Friday, November 26, 2004

MEMRI vs Blogosphere

The right-wing Middle East Media Research Institute is trying to sue Juan Cole of Informed Comment for suggesting they were biased. Now, I was involved in a row at Fistful of Euros about the validity or otherwise of a MEMRI "Special Dispatch" containing a variety of rather wild and alarmist statements about Iran, so I suppose I'm biased too. But I'm also pretty sure Cole is in the right here.

MEMRI's business is translating chunks of Middle Eastern newspapers and sending them free of charge to important persons in Washington and elsewhere. The beef is that they are selective in what they translate, taking an aggressive neo-conservative line and picking out unpleasant sentiments. Critics of the organisation point out that three members of its board are former members of Israeli military intelligence, and that this might possibly cause its editorial policy to display a certain slant. Today's top four stories are as follows:
Special Dispatch Series - No. 819, November 25, 2004
MEMRI TV Project: Mothers of Hizbullah Martyrs: We are Very Happy and Want to Sacrifice More Children

Special Dispatch Series - No. 818, November 24, 2004
Arab Progressive: 'Tell Me One Arab University that can Stand Side by Side with Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard…'

Special Dispatch Series - No. 817, November 23, 2004
Arab Progressive Columnist: Arab Artists Deal with the Past and Not with the Present, Due to Fear of the Regimes

Special Dispatch Series - No. 816, November 19, 2004
Egyptian Progressive: 'Why Can't We [Arabs] See Things as the Rest of the World Sees Them?'
You have to scroll back as far as August before you encounter anything even vaguely creditable ("Special Dispatch Series - No. 769, August 20, 2004
Palestinian Progressive Journalist: Reform in the Arab World Requires that True Intellectuals Speak Out"). Surely, in the no doubt gigantic spectrum of media they scan, there must have been more than that in three months? You might say that if you scroll down the Ranter, you would get the impression of a certain slant in my editorial policy. Indeed. But I do not claim the absolute degree of impartiality MEMRI does. In fact, the description strapline across the top of my blog ("Blogging a noisy and socialist view on politics, security...") might tell you something of what you might read under it. But their self-description claims they are nothing more than a translation service:
"The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) explores the Middle East through the region's media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East.

Founded in February 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501 (c)3 organization."

Anyway, they've just started suing bloggers who are rude about them, so why not write to them at and let them know how you feel?

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