Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Literary Journalism - an oxymoron?

"In the region's cultural history, journalism evolved from the French tradition of partisan journalism married to the Levantine fondness for belles lettres "adab" literature rather than the alternative Arab literary tradition of "hadith"…sacred reporting, with its seemingly obsessive stress on reliable sourcing and research to ensure objective accounts of what the Prophet Muhammed really said and did." Arab Talk Shows and TV Journalism, a TBS article by S. Abdallah Schleifer

What a delightfully Fatima Mernissi-esque idea!! It’s a fascinating way of classifying the unclassifiable Arab media scene:

On the one hand, Levantine Adabies + Frenchies = partisan journalism where rhetorical considerations take precedence over fact.

And on Schleifer's other hand Khaleeji Hadithites + Anglo-Saxonites = Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia: Now supplanting Egypt and the Levant, the traditional providers of news gossip for old men in Qahwas to squabble about while playing tawla and sipping thick black coffee.

...like i said, it's interesting, whether you agree with it or not. But why the dichotomy between objective journalism and adabi style?

For example, Yousri Fouda in Siri lil ghaya uses Riwaya language in what are essentially investigative reports about subjects such as Israel and Hizbullah's prisoner swap, the effects of Depleted Uranium in Iraq, Sufi brotherhoods in North Africa...

In Siri lil ghaya the Riwa’i narrative hasn't affected the journalism, it just added another dimension to it. As a conter-orientalising comment: Arab culture since the Jahiliya has always placed a high value on poetic style.

Another Egyptian who I think has a similar ‘hybridizing’ style is As3d Taha. His documentary series Yu7ka ana is definitely my favorite. Literally it means something like "it is related/told" but the phrase is actually used in the sense of "Once upon a time".

It has a definite folkloric quality as Taha draws on the repetitive, rhyming language of traditional fables to tell the story of the war in Kosovo, Venzeula's original inhabitants, religious oppression in Central Asia, the orange revolution in Ukraine and of Fort Makuna - where Morrocan political prisoners where held in secret for decades.

A lot of Arab TV journalists write in such a deadly booooooring way.... perhaps they fall into the western factual/literary divide ....or maybe it's just that they're working in a visual medium?

And (although irrelevant to the above) I couldn't resist the opening - this on the "arbiters of global opinion":

Looks are deceiving. Right now the mood among Western journalists taking a fleeting look at the new Arab public affairs talk shows that have become the hottest popular format throughout the region in all their variations is upbeat, amazingly positive. A new world of free speech is dawning in the region and according to the columns appearing in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and other arbiters of global opinion, most of the credit goes to Al-Jazeera channel. Well, there are a number of ironies right there

....multiplied to the power of ten in a post-9/11, post-Kabul, post-Baghdad, post-al-Hurrah world

No comments: