New Al Hurra chief: ‘We will fix our failure of imagination’

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American broadcaster Al Hurra will “cross” regional “red lines”, warned new Al Hurra chief, Ambassador Alberto Fernandez in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

The newly appointed president of the Middle East Broadcasting Network, a Congress funded company which owns the Arabic language news channel, said his new post is his biggest career challenge.


Fernandez also insisted that American traditions of press freedom and open inquiry should be exercised by the station.

“This means a network that can question authority – in the East or the West – and the dominant narrative of oppressive regimes, and of extremists like ISIS/Al-Qa’ida and the Ikhwan and of sectarian groups supported by Iran,” Fernandez said.

“It means looking at the reality and challenges of my own country – America - with honesty. But also exposing the authoritarian discourse of Russia and others,” he added.

Al Hurra, which was launched in 2004, has suffered from a lack of viewership. The station broadcasts to 22 countries but is in competition with over 550 Arabic language channels.

Alberto Fernandez, who is known to Arab viewers through his frequent appearance on Arabic news channels as a spokesman for the State Department and a seasoned political analyst, was appointed to the position in June by the US Government agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Long diplomatic career

Fernandez has a 32-year diplomatic career covering the Middle East and Central America.

“My agenda is that MBN, including Al-Hurra, needs to stand for a specific worldview, one that highlights the diversity and fullness of the American experience and that stands openly for those humanistic, universal values America has always championed...” he said.

Fernandez stressed that “giving space to those voices that are often silenced or marginalized” in the region will include ethnic and religious minorities, people of color, critics of Islamists and Jihadists, critics of government corruption and injustice.

Alberto fernandez, President of MBN, owner of Al Hurra television channel
Alberto fernandez, President of MBN, owner of Al Hurra television channel

Part of the reason the channel lost its glean was due to the “failure of imagination,” he said.

“I think it was a failure of imagination that occurred often. In that you needed leadership that was fully comfortable in the Arab world and in the values and worldview of the United States. Sometimes you may have had one part of this package in place, but you need both regional knowledge and understanding of America. I also believe you have to have a ruthless passion for implementing what you think is right,” he said.

Fernandez said that it is time for the region to change and embrace the best of universal values because we face the very real possibility of continuing crises of violence, extremism and inflict more damage to the region.

“ISIS and al-Qaeda have killed and injured many Americans but the number of Muslims and Arabs they have harmed or killed is an even larger number. The region deserves more than a future of rubble and tears”.

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