Mideast news & research service - from Arabic & Persian to English
- Just in case any of you are interested. -- Dianne
I am writing you in regards to our Mideastwire.com news service because I
thought you and/or your organization might be particularly interested in
We started three months ago as a free service - we are now charging a
nominal amount to provide daily briefs translated into English from the
Arabic and Persian media - these include all of the top newspapers, some
satellite TV and radio.
We do about 35-40 briefs each business day covering opinion, business,
political and society/cultural pieces that appear in these various media
outlets - you get that days most interesting news emailed to you, something
which we think gives our subscribers a better sense of what the local and
pan-Arab media is reporting on and discussing.
Each brief also contains precisely translated quotes, statistics and context
that, along with our searchable archive, is ideally suited for researchers,
journalists, policy makers, advocates etc.
Right now only MEMRI.org is doing this in anything like a remotely
affordable manner - and they do it on a very limited range of subjects
(please see below the recent article on us in The Guardian).
So please, if you have a moment - let me know directly if you would like to
demo the service. I would be happy to accomodate you.
Also, as a final note, we do offer organizational discounts for companies
and libraries who wish to redistribute our material within their
For a limited time, Mideastwire.com will be offering reduced price
subscription packages for our range of services, including our daily
briefing covering the Arabic & Persian media that is already going out to
thousands of people around the world every business day.
By signing up as a STANDARD MEMBER ($87 PER YEAR, OR JUST $7.40 PER MONTH),
you will receive:
The Daily MIDEASTWIRE.COM Briefing � with over 35 different briefs each
business day covering the major pan-Arab and local newspapers, radio
stations and TV stations including:
o Al Hayat (pan-Arab, UK)
o Al Quds Al Arabi (pan-Arab, UK)
o An Nahar (Lebanon)
o As Safir (Lebanon)
o Al Jazeera (Qatar)
o Asharq Al Awsat (pan-Arab, UK)
o Kurdish language media
o Persian language media
o Hebrew language media �. and many others;
The Daily Iraq Monitor � key translated briefs from the Iraqi and pan-Arab
media that give you a sense of the broad scope of security related events
which were covered that day by the Arabic media;
Key English Language Headlines - Aggregated daily links to the most
important local and international English language stories from the regional
As a PREMIUM MEMBER ($149 PER YEAR, OR JUST $12.30 PER MONTH) you will also
be able to:
* Search our extensive database that already contains thousands of briefs on
a wide range of subjects coded by newspaper, subject category (women,
terrorism etc.), topic (Politics, Business, Society and Opinions), date and
* Find important reports, links and other sources of relevant information
each day from and about the region; and,
* Receive Mideast Week magazine each week via email � our weekly summary of
the best translated briefs from the week. If you read nothing else, check
out this magazine every Saturday;
So sign up now at <www.mideastwire.com>!
While there are now more than 500 Arabic and Persian news outlets reporting
stories from and about the Middle East, there is currently no affordable
means for English speakers to gain access to much of this content. As a
result, the overwhelming majority of English speaking businesspersons,
students, journalists and others who have an interest in the affairs of the
region are largely unaware of what the Middle East media is covering and how
they are covering these stories.
Mideastwire.com aims to close this gap by offering a daily email newsletter
of concise, translated briefs covering some of the key political, cultural,
economic and opinion pieces appearing in the media of the 22 Arab countries,
Iran and the Arab Diaspora. Through this effort we believe Mideastwire.com
will play a critical role in addressing at least one element of a global
disconnect that continues to threaten a wide spectrum of socio-political and
economic relationships, both here in the region and beyond.
Here is The Guardian article on Mideastwire.com:
A new online translation service provides the west with its first
English-language digest of the Arabic press, writes Brian Whitaker
Wednesday September 28 2005
The idea of a "mysterious" east has been around for centuries, and even
today there is nothing more mysterious for the average westerner than an
Arabic newspaper with its squiggly back-to-front writing.
"As far as I can tell," William Rugh, former US ambassador in the Middle
East told a conference a couple of years ago, "there are no prominent
American politicians, state governors, members of congress, members of the
government, or members of the national press corps among those reading
Arabic newspapers. In the entire US government ... only a handful of people
can read Arabic and they are so busy these days that they generally do not
have time to read Arab newspapers."
This is not particularly surprising but if we look at the situation the
other way round there's a very different picture. Large and increasing
numbers of Arab politicians, government officials and journalists are fluent
in English. Many of them - thanks to the internet - are now avid readers of
the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian and other western
It's much the same among ordinary Arabs, too. Even if they don't read the
foreign newspapers, they still tend to know more about what westerners are
thinking than westerners know about what Arabs are thinking.
Considering the central role of the Middle East in western foreign policy
and the latest US attempts to win hearts and minds in the region, this is a
serious gap in our knowledge.
"Americans are not entirely ignorant of what appears in the Arabic press,"
Rugh said, "but the few items of which they are aware have often been
translated selectively and with hostile intent."
The pioneer in this field was the Middle East Media Research Institute
(MEMRI), which has been circulating translated snippets from the Arabic
press since 1998. It has become influential in the US among politicians and
journalists, and was once described by New York Times columnist Thomas
Friedman as "absolutely invaluable".
Though MEMRI claims to be "independent", its founders were Yigal Carmon, a
former colonel in Israeli military intelligence - who is currently its
director - and Meyrav Wurmser, an ardent Zionist who helped to draft the
now-famous 1996 Clean Break document proposing the overthrow of Saddam
Hussein as a step towards reshaping Israel's strategic environment.
"This service does not present a balanced or complete picture of the Arab
print media," Rugh said. "Its owners are pro-Israeli and anti-Arab. Quotes
are selected to portray Arabs as preaching hatred against Jews and
westerners, praising violence and refusing any peaceful settlement of the
Having written about MEMRI at length before, I don't propose to do so again
here. Readers unfamiliar with the organisation and the controversy
surrounding it can refer to Wikipedia, where there's a page with background
information, links to the relevant articles and discussion of the pros and
cons. Since I first wrote about MEMRI, however, several other English
language sources have come along, and they are worth a look.
The two leading pan-Arab dailies, ash-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat both
publish some of their content in English translation on their websites.
There's also the Iraqi Press Monitor, produced by the Institute for War and
Peace Reporting, which provides a daily summary of items from the Iraqi
newspapers. These sources are all free of charge.
For a general view of what the Arabic newspapers are saying - as well as
some of the Farsi newspapers in Iran - the most useful and affordable
service is the recently-launched Mideast Wire, which monitors more than 50
publications and provides extracts from 30-40 news items and opinion
articles every day. It's not free, but at $87 (£50) a year, the
basic-rate subscription is quite modest considering the amount of copy
supplied - around 10,000 words a day.
Mideast Wire was started by four journalists associated with the Daily Star
in Beirut; two Americans, Nicholas Noe and Seth Walls, and two Lebanese,
Majdoline Hatoum and Maha al-Azar.
After subscribing for several weeks, I think it's safe to say there's no
obvious political agenda apart from a desire to inform people about what
Arabic newspapers are saying.
"I realised there was a lot more diversity of opinion than was being
portrayed," Noe said during a visit to London last week. "Ultimately, that's
our core mission."
"We're not seeing ourselves as a counterbalance to MEMRI," he said. "We're
interested in the whole range of opinions. The Arab media isn't black and
white ... often we try to put together a number of different sources on the
One example of this was after the London bombings in July, when Mideast Wire
translated six different editorials commenting on the attacks. "This is our
big difference with MEMRI," he said.
Unlike MEMRI, which has always been secretive about its financial backers,
Noe was happy to talk. Mideast Wire got $25,000 start-up money from Abdrew
Rasiej, a New York internet entrepreneur, he said - though in future they
hope to rely on subscription income as their best guarantee of
independence.They have a team of 12 people but keep costs down by not having
an office, and they work on the blogging principle, Noe said, discussing
what to translate and generally keeping in touch with each other over the
Making use of the time difference between the Middle East and the US, they
get their translations ready in time for Americans to read them each
morning. This is an important benefit, though there's a trade-off between
speed and polish. Some of the translations are a bit ragged, though they are
adequate for most purposes.
As elsewhere in the world, Arab newspapers range from the serious to the
sensational. Some are government and some privately owned - often by
politicians or businessmen with an axe to grind - and there are very few
that can truly be considered independent. The quality of the journalism also
varies a great deal.
Even a perfect translation is only as good as the original article and
particularly in the Middle East, it's essential to know the quality of the
source before jumping to conclusions about a story.
Over the last few weeks, Mideast Wire has translated a lot of articles -
from a variety of sources and viewpoints - about Syria, Lebanon and the
ongoing investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
They included several stories from a Kuwaiti newspaper about strange
goings-on in Syria which, if true, would have been astounding. It seemed a
bit odd that a Kuwaiti newspaper should have knowledge of the innermost
machinations of the Syrian regime, so I asked a Kuwaiti journalist what he
thought of the reports.
"Probably 50% accurate," he replied. So I'm still trying to work out which
50% was accurate and which was not.
At present Mideast Wire (along with Memri) gives very little information to
help readers judge the reliability or importance of the sources it
translates. When I put this to Noe, he said they had already recognised the
problem and would shortly be providing a background guide to the papers they
monitor, including circulation figures.
In the meantime, around 2,000 people have signed up for the service, he
said. They include journalists, researchers, NGOs, government bodies,
sections of the US military and writer and activist Noam Chomsky. Since this
is probably the first time that Chomsky and the US military have seen
eye-to-eye on anything, it surely counts as a recommendation.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
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