Arab journalists

Document Type

Book Chapter


Graduate School of Media and Communications


Background: In the early 1950s, a former US diplomat in Beirut, Thomas McFadden (1953), surveyed journalists in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. It was a heady time for Arab journalism and Arab politics. The colonial era had come to an end. Arabs were seizing control of their own destiny. Journalism, which had played a key role in fostering Arab nationalism after the age of Ottoman Turkish rule, was experiencing a renaissance. The decade would see more than 270 newspapers and magazines founded in Syria alone as the country experienced “a golden age of pluralistic politics”(Ziadeh 2010). Much the same was true across the region. In distributing his questionnaire in newsrooms, McFadden found an activist style of journalism even more critical than in most advanced democracies.“Arab editors believe the role of the press in society should be to fight for political causes. This is much more important, they think, than objectively to inform the Arab public,” he reported (McFadden 1953: 67). Their priorities included the fight against imperialism, Zionism, government corruption and weakness, and the struggle for Arab nationalism, Arab unity, and, perhaps most importantly, the reform, modernization, and democratization of Arab society. With Arab media organizations shedding their dependence on political subsidies, McFadden confidently predicted that Arab journalism was entering an era of objectivity and independence. The period described by McFadden proved to be a fleeting moment in history. The 1960s saw a wave of bloody coups and revolutions across the Arab world.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The global journalist in the 21st Century