Letter from the editor: The New Arab's voice

Letter from the editor: The New Arab's voice
4 min read
05 Nov, 2014
Forces of old empires and aging regimes may try to trample on the dreams of revolutionaries, but a new generation has emerged, forged in the struggle for freedom.
The Arab uprisings produced a new generation [Anadolu]

Arab voices calling for freedom and justice appear to have been drowned out by the deafening noise of sectarian violence amid ruthless authoritarian repression and the screams of the injured and downtrodden.

Chants for bread, freedom and social justice have been replaced with official decrees silencing dissent and violent calls for vengeful hatred - which seek to exclude and even  eliminate all that is deemed to be the hateful "other".

Hope born out of the womb of the Arab revolutions is being  substituted with disillusionment, resignation - if not surrender and defeat.

Fear of the savagery of fanatic armed gangs which claim a monopoly over religious instruction pushes people towards submission to the old regimes they once fought to change.

     People struggling for a better world, a better Arab world, have not just withered away like shrivelled leaves.

An Arab for all seasons

The scene in the Arab world is no longer that of an Arab Spring but that of a perpetual autumn: there are no flowers blooming and the leaves of inclusive society are falling. It is a bleak scene indeed, but it does not paint the whole picture.

People struggling for a better world, a better Arab World, have not just withered away like shrivelled leaves. Yes, many have fallen in sacrifice for a better tomorrow, many are languishing in the darkness of the prison cells of counter-revolutionaries - but millions are out there with a continued yearning for bread, freedom and justice.

No publication, be it digital or printed, can pretend to be the voice of the forces of change - let alone the voice of the people. But journalists should be agents for change with a stern commitment to convey and preserve true narratives of people's history - not the narratives of the conquering powerful.

Much of the media in the Arab world, however, has succumbed to the tide of polarisation with a falsely manufactured "us" and "them" divide that only perpetuates a culture of fear, sectarianism and violence. This serves only the authoritarian regimes and the forces of counter-revolution.

Feeding the monster

It is as if most of the media has been swayed by the temptation to feed the appetite of an invisible monster unleashed to crush the forces of the Arab uprisings and return them to the locked chains of eternal subservience.

Journalists are not immune to the tectonic shifts unsettling the Arab world. We could easily fall into the irrational panic of the unknown, the paralysing fear of the "other", and end up taking part in building the barriers of hate and bigotry.

     Journalists are not immune to the tectonic shifts unsettling the Arab world.

The unprecedented deterioration of media outlets into fora to propagate repression in the name of security or justifying murder in the name of either religion or modernity distorts our own humanity and jeopardises the future of generations to come.

As a result, the Arab citizen is forced to choose between unsavoury - if not fateful - choices. Between the uncontrolled violence of armed groups and the safety and stability of repressive regimes; between Arab dictators and foreign intervention or between the Islamic State group and its likes and Washington's wars.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed, or "The New Arab", emerges from this volatile, perilous landscape in an attempt to restore a discourse of justice and freedom through stories and voices who still believe in the ethos of the Arab uprisings.

The concept of "The New Arab" is not simply an invention, but a description of the birth of the Arab who rose against tyranny with the dream of establishing just, free and pluralistic societies that preserve human dignity.

The rise of the New Arab signalled the end of the control of state and religious institutions that used security forces and torture to preach obedience to despotism as an obligatory act - forcing citizens to accept mass subjugation as "God's will". 

These old regimes inflict horror and pain as they cling to power, fighting ferociously to extinguish the fire of the free will that ignited the unbending new generation of this new era.

The media will not determine the final battle, but it functions as a potent tool to either smash the spirit of freedom or a vehicle to empower the voices of justice. We are choosing and hoping to be the latter.

We are not claiming to represent the New Arab exclusively, and we have no right to. But it is our duty to keep the voice of the New Arab alive by creating a space that rises above the roar of those who would see the sounds of freedom brutally silenced.

Lamis Andoni is a veteran Jordanian journalist and editor-in-chief of al-Araby al-Jadeed English.