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Monday, March 31, 2008
Excerpts: Lebanese students against Syria. Egypt's bread crisis. Media control. Netherland's MP film 31 March 2008

Excerpts: Lebanese students against Syria.Egypt's bread crisis. Media
control.Netherland's MP film 31 March 2008

+++JORDAN TIMES 30 March '08:"Lebanese students rally against Syria"
QUOTE:"(Lebanese) university
students demonstrated ...branding him (Syrian President Bashar Assad) an
'assassin' "
BEIRUT (AFP) - University students demonstrated in Beirut on Saturday(March
29), tearing up pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and branding him
an "assassin" as he chaired an Arab summit boycotted by Lebanon. Hundreds of
students joined the protest near the central Beirut tomb of slain former
prime minister Rafiq Hariri who was killed in a massive car bombing in 2005
blamed on Syria. Damascus denied any involvement. The demonstrators accused
Assad of blocking the election of a new president in Lebanon, and trampled
on two huge portraits of the Syrian leader before tearing them to shreds, an
AFP photographer said. The pictures bore captions in French, English and
Arabic branding Assad an "assassin" and saying that a UN-backed special
tribunal tasked with trying suspects in the Hariri "is coming". The protest
was attended by supporters of Lebanon's Western-backed government and the
anti-Syrian parliamentary ruling majority.

+++JORDAN TIMES 31March '08:"Cairo taking measures to calm public over bread
QUOTES: "Egypt,the world's largest consumer
of bread", "Egypt suffers from rampant unemployment and 40 per cent of the
population lives on or around the poverty line of $2 a day"
CAIRO (AFP) - The Egyptian government has begun taking measures to tackle
growing public discontent over the sky-rocketing prices of five staples of
the economy - bread, rice, pasta, cement and steel.
Official figures show staple food prices spiralling in Egypt, the world's
largest consumer of bread, by 26.5 per cent in a year.
"Rice is a staple food in Egypt and the main substitute for pasta whose
price has gone up following wheat price rises on the international market,"
Sayyed Abul Komsan, adviser to Commerce Minister Mohammad Rashid, told AFP.
Three months ago, Egyptian officials were insisting that alternatives must
be found to government-subsidised food staples...Now many officials are
making an about-face....Gamal Mubarak, son and heir-apparent of President
Hosni Mubarak, said recently that the government "will not hesitate for a
minute to increase subsidies on basic products if it proves necessary."
Rice and pasta are staple foods among the country's poor, particularly ...
in the most populous Arab nation home to 78 million people.
Despite having an official growth rate of 7 per cent, Egypt suffers from
rampant unemployment and 40 per cent of the population lives on or around
the poverty line of $2 a day.

+++THE DAILY STAR (Lebanon) 31 March '08:"Dimming the lights on Arab
satellites",By Marwan M. Kraidy, Canegie Arab reform Bulletin*
QUOTE:"prohibition of content that would 'damage socoal harmony, national
unity, public order ,or traditional values"
EXCERPTS:After years of rhetoric about the need for a pan-Arab satellite
television framework, Arab information ministers last February 12 adopted a
charter that provides the tools to penalize broadcasters who attack leaders
or air socially unacceptable content. The charter is broad ranging, covering
news, political shows, and entertainment - even sports programs. In the
weeks before the emergency meeting in Cairo, the Egyptian and Saudi
information ministers lobbied their colleagues to pass the document,
prepared by a committee of experts during the preceding six months. Even
Syria, currently engaged in a media war with Saudi Arabia over Lebanon,
signed off on the charter. . . ..
The core of the charter is the prohibition of content that would "damage
social harmony, national unity, public order, or traditional values." This
echoes media laws in most Arab countries, virtually all of which have
ambiguously worded language that penalizes criticism of leaders and thereby
buttresses authoritarian rule. The ominous catchall provision against
harming "national reputation" justifies a wide range of repressive measures.
The charter also affirms current practice; several Arab states have revoked
Arab satellite channels' licenses to report from their territories. . . .
It remains unclear whether the charter is merely a symbolic gesture or
whether it constitutes a concrete step toward a repressive pan-Arab media
policy regime. ....protecting freedom of expression is dismal. With growing
harassment and arrest of bloggers in many Arab countries, there is the
troubling possibility of similarly sweeping charters regulating the Arab
internet and mobile phones.
... Journalists, intellectuals, and dissidents now worry that although Arab
regimes disagree on many issues, their information ministers are finding
common ground on muzzling free speech.
Marwan M. Kraidy is an expert on Arab media and an associate professor at
the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. This
commentary is reprinted with permission from the Arab Reform Bulletin, Vol.
6, issue 2 (March 2008) www.CarnegieEndowment.org/ArabReform (c) 2008,
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

+++ARAB NEWS (Saudi) 31 March '08:"Wilders Film Aims to Block Dialogue:
WAMY",M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan
For film http://liveprayer.com/fitna
'These kinds of attacks ...will lead to very serious repercussions' "
RIYADH, 31 March 2008 - The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) has
denounced Thursday's screening of an anti-Qur'an film by a rightwing MP in
the Netherlands and called on international bodies to prevent people from
insulting religions.
"These kinds of attacks by so-called sane European politicians and scholars
will lead to very serious repercussions, pushing mankind to a situation of
chaos and conflict," said Dr. Saleh S. Al-Wohaibi, secretary-general of
"WAMY will hold talks with Nicolaas Beets, Dutch ambassador, and drawing his
government's attention to this sensitive issue," he added.
Anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders posted the 15-minute film, entitled
"Fitna," Arabic for strife, on the Internet, attracting strong condemnations
from across the Islamic world. The film follows the republishing of
caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Danish
"It is a new fitna, a new obstacle to block any sensible dialogue between
religions. It is high time that the West moves quickly to control the
damage. They don't understand how much Muslims love and respect their
Prophet (pbuh)," said Al-Wohaibi.
. . .Speaking about whether dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews
would help reconcile differences, Al-Wohaibi said, "I have my own
reservations. Muslims are serious but the other parties are not. They are
not committed. They want to hold dialogue, just for the sake of it and for
Muslims' consumption."
Last week, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah announced plans
to hold a conference of all major religions - a project that had been
previously discussed with Pope Benedict XVI.
Meanwhile, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) ...renewed its
demand that the UN must enact a code of ethics to prohibit such provocative
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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