Kuwaiti Journalists Describe Public Opinion after Sept. 11

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Kuwaiti Journalists Describe Public Opinion After Sept. 11

The Kuwait Information Office in Washington, DC hosted a Nov. 8 panel discussion with the editors-in-chief of Kuwait's major newspapers and other leading figures in journalism. The journalists accompanied Kuwait's acting prime minister and foreign minister, Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, on his official visit to Washington, DC. More than 150 American opinion leaders, policymakers and journalists attended the presentation on Kuwaiti public opinion since the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The visiting journalists told the audience that the U.S. was not getting its message across to the Arab world, adding that the vast majority of Muslims did not support Osama bin Laden. Noted Al-Anba editor Bibi K. AlMarzouk, "the first statement of condolences to the American president came from His Excellency Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmed of Kuwait."

Concerning Kuwaiti public opinion of Osama Bin Laden, Kuwait News Agency director-general and chairman Mohammed AlUjairi said, "Everyone in the Arab world is against what happened in New York. But America also needs to provide its case against bin Laden and show proof."

Added Ms. Marzouk, "There may be some Arabs who sympathize with Bin Laden. But so do some Christians living in Brazil. He is an underdog and has some sympathy here and there around the world for that reason." Mohammed Al-Jassim, editor of Al-Watan, commented that "before Sept. 11, Bin Laden was not well-known in the Arab world."

Sami Al-Nisef, the acting prime minister's media adviser, said, "You will not find a single demonstration in Kuwait supporting Bin Laden."

Turning to U.S. efforts to influence the Arab media, Al-Nisef said, "The Russians used to be good at trying to convince journalists to support them. The U.S. does not know how to work with journalists in the Arab world."

"The problem is cultural," Al-Jassim explained. "The U.S. does not understand our culture. The American message is reaching the Arab world through two channels--Reuters and AFP. …