- HASSAN MASIKY
Washington, Morocco Board News-- Hafez El-Mirazi did it again. The veteran Arab journalist was fired from the Saudi financed “Al-Arabiya” TV news channel. Ironically, it was more than fifteen years ago that Mr. El-Mirazi was forced out because of his out spoken and daring interviews treating subjects that were “taboo” for some Arab governments. In the 1994 interview, the guest was myself and the subject was human rights in Egypt. Indeed, Mr. El-Mirazi was one of the few journalists who dared invite on an Arab TV station an Amnesty International (AI) representative to discuss human rights abuses by the Mubarak regime in 1990s. At the time, Mr. El-Mirazi invited me to the studios of the Arab Network of America (ANA) to talk about AI’s work in the Middle East including in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Mr. El Mirazi and some of his co-workers were dismissed by the DC based cable television station after the taping of the show.
During my 1994 interview, Hafez was brave and gutsy in his questions. He addressed all the sorts of human rights abuses in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and did not shy away from giving AI a platform to discuss the organization’s work, ideas and advocacy efforts in the Middle East and Africa.
Fast forward to 2011, Mr. El-Mirazi is fired for criticizing Al-Arabiya’s coverage of the Egyptian uprising. Mr. El-Mirazi promised the viewers of his popular show “Studio Cairo” to discuss the impact of the Egyptian revolution on Saudi Arabia. Knowing he will be let go because of the subject matter, at the end of his last taping he told his audience: “If you do not see me next week, farewell to you my dear viewers”.
Shortly after his challenge to Al-Arabiya’s editorial chief, the Egyptian born TV host was fired. Al-Arabiya management chastised Mr. El-Mirazi few times before his sacking for on the air remarks critical of Saudi Arabia positions toward the Egyptian protesters. Al-Arabiya TV news channel was created as an attempt by Saudi Arabia to counter the Qatari based Al-Jazeera’s popularity in the Middle East. Before the Egyptian revolution, media observers noticed an uptake in the viewership of Al-Arabiya at the expense of Al-Jazeera. However, the Al-Jazeera is once again the undisputed champion of the Arab news channels thanks to its coverage of the Egyptian revolution.
The outburst of Mr. El-Mirazi and his open criticism of Al-Arabiya’s editorial restrictions are signs of a soon to resurface revival of the Egyptian press on the Arab scene. The Mubarak regime had muffled the Egyptian press for more than thirty years. Arab readers and leaders will enjoy a more aggressive, critical, challenging and stimulating Egyptian press. The Egyptian intelligentsia that produced the cornerstones of modern Arab literature has been in retreat for some times now due in part to the Mubarak regime’s censorship. A more open and fearless Arab press will be, without a doubt, a positive outcome of the Egyptian revolution and a welcomed change for Arab readers and viewers. Human rights activists will be forever grateful for Hafez’s and his colleague, the Moroccan born journalist, Mohamed Dourashad early on bravery and guts in giving Amnesty International a voice at a time when few Arab press organs dared to approach the issue of human rights in the Arab world.