- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

The Arab world's mistrust of U.S. policies and a relative ignorance of the Islamic countries in the United States influenced the coverage of the September 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, speakers at a media forum said yesterday.
Jonathan Kessler, executive editor of Middle East Insight, a magazine published in Washington, said the U.S. media have been widely perceived as anti-Islamic in the Arab world, and often as anti-Jewish in Israel. Narrow national and regional interests influence such contradictory perceptions, he said.
The forum, "The Media and the War: Perspectives of the West and Islam," was organized by World Media Association, a Washington-based education group.
Edmund Ghareeb, a professor of media and Middle Eastern affairs at American University, said negative and positive images of America prevail side by side in the Arab world. The negative image is caused by U.S. policies, which the Arabs see as anti-Islamic and pro-Israel. The positive image, which remains strong after September 11, stems from American values and culture.
"Many Arabs want to send their children to American schools, watch American movies and like to eat at McDonald's," Mr. Ghareeb said.
While most media organizations in the Arab world are government-owned, he said, the onset of new media, especially the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network, has exposed the region to professional journalism and made governments understand the need to be more accountable.
Defending U.S. media coverage of events since September 11, Martin Sieff, managing editor for international affairs at United Press International, said the American organizations, including the tabloid newspapers, have acted responsibly by resisting provocative reporting and rumor-mongering. The U.S. media also have avoided "demonizing" Muslim Americans and in fact have focused on civil rights issues involving them, he said.

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