourselves in this matter.

Imagine what fools we look to the Egyptians with our prattling about freedom and democracy.

Pat Lang



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6 Responses to “Al-Hurra” – Not So Free After All.

  1. Rider says:

    I have been in conversation the last day or so with folks who are of a mindset that is far more disturbed by the publication of this kind of story than by the reported facts of what the government has been up to. For example, these people are far more concerned about the supposed damage to national security caused by the NSA stories in the Times (or by the leaks) than they are about the fact that the NSA has been illegally gathering intelligence on U.S. persons. How do intelligence professionals go about assessing damage in real terms? What’s the difference between bad PR or political embarrassment or bad press vs. actual damage to national security? Thanks and Merry Christmas!

  2. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    This post raises a touchy question: to what extent do intelligence agencies also influence U.S. news media? “Al-Hurra” is lock, stock, and barrel U.S. government controlled, it would be interesting to give a percentage rating of such “independent” news providers as NYTimes, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, FoxNews, etc. Presumably the “intelligence input” is more subtly dosed, but clearly present nontheless. Operation Mockingbird lives on.

  3. Rider says:

    How many revelations have we had this year of bought-and-paid-for reporting? And today’s Wash Post reports that Bush not only called Sulzberger and Keller (NYTimes) but also Downie (Post) to the Oval Office to pressure them not to run damaging stories, ostensibly for national security reasons. They all did what Bush asked to some extent and also agreed that the conversations would be off the record, which in itself is disturbing. Gets back to my question: how do intelligence professionals assess national security damage and separate that from political damage / bad PR / bad press? I assume there are empirical methods.

  4. Serving Patriot says:

    Your last comment (re: how we look to the Egyptians) is absolutely right on – and applicable region wide (perhaps globally).
    Is it any surprise that any moderate, western (or US) leaning political groups in Egypt would flee in horror from the USAID grant givers? No wonder Ayman Nour cringes everytime our government calls for his release – it sours any chance for him to gain political power in Egypt. Is it any wonder that the Ikwan rises from it’s dormant grave?
    Ruled by an aging autocrat with no clear succession, Egypt is headed toward massive change as surely as the Soviets were in the 1980s.
    Who will be the Egyptian Gorbachev? Sad that we have absolutely no idea (or even care fro tham matter).

  5. aboudaqn says:

    Have you read “The Limits of Freedom,” which concludes “Al Hurra should be closed down at once”?

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I’ll drink to that. pl

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