'Panama Papers' expose Arab journalism too

We are so involved in current divisions and crises that we have forgotten the essence of journalism. “Seeking the truth” is a beautiful slogan until we distort it for political, sectarian or financial gain.

The "Panama Papers" have revived what we thought had perished - a profession designed to serve public opinion and help build more knowledgeable and responsible societies.

The papers, which are considered the most important in the history of investigative journalism, have exposed the extent of corruption and money-laundering worldwide, including the Arab world. They show how corruption is rooted, and how political and public figures - even in sports and culture - are involved.

Some 400 reporters worldwide kept the papers secret for a year, restoring journalism’s reputation and significance. It is disappointing that only six Arab journalists were among them, although the papers expose people in the Arab world and reveal a lot about Arab countries and societies. This is where the essence of our crisis appears.

Some 400 reporters worldwide kept the papers secret for a year. It is disappointing that only six Arab journalists were among them

Diana Moukalled

In Lebanon, for example, many media outlets have voiced their intention to close, while several have done so for political and security reasons. Other media outlets are suffering from financial and political crises, or they have fallen into the trap of political and sectarian polarization.

This is not limited to Lebanon, as journalists suffer from this in several Arab countries and have repeatedly spoken out about it.


This is in addition to what some journalists go through - such as imprisonment, intimidation and blackmail - when attempting to professionally defy the authorities. Amid this bleak reality, the "Panama Papers" remind us that the role of journalism has not come to an end, and that it is more important than we thought. The profession is taking new paths based on global cooperation and networking.

This experience raises real questions about our ability to attain and publish information. Publishing information can be as problematic as attaining it, due to weak laws and many journalists falling into the trap of political affiliations. These obstructions prevent the kind of journalistic work that the "Panama Papers" achieved.

Despite the papers, however, the space for serious work to expose corruption remains limited. We need to learn and be inspired by the collective work of journalists of different nationalities in different continents.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Apr. 11, 2016.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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