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Arab media mixed on abuse images

By Sebastian Usher
BBC World media correspondent

Image of suspected Abu Ghraib abuse. Courtesy SBS television
Image of suspected Abu Ghraib abuse. Courtesy SBS television

Arab TV stations say the latest images of abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners by US troops are a new example of the Muslim world being violated by the West.

Arab newspapers have been more circumspect with the story so far.

Some have blazed the pictures across their front pages, while others have chosen to put them inside the paper, lessening their impact.

The images have been the lead on al-Jazeera, its rival al-Arabiya and Iranian-backed Arab-language al-Alam.

Much of the footage has now been aired.

Al-Jazeera has commented that the pictures may just be the tip of the iceberg, saying other footage that has not appeared is likely to be even worse.

One reporter compared Abu Ghraib to the Gulags - the prison camps run by the Soviet Union.

Establishment voices are wary of further inflaming Arab public opinion

Al-Alam has focused particularly on the women prisoners and their abuse, saying their honour has been violated.

An al-Alam reporter said the latest scandal comes as the Muslim world is already experiencing an assault on its faith by the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

'Wary'

In Iraq, the pictures are being given less coverage by TV stations like the privately-owned al-Sharqiya, which is concentrating more on the country's security situation.

As for the Arab press, the story has been treated in a variety of ways.

Two newspapers, al-Hayat and al-Quds al-Arabi, have put some of the most disturbing pictures on their front pages. Al-Hayat shows dead prisoners, while al-Quds al-Arabi focuses on the detainees' sexual humiliation.

Al-Jazeera has commented that the pictures may just be the tip of the iceberg

The paper describes the pictures as sick and disgusting.

But other influential papers have toned down their coverage - the Saudi-owned al-Sharq al-Awsat does not lead with the story and it shows less distressing pictures on its second page, rather than the front.

Egypt's pro-government al-Ahram has only a brief mention on its front page, but inside devotes half a page to pictures of the detainees and a story cataloguing their abuse.

The implication is that such establishment voices are wary of further inflaming Arab public opinion.

SEE ALSO
New Abu Ghraib images broadcast
15 Feb 06 |  Middle East

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