Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Rumors as News

Abu Aardvark writes about rumors that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had died and notes that the rumors serve to show how distrusted the official Egyptian press is.

But as Abdullah al-Sanawi argues this is something quite
extraordinary: journalists and citizens and politicians trying to find out if their own President was live were resorting to calling foreign ambassadors. As the official media offered statements devoid of any evidence, which people
simply didn't trust, the story quickly spread to the Arab satellite television stations like al-Jazeera and from there to the foreign media - but they couldn't get any reliable information out of the regime either. All in all, the episode
demonstrates the dangers of a regime's lost credibility and of a corroded official public sphere.

And so the Egyptian government, after first issuing threats, has arrested the editor of the independent weekly al-Dustour, Ibrahim Eissa.

Here's more about his arrest.

Meantime, the debate over the printing of rumors continues.

Abby Goodnough, in Oh, Everyone Knows That (Except You) in The New York Times, examines the rumors about sex lives of public officials and whether their private lives are fair game for public discussion. Those who want to publish information about reputedly gay officials say the hypocrisy of their political views leaves them open to outing; others are not so comfortable with the idea that what goes on in private ought to be made public.

It reminds me of the old days of Connecticut journalism (the early 1980s) when many editors and reporters knew that Gov. Ella Grasso was dying of ovarian cancer but chose not to report it.

Standards have changed, some for the better, but, I have to say, watching outed officials squirm doesn't make me feel good. On the other hand, if you have a personal quarrel with his legislative actions, you might feel differently.

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