Al Arabiya

Al Arabiya
Al-Arabiyalogo.svg
Launched 3 March 2003 (2003-03-03)
Owned by MBC Group
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
576i (SDTV)
Country Arab countries
Language Arabic (TV channel and the website);
English, Persian and Urdu (the website only)
Broadcast area The main version in Literary Arabic (TV/website) for the Middle East and North Africa;
the English version (website) is for the international community;
the Persian version (website) is for the west of the Middle East and the northern most of South Asia;
the Urdu (website) is for the northern most of South Asia
Headquarters Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Sister channel(s) MBC 1
MBC 2
MBC 3
MBC 4
MBC Drama
MBC Action
MBC Max
MBC Persia
Wanasah
MBC Bollywood
Website alarabiya.net (Arabic)
english.alarabiya.net (English)
farsi.alarabiya.net (Persian)
urdu.alarabiya.net (Urdu)
Availability
Satellite
Nilesat 102 11470 V - 27500 - 5/6[1]
Arabsat BADR-7 11270 V - 27500 - 5/6[1]
Hot Bird 9 11747 H - 27500 - 3/4[2]
Asiasat 5 3760 H - 27500 - 3/4[3]
SKY Italia Channel 562
OSN (MENA) Channel 453 (SD)
beIN (MENA) Channel 203 (HD)
Cable
Numericable (France) Channel 656 (SD)
Naxoo (Switzerland) Channel 280
Ziggo (Netherlands) Channel 780
Fukushima TV Channel 50
IPTV
Freebox TV (France) Channel 674 (SD)
Sunrise TV (Switzerland) Channel 201 (SD)
MT Box (Morocco) Channel 48 (SD)

Al Arabiya (Arabic: العربية‎, transliterated: al-ʿArabiyyah; meaning "The Arabic One" or "The Arab One"[a]) is a Saudi-owned pan-Arab[4] television news channel broadcast in Modern Standard Arabic. The channel is based in Dubai and is regarded as a competitor to Al Jazeera.

History and profile

Launched on 3 March 2003,[5][6] the channel is based in Dubai Media City, United Arab Emirates, and is owned by Saudi broadcaster Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC).

The current general manager of Al Arabiya is Adel Al Toraifi, who took over that post from Abdulrahman Al Rashed on 22 November 2014.,[7] who had held the position since 2004 and was outspoken against Islamic extremism.[8]

A free-to-air channel, Al Arabiya broadcasts standard newscasts as well as talk shows and documentaries. These programs cover current affairs, business and financial markets, and sports. It is rated among the top pan-Arab stations by Middle East audiences.[9] The news organization's website is accessible in Arabic, English, Urdu and Persian. As of March 2018, the website's number one consumer by country was Saudi Arabia, with 20% of the entire viewership.

On 26 January 2009, American president Barack Obama gave his first formal interview as president to the television channel.[10]

Content and Al-Jazeera rivalry

As a response to Al Jazeera's criticism of the Saudi royal family throughout the 1990s, relatives of the Saudi royal family established Al Arabiya in Dubai in 2002.[11][12][13] According to a 2008 profile in The New York Times of Al Arabiya director Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, the channel works "to cure Arab television of its penchant for radical politics and violence". Al Arabiya is said to be the second most frequently watched channel after Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia.[14]

Al Arabiya broadcast the email messages of Syrian president Bashar Assad in 2012 that were leaked by opposition hackers.[15] The channel's English language website also obtained emails which revealed[16] that PR agency BLJ were behind the infamous positive profile of the Syrian first lady, Asma Assad, in Vogue magazine while her husband's regime was responsible for the crushing of peaceful demonstrations in 2011.[17]

Programs

Al Arabiya reporter in Jerusalem

Special Mission is Al Arabiya's longest-running investigative journalism/current affairs television program.[18] It broadcasts on the Al Arabiya Pan Arab Channel based in Dubai. Premiering on 19 October 2003, it is still running. The Special Mission team contributed in setting the tone of the program early on, and has since maintained it.

Based on the investigative Panorama concept, the program addresses a single issue in depth each week, showing either a locally produced program or a relevant documentary, in the form of stories from many areas around the world. The program has won many awards for investigative journalism, and broken many high-profile stories. A notable early example of this was the show's exposé on the appalling living conditions endured by many children living in rural Africa, East Asia etc. ... Issues like politics, economy, and religion are addressed.

Eda'at (Arabic: إضاءات‎, meaning "Spotlights"), hosted by Turki Al-Dakhil, airs every Thursday at 2:00 PM (Saudi Arabia time) and lasts one hour.[19] The show consists of one-on-one interviews with influential regional figures, such as journalists, writers, activists, politicians, etc. (the programme is currently off air)

Rawafed (Arabic: روافد‎, meaning "Affluents") is directed and hosted by Ahmad Ali El Zein, and broadcast once a week (Wednesday at 5:30 PM).[20] Rawafed is a series of documentaries/interviews devoted to the world of arts and culture. Guests have included writers Tahar Ben Jelloun, Gamal El-Ghitani, poets Adunis, Ahmed Fouad Negm, Joumana Haddad, musicians, Marcel Khalifa, Naseer Shamma. Many key principle artists, writers and politicians in the Arab world have also appeared on the show.

From Iraq is a socio-political, humanitarian program which strives to uncover the realities inside of Iraq. The program is broadcast Sundays and presented by Mayssoun Noueihed.[21]

Inside Iran is a series which focuses on investigative reporting, primarily on political, social, and economic issues facing Iran.[22]

Death Making is a weekly broadcast which airs Fridays, focusing on global terror. The show provides analysis on global terror attacks around the globe, shining a spotlight on religious, social, economic, and political factors. It also provides interviews with well-known figures. It is hosted by Mohammed Altoumaihi.[23]

Business Profiles is a monthly program which provides an in-depth portrait of regional business leaders. The program typically follows an influential business person, including outside of their office, in order to better understand their ways of thinking. It is presented by Fatima Zahra Daoui, and has been on air since June 2013.[24]

Point of Order is a weekly program, broadcast on Fridays, which conducts live interviews focusing on socio-political topics. It is known be hard-hitting and has also been known to invite controversial figures, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and others. It is hosted by Hasan Muawad.[25]

Political Memoirs is a weekly program which focuses on historical events, serving as a platform to discuss different views on single events, while comparing these different vantage points to recorded history. It is presented by Taher Barake, and is broadcast on Fridays.[26]

Diplomatic Avenues is a monthly program focusing on the United Nations. It is broadcast live from Al Arabiya's studios in the United Nations headquarters, and features interviews with high-level UN officials and diplomats. The program focuses on political, social, scientific, and humanitarian issues before the UN, with an emphasis on the Arab and Islamic worlds. It is hosted by Talal al-Haj, and broadcasts on the last Friday of each month.[27]

Studio Beirut is a weekly discussion program, broadcast on Sundays, which features prominent guests from the Arab world. it is hosted by Giselle Khoury.[28]

The Big Screen is a weekly program which focuses on the film industry, and serves as an entertainment show, focusing on celebrities and film. It provides coverage on industry news, upcoming films, film festivals, and interviews with industry leaders, as well as celebrities. It is hosted by Nadine Kirresh.[29]

Investment and ownership

According to unconfirmed reports, Al Arabiya was founded through investment by the Middle East Broadcasting Center, as well as other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf states.[9] Through MBC, Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd and his maternal uncle Waleed bin Ibrahim al Ibrahim own and have control over Al Arabiya.[14]

In March 2012, the channel launched a new channel, Al-Hadath which focuses exclusively on prolonged extensive coverage of political news.[30]

Track record and controversies

Al Arabiya has been criticized for being an arm of Saudi foreign policy, or what the United States would term public diplomacy, as it is seen as being part of "a concerted Saudi attempt to dominate the world of cable and satellite television media in the Arab world and steal the thunder of Egypt".[31][32]

On 14 February 2005, Al Arabiya was the first news satellite channel to air news of the assassination of Rafik Hariri,[33] one of its early investors. On 9 October 2008, the Al Arabiya website was hacked.[34]

In 2009, Courtney C. Radsch claimed to have lost her job the day after publishing an article about safety problems on Emirates airline, while Al Arabiya claimed it was restructuring the English department.[35]

In 2016, Al Arabiya dismissed 50 staff members, including journalists. Citing financial problems stemming from low oil prices, the dismissed individuals were offered salaries and benefits for six months as a severance package.[36]

On 2 September 2008, Iran expelled Al Arabiya's Tehran bureau chief Hassan Fahs, the third Al Arabiya correspondent expelled from Iran since the network opened an Iran office.[37] On 14 June 2009, the Iranian government ordered the Al Arabiya office in Tehran to be closed for a week for "unfair reporting" of the Iranian presidential election. Seven days later, amid the 2009 Iranian election protests, the network's office was "closed indefinitely" by the government.[38]

In a column published[citation needed] on Al Arabiya's English website,[citation needed] Hassan Fahs set the record straight in his own words[citation needed] as to why he has left Iran, revealing that he has received direct threats of arrest and killing from senior Iranian officials as well as alarming attempts to censor and control the channel's coverage.[39]

In April 2017, Al Arabiya was censured by the UK broadcasting regulator, OFCOM, after it committed a "serious" breach of British broadcast rules in broadcasting an interview with an imprisoned Bahraini torture survivor. Ofcom found that it infringed on the privacy of imprisoned Bahraini opposition leader and torture survivor Hassan Mushaima, when it broadcast footage of him obtained during his arbitrary detention in Bahrain.[40]

Arab criticism

Al Arabiya had been banned from reporting from Iraq by the country's interim government in November 2004 after it broadcast an audio tape on 16 November purportedly made by the deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.[9] The Iraqi government had also banned the channel on 7 September 2006 for one month for what it called "imprecise coverage". According to the station itself, Al Arabiya journalists and staff have come under constant pressure from Iraqi officials to allegedly “report stories as dictated to” and in 2014, PM Nouri Maliki threatened again to ban Al Arabiya in Iraq, shut down its offices and websites. For his part, Al Arabiya's General Manager at the time, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, vowed in a statement that the news channel and its sister channel al-Hadath will continue reporting the story in Iraq despite “Maliki's threats” as well as other threats from the likes of ISIS.[41] However, al-Arabiya is widely perceived in Iraq as a pro-Saudi and anti-Shia sectarian channel.

Due to post-coverage of assassination of Rafic Hariri, as of 2007, Syrian politicians on many occasions labeled al-Arabiya "al-Yahudiyya" ["the Jewish"] and "al-'Ibriyya" ["the Hebrew"], for anti-government and perceived pro-US and pro-Israeli bias.[42] However, the label “al-‘Ebriya” (“the Hebrew One”) itself is given by many Arabs to the station reaching all the way back to 2003, for what some perceive as relatively sympathetic coverage of Israel (Francis, 2007).[43]

In 2013, Saudi scholar Abdulaziz al-Tarefe tweeted: “If the channel ‘Al-Arabiya’ existed in the time of the Prophet [Muhammad, peace be upon him] the hypocrites would only have rallied behind it and the wealth of Banu Qurayza would only have been spent on it.”[44]

Slain reporters

In September 2003, Al Arabiya reporter Mazen al-Tumeizi was killed on camera in Iraq when a U.S. helicopter fired on a crowd in Haifa Street in Baghdad.[45]

In February 2006, three Al Arabiya reporters were abducted and murdered while covering the aftermath of the bombing of a mosque in Samarra, Iraq. Among them was correspondent Atwar Bahjat, an Iraqi national.[46]

In 2012, Al Arabiya's Asia correspondent Bakir Atyani was abducted in the Philippines by an armed militia. He was released[47] after 18 months.[48]

Appearance of US President Barack Obama

On 26 January 2009, President of the United States Barack Obama gave his first formal interview as president to Al Arabiya,[49] delivering the message to the Muslim world that "Americans are not your enemy", while also reiterating that "Israel is a strong ally of the United States" and that they "will not stop being a strong ally of the United States".[10] The White House contacted Al Arabiya's Washington Bureau chief, Hisham Melhem, directly just hours before the interview and asked him not to announce it until an official announcement was made by the administration.[49]

Online

The Al Arabiya internet news service (alarabiya.net) was launched in 2004 initially in Arabic, and was joined by an English-language service in 2007, and Persian and Urdu services in 2008. The channel also operates a business website that covers financial news and market data from the Middle East in Arabic (alaswaq.net). The Al Arabiya News Channel is available live online on JumpTV and Livestation. The English website of Al Arabiya[citation needed] was relaunched in 2013 and now features automated subtitles of the news and programs that appear on the channel.[50]

The Al Arabiya website was plagued with numerous technical difficulties during the Egyptian protests at the end of January 2011. The site very often went offline with error messages as such as the following: "The website is down due to the heavy traffic to follow up with the Egyptian crisis and it will be back within three hours (Time of message: 11GMT)".