Why limit your wartime Web newspaper-grazing to the prejudices of ethnocentric Western reporters when there is a whole world of prejudices from ethnocentric Pakistani, Yemeni, and Egyptian reporters to consume? Here follows a selective guide to the online English-language press of the Arab and Middle Eastern world. Many of these papers are published for foreign workers or for overseas consumption—a sort of PR project designed to sell the official version of domestic events to foreign audiences—but you can learn a lot even from pallid publications.
If the Gulf Daily Newsis "the voice of
Al-Ahram Weeklyis the English-language arm of the Arab world's oldest newspaper, Al-Ahram(a French version, Al-Ahram Hebdo, is also available). Published every Saturday, Al-Ahram Weekly has a strong opinion section but, like the rest of the Egyptian press, it is tightly controlled by the ministry of information. The Web site of another Egyptian weekly, Cairo's Middle East Times, links to stories that were censored from its print version. The most frequent targets for censorship are stories that "report on human rights abuses, criticize the president or his family; criticize the military; point out the ill-treatment of Egyptians in 'friendly' Arab countries, especially in
The Tehran Timestoes the official line and avoids controversy (don't go looking for information about the ongoing trial of liberal dissidents, for example), but it's a good barometer of changing attitudes in
One of the most common complaints in the "International Papers" Fray thread is a lack of balance between Israeli papers and Palestinian sources. As the Guardian's Derek Brown observed in January 2001, "
The Jordan Timespublishes a lively mixture of light filler ("Queen urges Arab women to be proactive, innovative") and serious news ("Gov't urges US to reconsider classifying Hamas, Hizbollah as terrorist organizations"), along with a decent opinion section, six days a week.
The Daily Staris a scrappy daily with an impassioned opinion section and an occasional press review feature, which provides English translations from Arabic newspapers throughout the Middle East. Despite its hard-to-read blocks of text, the weekly Monday Morningis also worth a spot in a Middle East-watcher's bookmarks; this week's issue features an interview with Yasser Arafat.
As in neighboring
United Arab Emirates
The UAE offers some of the liveliest English-language papers in the Gulf region. Gulf Newsand the Khaleej Timesboth date back to 1978, when the increasing numbers of immigrant workers (currently as many as 76 percent of UAE residents are foreigners) made the market viable. Reflecting their reader demographics, both papers give extensive coverage to the Indian subcontinent. The Gulf News is particularly strong on practical aspects of expatriate life (click here for its take on the UAE's liquor laws), while the Khaleej Times offers superior editorials.
The pioneering independent Arabic satellite TV channel Al Jazeera put
The Arab Newsand the Riyadh Dailyare both prototypical don't-rock-the-boat Middle Eastern English-language dailies, although the Riyadh Daily's editorials occasionally stray beyond hymns of praise to King Fahd.
The weekly Yemen Timesis a middle-of-the-road paper whose regular features include a roundup of the Arab-language Yemeni press. The Yemen Observer, also a weekly, has a lively news section, but beware of a level of anti-Semitism so pronounced that a recent issue featured an anti-Israel screed by David Duke.
If you prefer to browse through a variety of sources, several sites aggregate regional news. Like all compilations, they're spotty, hence the highly subjective score out of 10 for each portal. (Is there any point visiting a site that earns a rating of 3? Only when there's a war in the region.)
Afghan News Networkoffers a compilation of news stories about
Afghan Online Press is a portal for news about
Out There Newstranslates stories from media sources inside
WorldNews.comaggregates news feeds about a huge selectionof regions and cities. Although the mini-sites lack the human touch (the selections are clearly automated) and some of the news sources lack journalistic balance, they can be useful; see, for example, Middle East Dailyor Afghan Daily. (Rating: 5/10)
Zawya.comis a business and finance portal for the Middle East and North Africa that aggregates some useful collections of stories from the English-language Arab press, including an outstanding roundup of editorial pages (you can also choose to see editorials from specific sources, e.g., the Jordan Times, grouped on one page), press digests from several North African and Middle Eastern nations, as well as a list of links to wire services and publications. (Rating: 7/10)
Perhaps the most effective, if not the quickest, way to access foreign newspapers is to do what I do when compiling "International Papers": Page through the papers of whatever countries you're interested in. OnlineNewspapers.com is probably the best one-stop source.