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Suspicious minds, Part I

Suspicious minds, Part I

Contrary to what you might think, investigative journalism is alive and snooping in the Middle East, says Communicate magazine, Part I.

October 5, 2009 3:58 by

Egyptian ruins. Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the UK daily paper The Independent, says the only investigative journalism undertaken in Egypt is carried out by leftist newspapers. They are often closed down, and are staffed by editors and journalists who are regularly threatened and put in prison.

“Many news agencies have invested hugely in offices around the world,” says Fisk, who has won numerous awards over more than 30 years of journalism. “Let’s take Cairo for example. When was the last time you saw a Western agency in Cairo investigating torture by the Egyptian police? They don’t. So many people in the agency work for the mukhabarat (intelligence) that they can’t. And if they did investigate, the Egyptian government would threaten to close their bureau, which is worth millions and millions. So what you’ll find is, if there are accusations of torture in Egypt, Reuters for example will quote Amnesty International in London as saying there is torture, but Egyptian authorities will deny it.”

“It’s a strange situation,” he continues. “Western organizations are so deeply embedded in the Arab world, they are so financially invested, that they cannot question the government, so the whole purpose of having a bureau there in the first place disappears.”

Fisk says that in Egypt – and throughout the Middle East in general – investigative journalism is stigmatized and automatically becomes subversive, because a lot of problems in the region turn out to have a political background. “In Britain, when we investigate the government, we don’t want to overthrow the regime, we just want to know,” he says. “If [Arab journalists] do what I do, it appears like a lack of patriotism.”

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