A- The significance of Elaph:
Elaph, launched in 2001, is one of the first Arabic-language electronic magazines. Based in London, today it commands one of the biggest audiences of any Arabic-language news site. Elaph's large, international readership makes it one of the most influential websites in the Arab world.
The website is owned by Elaph Holdings in the United Kingdom and Elaph Publishing House in Saudi Arabia, in cooperation with Int2sol in Saudi Arabia.
Elaph's CEO and editor-in-chief, Othman al-Omeir, insists that his site is impartial and does not have any political or partisan affiliation. Rather, he says, Elaph regards itself as "a window or a bridge connecting the Arab people with the world.”
Reflecting on the difference between opinion and journalism, al-Omeir says he believes it is imperative to respect opinions, but that journalism is simply a civil service to meet readers’ needs. It does not, he believes, necessarily imply sanctity, martyrdom, or opportunism.
B-Promotion and Services:
The website provides its visitors with many services:
* A section on medical care, in cooperation with "IMAK"
* A section on cars, in cooperation with "AMPA"
* RSS feeds
* An email newsletter
C- The Internal Search Engine: Elaph provides the reader with two choices for text search: a general search and a detailed search.
# Readers may search the archives of the site going back to April 2004, but results suggested that the engine was looking only at the titles of articles.
# Readers may limit searches by date, author’s name, or business name. When we conducted a detailed search, all the results were from after 14 August 2006, suggesting that the search engine was only indexing the previous five months. The results suggested that the search engine had also indexed the full text of the articles.
Google indexed many subjects that the internal search engine did not. Potentially telling examples included articles with such headlines as, "Pontiff enrages Saudi officials," and "Lost Bahai and lost pound."
D- The Organization of Elaph:
The website consists of several sections:
Politics, economics, culture, health, sport, music, Internet, and features. Elaph devotes significant space to its women and fashion section, which covers fashion, gossip, and high-resolution photography.
1. Human Rights in Elaph
The website publishes an average of 1.6 articles related to human rights per day. Searches of article titles only turned up 0.2 articles per day.
b- The relation between media content and human rights:
Elaph's coverage of human rights is focuses on such civil and political rights as human-rights activism, political activism, freedom of opinion and expression.
ii .Violence against women
Elaph focused on this issue in the Gulf region through the activities of human rights organizations, often featuring glowing, almost propagandistic, articles on Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.
Elaph devoted most of its coverage of human rights to the abuses, but was not shy about condemning abuses, as the high percentage of critiques indicates.
d- Geographic and Political Breakdown of Content:
Elaph’s coverage focused on countries known for human rights abuses, such as Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain.
e- The “Four Rights:”
Elaph publishes more articles about minorities and tolerance of the Other than about any of the other four rights.
2- Analysis of Materials Related to the ‘Four Rights’
1-Minorites and tolerance of the Other
The site published more articles on violations against minorities in Syria than on any other country in the Arab world. Here, Elaph relied heavily on reports from Syrian journalist and human rights activist Bahia Mardini.
* "Human rights organizations call for solidarity with Syrian Kurds"
* "Arrests in Kamishly"
* "Syria in 2006: Uneasy with Kurds"
On 23 December, Bahia Mardini reviewed Syrian Kurds’ past year, including an exceptional census that stripped them of their official Kurdish identity and beatings and arrests of Kurds in Kameshly.
On 18 September, Elaph quoted Ahmed Boghdady’s article for the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Sayassa, in which he contrasted American society’s "extreme tolerance," as evidenced by its heightened sensitivity to any hint of racism, with Arab society’s racism and chauvinism, as evidenced by preachers calling non-Muslims “descendants of monkeys and swines” every Friday or referring to liberals as "infidel heretic seculars."
-The Danish Cartoons Controversy:
Elaph dealt with this issue through straight news coverage, sometimes pausing to explain the difference between freedom of expression and vilifying religions and the reaction of Muslim sheikhs. The country that received the most attention in this case was Yemen and the trial of Kamal Alfi, editor of the independent newspaper al-Ra’i, for republishing the cartoons.
# "Resentment After Jailing of Yemeni Editor”
On 25 November, Elaph reported that a Yemeni court had sentenced Alfi to a year in prison and closed his newspaper, one of the oldest in Yemen, for six months. The court further banned him from writing for six months following his release, and required him to pay for the verdict to be published in Yemen’s main government newspaper.
# On 1 July, the website covered an assault on lawyer and human rights activist Khaled Saleh at Alfi’s trial, citing reports from the Yemen Observer.
# "Pressures on Government to Free Three Journalists in Yemen."
On 13 February, Elaph published a statement from the Arab Organization for Press Freedom calling upon the Yemeni government to free Muhamed Asadi, the editor of the Yemen Observer, as well as Akram Sabra, editor of al-Horreya, and his assistant, Yehya Abed, and to stop arresting journalists for their professional activities.
Elaph dealt with the Egyptian Bahais’ court case from a human rights perspective and it was one of the two websites included in this study that was sympathetic to the Bahais.
# "The Lost Bahai and the Lost Pound"
On 25 December, George Shoukry rote a report about the Egyptian Bahais denouncing Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court’s decision not to require the government to allow Bahais to list their religion as “Bahai” on official documents as a violation of their rights as a minority.
The writer cast the court’s decision as another example of the hostile atmosphere toward minority rights in Egypt, alongside the Islamic Research Academy, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s gains in 2005 parliamentary elections. Shoukry called on the government to cease requiring Egyptians to fill in any religion on their passports or identification cards.
# "Senior Egyptian Bahai: Verdict Was Based on al-Azhar Fatwa"
On 25 December Elaph quoted al-Masry al-Youm's report about the life of Amin Abu-Fatouh, a senior Egyptian Bahai.
The Controversy over the Pope's Speech
# "Pope's Speech Correct. Why the Anger?"
On 16 September, Elaph published an essay by Khodeir Taher in which he criticized the angry reaction to the Pope's statement and said that the speech did not hurt his feelings. Muslims, he said, harbor views of their own faith and coreligionists that are far more critical than anything the Pope said. He asked “Why Muslims don’t react with the same anger when Muslims [in Darfur] suffer genocide at the hands of other Muslims or when Muslims kill other Muslims in Iraq? Why don't they condemn the killings and the sectarian crimes and protest against these barbaric acts committed by Muslims against Muslims, as they do in protesting against the Pope's speech?"
Much of Elaph’s coverage of women focused on fashion and entertainment news. The site prominently places starlets' photos to draw the reader's attention.
The story titled "What [Lebanese pop star] Haifa Said to Henry" drew more comments from readers than did any other article in May 2007, which indicates the nature of the readers.
The story speculated about what the pop star said to French national striker Thierry Henry while they sat next to each other at a farewell for al-Ahly’s Walid Salah.
The preponderance of fashion and gossip stories does not mean that Elaph was wholly silent on women’s rights. The site reported that women had taken high-ranking jobs, and reported on violence against women and women’s right to political participation.
a. Women in leading positions:-
# "Sheikha Hia Leads the UN Ship"
Elaph reports that Sheikha Hia is the first Arab woman to chair the UN General Assembly and is only the third woman to hold the post in 37 years. The report gave a brief biography about Sheikha Hia: her education, activities, her job as Bahrain's ambassador to a number of European countries, and her work as a permanent representative in UNESCO.
# "Saudi Arabia Establishes Special Court for Domestic Violence"
On 18 November, Elaph quoted a Khaleej Times story indicating that the king of Saudi Arabia had issued a decree establishing special courts to work on issues like domestic violence. The article, citing Saudi human rights organizations, described the problem as one of the most persistent in the kingdom.
# "Recommendation to Establish a Unit for Violence-Related Cases in Dubai"
On 27 December, journalist Baha Hamza reported the recommendations of a training course on violence against women and refugee children jointly organized by the Dubai Police Department’s Administration for Human Rights and the UNHCR.
The training course focused on forms of violence against women and refugee children, as if this kind of violence were unfamiliar to the Emirates. The news report tried to improve the Emirate's image by emphasizing the Dubai Police Department’s cooperation with local and international organizations such as the UNHCR.
The right to fair working conditions
# "Angry Nurses Strike in Riyadh"
On 12 December, Elaph published a report from Samya el-Masry on working conditions striking Indian nurses endure in "Nafy Aam," near Riyad. The nurses were protesting violations of their contracts. Her story covered all parties’ positions, and noted that the government had resolved to stop dealing with the company that had brought the nurses’ from India because of “its repeated failure in providing appropriate services to the hospital.”
# "Why Did Human Rights Advocates Ignore the Massacre of the Sudanese Refugees?"
On 29 January Kazim Mukdady criticized human rights organizations for ignoring the “massacre” of Sudanese refugees in Cairo. Mukdady contrasted human rights organizations' “fabricated” concerns about detainees such as Saddam Hussein and Barzan Takriti with their "weird, suspicious reaction to the massacre of the Sudanese refugees in Cairo."
The report also accused the UNHCR of collusion for ignoring the devastating problems the refugees face and blamed the Egyptian government for the "massacre."
# “Calls to Stop Massacres Against Palestinian Refugees in Iraq"
On 15 and 31 December, Elaph covered the methodical killing of Palestinian refugees in Iraq, relying on pleas from human rights organizations and international bodies to protect Palestinian refugees in Iraq.
# “Jordan Asked Not to Expel Khaznawey”
On 19 November, human rights activist Bahya Mardini contributed an article to Elpah asking Jordanian authorities to listen to the Syrian Yektey Kurdish Party’s request to the Jordanian government that it not extradite Sheikh Khaznawey.
# "The ‘Third Axis’ Calls for Protecting Syrian Refugees in Iraq"
On 12 October, Elaph discussed the conditions of more than 200 hundred families of political refugees in Iraq forced to live in horrible conditions “because of their opposition to a fascist regime.”
The “third axis” is a liberal, secular group established by opposition figures and intellectuals in the United States including Abd al-Latif Mounir, Marah Bekai, and the Syrian Organization for Human Rights. It had recently called upon the UN secretary general and relevant international organizations to provide the Syrian refugees asylum in a third country.
# "Activist’s Asylum in London Makes Bahrain Uneasy"
On 29 August, Muhand Solyman criticized Britain for providing asylum to Bahraini activist Abd al-Raouf Shayb on the grounds that the activist is wanted on a criminal case, not a political one. Britain’s offer, the author said, constituted an unwarranted intervention in Bahrain’s internal affairs.
4. The Right to Privacy
Privacy of the Home
Like other sites we surveyed, Elaph showed interest in the right to a private life over the course of 2006.
The covered the topic of defamation without elaborating on its position within international human rights treaties and conventions.
# "Michael Moore and Pain Manipulation"
On 4 June Elaph reproduced an essay by Serdar Abdallah from Baghdad’s al-Itihad criticizing Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 911 for manipulating interview footage of a former US soldier without his permission.
The website covered news relating to homosexuality throughout the year. It did not make overt reference to human rights in its reports, nor did it refer to homosexuality as a problem imported from the West. Elaph paused to explain that homosexuality crosses cultural and religious boundaries and to explain the difference between sex and gender.
# "Rania Barood to Elaph: I Am Not Lesbian... But!!!"
On 9 Elaph reporter May Mai Elias interviewed with Rania Barood, the producer of the TV program "The Answer in Your Hand," after it aired a controversial and frank segment on society’s attitudes toward homosexuality.
# " Homosexuals in Lebanon"
An 18 May report by Nasreen Ezz-Addin looked at the gay and lesbian community in Lebanon and found that "the situation in Lebanon is in some ways different than in the rest of Arab societies. Though homosexuality is illegal in Lebanon, homosexuals there are more integrated into Lebanese society than elsewhere in the region. "
The report also talked about the international day of terrorism against homosexuals on 17 May—the seventeenth anniversary of the date the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
# "The History of Homosexuality"
Khalid Montasser, on 17 October, published an eight-chapter history of homosexuality. He defined of homosexuality and homosexuals, and looked at the reaction of religions and societies to homosexuality over the ages to shed light on the revolution of gays in the modern age. He also posited motives for homosexuality and included a guide to detecting it, but in general, Montasser’s treatment of homosexuality was honest and impartial. Interestingly, he also talked about the issue of homosexuality in American electoral politics.
3. Follow-up with Elaph
Monitoring Elaph from 21 April to 21 May 2007, our researchers found that its content has not changed considerably since 2006. The frequency of its reporting on human rights in general remained the same, as did the proportion of stories that reported human-rights violations (most common), promoted human rights (second-most-common), and offered overt criticisms of human-rights abuses (least common). Elaph intensively covered human-rights issues perpetrated by the United States, Syria, and Iran.
Regarding the “four rights,” an analysis of the frequency of Elaph’s reports suggested its priorities were, in declining order of frequency: freedom of expression, the right to life, human rights and fair trails.
None of Elaph's staff attended the April 2007 workshop to discuss the preliminary results of the study, though a staff member, Nabil Sharaf, initially indicated he would come. In the end, Sharaf did not attend and offered no apology.
# Researchers searching for “human rights” on Elaph found an average of 1.6 stories per day when using the full-text search option. Searching headlines only, that average fell to 0.2 stories per day. The website focused mainly on human-rights violations in Egypt, Iraq, and the United States. Israel and Syria also figured in Elaph’s human-rights coverage, though to a lesser degree. Elaph also published propagandistic stories on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain. Elaph’s coverage of Syrian Kurds propelled its coverage of minority-rights in the Arab world ahead of the other sites surveyed in this study.
# Elaph devoted news coverage to the Danish-cartoon controversy and ran essays expounding on the difference between freedom of expression and the vilification of religion. It offered extensive coverage of the trial of al-Ra’i’s editor for republishing the cartoons in Yemen.
# Elaph covered the issue of Egyptian Bahais from various perspectives, and was one of two sites studied that seemed sympathetic to their plight.
# Of the sites surveyed, Elaph was the most outspoken when discussing the controversy following the Pope's speech. It published opinion pieces denouncing angry reactions from the region as unwarranted and misplaced.
# Elaph's coverage of women focused on fashion and bold photos of movie stars. The site seemed to dance on a thin line between sensationalism and open-mindedness by publishing provocative photos.
# Elaph covered violence against women in the Gulf region through the activities of local human-rights organizations. In the cases of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, this coverage often took a propagandistic and congratulatory tone.
# For reasons that remain unclear, Elaph devoted the least amount of attention to the right to privacy among the “four rights.”
# During May 2007, two stories drew a storm of reader response. One was a gossip item titled "What Did Haifa Tell Henry?"