السبت، يوليو 28، 2007

YOUTHINK in the press :)

Al-Ahram Weekly Online
26 July - 1 August 07
Issue No. 855

Glossy fresh

Graduation projects they may be, contends Dena Rashed. However the magazines resulting from the course work of mass communications students may well compete on the market

Dabour; Fahmi and Alaa going over the articles

Muslims in the 11-18 age bracket together with bibliophiles of all ages are likely to find all they've been looking for in three new magazines. The winners of the annual Faculty of Mass Communications graduation project competition at Cairo University -- now in its sixth year -- Kotob Khana (Book Shop), the English- language Youthink and Bokra (Tomorrow) were chosen by 22 well-known journalists who made up the competition jury out of seven year-long, theme-based graduation projects proposed and completed from start to finish by seven larger groups of students: a tradition established at the faculty eight years ago, to which the competition was added two years later; they won first, second and third place respectively, while Missed Call, on the mobile phone industry, won a special award from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Reflecting what the students thought the market lacked, all seven magazines proved not only accomplished but different, filling crucial gaps in a whole range of areas within the local print media.

At the café where we met, Haitham Dabour, who would rather be coordinator than editor-in- chief of Bokra, sits with his laptop in front of him, a copy of the magazine to one side. "21, single and looking," he says, but judging by his work in the media since age 13 -- script writer of the satellite TV youth programme Shababik, he is now with Al-Masry Al-Yom newspaper -- Dabour has evidently been too busy to look. "I don't call myself editor-in-chief because we are all a group," he says, referring to the 11 students with whom he produced the magazine. "We don't boss each other around." And yet his own spirit has evidently marked Bokra. A poet and a rebel, never without camera and pen around campus, he is informed by the same fast-paced, future-looking attitude as this magazine, aimed at 11- to 18-year-old readers. "There has always been a problem with graduation projects -- the fact that you started with the concept and then thought of the audience. This time we reversed the whole thing. The audience came first, and in my opinion this is very important considering how important those years are in people's lives, when you begin to form your personality and move from one educational phase to another." The topics were all different, but the Bokra crew approached them all in the same, new way. "We wanted to cover the incident after it happens. Not the where and when, not the how and why but rather what to make of it all. We didn't offer ready answers, we just encouraged people to make sense of reality for themselves. And especially to think of tomorrow." In his opinion, Young people's magazines on the market are often either not written by young people or simply too childish for the age group intended. Bokra tries to be different.

Serious ideas, Dabour explains, are dealt with in simple language and accompanied by appealing photos and cartoons. Young people give their own views on development and political participation, the culture of Nubians, their dreams and aspirations, are revealed in situ; belying the myth that college magazines have only so much freedom, taboo topics like sex are broached with remarkable openness, with one article on girls' right to sex education and another humorous one by Dabour himself on the six lies in a porn movie. All of which impressed not only the judges but faculty staff, with the deputy dean for students' affairs, Laila Abdel-Magid, feeling that the aims of the project -- "we hoped the students would project what they learned through their college years and at the same time embrace the idea of team work as well as market research and sales pitch; they had already proved they were creative, so what we were concerned with was their ability to abide by ethical and professional standards" -- have all been met. Some magazines have shortcomings, she concedes, but "the way to learn is to make mistakes". Youthink deputy editor-in-chief, Amr Fahmi, 20, who now works at the Spanish News Agency, agrees that there was much to learn from the experience: "we wanted to direct our magazine to young Muslims not just in Egypt but throughout the world, and also to those who are living in Muslim countries." The 17-strong team covered Iraq, Turkey and a series of lifestyle- related topics; local affairs had rather less space but, "when there are urgent topics like Turkey in the European Union or war in Iraq, these should take priority."

Youthink does cover campus demonstrations, and while it contains little about Islam as a religion -- its rulings or fatwas, etc. -- the idea was "to present Islam as more of a cultural background than a set of rituals". Regarding misconceptions about Islam in the West, Fahmi feels that the way to deal with this is not so much to correct them as to direct the message at Muslims themselves: "If I tell them Islam says so and so, they won't listen. Our reality is rather bleak, so as Muslims we need to hear each other out first, then look into our relationship with the West." The flashy, colourful layout reflects this: "we wanted to get rid of the stereotype of the Muslim magazine, white and green with a bunch of roses on the side. We are young, energetic, and we tackle issues with the same vigour and humour as anyone else." For her part Marwa Alaa, a member of the Kotob Khana team, the concept of the magazine was first proposed by the students' supervisor, and even though the students were all bookworms, the idea of producing a magazine on nothing but books and publishers in Egypt was not immediately tempting. Yet they managed to make the best of it, in time: "All 15 of us fell in love with the idea as we started working on it. We became very attached to each other as a group, and we also found renewed pleasure in discovering books other readers would enjoy." Their accomplishments included interviewing scholar Abdel-Wehab Elmessiry and novelist Sonalla Ibrahim. Here, too, according to Alaa, the magazine fills a gap in the market: "the present magazines cover cultural issues and maybe a bit of politics. We managed to cover culture, sports, entertainment and politics as mirrored in books. We also managed to overcome the idea that if you write about culture, you have to use dense and unreadable Arabic. Writing in simple, good Arabic, we focussed on attractive layout and ways of appealing to the young." The winners got the highest grades, but once they finished they were faced with the daunting task of marketing the magazines.

This turned out to need rather more than competence per se, namely money. The faculty provided LE3,000 for each magazine, but according to Dabour, 2,000 copies of Bokra cost LE30,000. Students pooled their own modest funds, but it was with the sponsorship of a publishing house that Bokra came to light. Although they can offer it for sale at no less than LE45, Dabour says the team is proud to have produced a special issue for the blind. Since graduation, all three groups have been trying to market their magazines, and Alaa for one has high hopes: "we had a promise from a publishing house when we won the prize, but so far nothing has happened. Still, we can't believe that we as a group will go our separate ways, so we are going to try other ways." For their part the Kotob Khana team had trouble procuring copies of the books they were writing about: "we shared the costs, but since there were some that we could not afford, we had to review the reviews -- a fault we are eager to overcome in the future." Fahmi is very realistic about the prospects for Youthink, which points to a high level of professionalism. At first the team thought they could reach countries like Nigeria, but since then they have realised that if they are to succeed they must limit their work to certain countries in Asia and Europe, eventually to spread out from there. "If Playboy circulates all over the world," he laughs, "why can't we?" Aware of the harsh realities of the market, Dabour emphasised the fact that graduation projects are one thing, market rules quite another. He held up the cover, which features a photo of a young man held up by strings like a marionette, with the caption expressing doubts about whether he is a child or a grown-up. "I know I am today's son," one sentence reads, "but I am more the son of tomorrow." Pointing out that the boy in the picture is Walid, the brother of one of his friends, Dabour expresses doubts that such a cover could sell. The market will inevitably have a negative effect, he concedes, but although they will sometimes have to succumb -- "a picture of one of the pop stars like Tamer Hosni on the cover" -- at other times they will hold their own. "We either cope with reality and do our best or we get depressed," he concludes. "I choose the first option."

الأربعاء، يوليو 18، 2007

نكون أو لا نكون

تعيش مصر والدول النامية بشكل عام مأساة عميقة للغاية تتمثل في التخلف والجمود الفكري، ولمعرفة أبعادها فإنه تجدر الإشارة إلى أن قارة مثل أوروبا المتقدمة في الكثير من مناحي الحياة العلمية والتكنولوجية والاقتصادية ...، قد قامت بتشكيل لجنة تضم علماء حائزين على جائزة نوبل ومتخصصين للنظر في مشكلة تدني البحث العلمي هناك، وبالطبع لا مجال للمقارنة بينهم وبين الدول النامية مجتمعة وليس مصر وحدها.

وتكمن أهمية المعرفة في أن العالم يعيش الآن في عصر جديد تغير فيه تصور التصنيع والتقدم والذي كان سائدا في الماضي، لتنبع كل الثورات الآن من المستوى المعرفي الجديد أو التكنولوجيا والتي أصبحت تميز المجتمعات المتقدمة عن تلك المتخلفة أو النامية. ولقد حدثت في دول مثل الولايات المتحدة واليابان وأوروبا وحتى الصين تحولات عميقة جدا في المجتمعات تتماشى مع هذه الثورة التي لا تقل في أهميتها عن سابقتيها وهما الزراعية والصناعية.

وتعد الثورة المعرفية في مرحلة نهاية البداية، إلا أن من أهم ظواهرها سرعة التغيير، فالكم المعرفي يتضاعف كل 18 شهرا، وهناك الآن فروع كاملة من العلم لم تكن موجودة قبل عشر سنوات، وإذا استمر الحال على ما هو عليه فإن الهوة ستتضاعف بشكل مخيف بين الدول النامية والمتقدمة.

وفي هذا الإطار فإنه يجب الإشارة إلى أن الهوة متسعة أساسا في الفترة الحالية فكيف بها مستقبلا، وللتدليل على ذلك، فإننا يجب أن نذكر أن دخل الفرد في الدول الغنية يساوي 40 ضعف نظيره في الدول الفقيرة، في حين يبلغ نصيب الفرد مما تنفقه الدول المتقدمة على البحث العلمي 220 ضعف نصيب الفرد مما تنفقه مثيلتها المتخلفة.

وتواجه مصر وغيرها من الدول النامية عدة مشكلات تتعلق بتطوير القدرة العلمية والمعرفية وتشجيع المدارس والجامعات على البحث والإبداع والابتكار، بالإضافة إلى توافر القدرة المجتمعية على التعرف على الاكتشافات والمبادرات الجديدة، ووجود حضّانات تحول الفكرة العلمية إلى تكنولوجيا وتطبيق حقيقي في المجتمع.

ولا يخفى على أحد أن عالمنا العربي والإسلامي يعيش وضعا سيئا للغاية، ففي الثلاث سنوات الماضية، سجلت الدول الصناعية 98% من براءات الاختراع بينما كان نصيب الدول النامية 2% فقط منهم 95% سجلتها الصين والهند وجنوب أفريقيا والمكسيك والبرازيل.

وهناك تقرير هام تم تقديمه للأمم المتحدة عام 2004 أثبت أن مشكلة البحث العلمي في الدول المتخلفة ليست في التمويل والذي جاء في آخر قائمة الأسباب، وإنما في السياسة العلمية والعلاقة المتبادلة بين العلم والمجتمع وتنمية القوى البشرية من المرحلة الابتدائية لما بعد الدكتوراه واستقلالية المؤسسات البحثية والعلاقة بين القطاع الخاص والعام، حيث إن القطاع الخاص يمثل ثلثي البحث العلمي في العالم، وأخيرا التمويل.

وما أنفقته دول الخليج على الجامعات والمعامل البحثية دون وجود مردود مناسب على مستوى النتاج العلمي، يعد أكبر دليل على كون التمويل ليس هو المشكلة التي تواجهها الدول النامية في البحث العلمي مقارنة بباقي العوامل، إلا أنه يجب التأكيد على تداخل الخمس عناصر بحيث إن محصلة الكل أكبر من تجميع الأجزاء.

وينبغي التأكيد على أن الثورة العلمية والمعرفية مبنية على تلك الاتصالية التكنولوجية المعلوماتية، فالحواسب الآلية منتشرة في كل مكان، وهي متصلة ببعضها من خلال الشبكات التي تعد مصدر القوة الحقيقية لتلك الثورة، وبالتكنولوجيا الجديدة أصبحت المعرفة الإنسانية متصلة.

ولا يمكن أن تنفصل الثورة المعرفية والتكنولوجية عن حرية التعبير والديمقراطية، ومطلوب منّا كمواطنين المشاركة والتفاعل الإيجابي، إذ أن هناك العديد من المشكلات التي تواجه تلك الثورة وأولها الإدارة، فمن المسئول عن إدارة العملية ككل، أو بعبارة أخرى "من يملك الإنترنت"، أما المشكلة الأخرى فتتعلق بالخصوصية، إلى جانب التمركز والاحتكار في النظام الجديد كالمعركة التي نشأت بين شركتي "مايكروسوفت" و "نت سكيب".

وتتحدى سرعة التغيير في كل أوجه المعرفة الفكر الإنساني والمفهوم الاجتماعي للتشريع، فالقوانين لا تستطيع اللحاق بركب التطورات المعرفية الجديدة، ولا ننسى دور القطاع الخاص الذي يمول ثلثي البحث العلمي في العالم.

ففي الماضي على سبيل المثال كان هناك علم نظري وآخر تجريبي، إلا أنه في العشر سنوات الفائتة ظهر نوع ثالث من العلم وهو المحاكاة عن طريق الحاسب الآلي "الكمبيوتر سيميوليشن" وميزته أنه يمكن عمل تجارب افتراضية ومعرفة نتائجها من خلال برامج معينة دون القيام بتلك التجارب على أرض الواقع، وبالتالي يكون التأثير السلبي محدود. وقد استطاعت الولايات المتحدة بالفعل أن تجري تجارب نووية باستخدام برامج محاكاة بالحاسب الآلي دون القيام بتفجيرات فعلية كما كان يحدث قديما.

لكن ما هو دور المجتمع المصري من كل يحدث، أين هو من مناقشة سياسة البحث العلمي؟! إذا لم نستطع أن نغير حالة التقهقر الفكري والجمود والتخلف التي يعيشها المجتمع، فإننا لن نستطيع القيام بالدور المنوط بنا لخدمة هذا الوطن والأمة جمعاء. إن أبلغ ما يمكن أن يعبر عن وضعنا الراهن هو البيت الشعري: "ذو العلم يشقى في النعيم بعلمه، وأخو الجهالة في الشقاوة ينعم".

إن لدينا إسهاما يجب أن نقوم به في هذا العالم يتطلب منا الاشتراك في معركة نكون أو لا نكون والتي لا تقل في أهميتها عن معارك التحرر الوطني إبان الاستعمار، كي نستعيد حقنا في الحياة ونفسح المجال للأجيال القادمة.

قيل هذا الكلام في إحدى الندوات التي حضرتها، وقد رأيت أنه من الأهمية بمكان كتابته - بعد تحريره لغويا وصحفيا- لأهميته

السبت، يوليو 14، 2007

Blackwater in the Iraqi quagmire

Recently, the Blackwater issue aroused in the Middle East and the whole wide world as well, particularly in the US and Europe. But what is the Blackwater thing?!! The Blackwater is an American security corporation, that sends "contractors" to many countries to play role in wars, fighting "terrorism", protecting lords of war in Africa and other continents, and many other security tasks. Some may ask, why I put the word contarctors between quotations. The answer is that they are nothing except mercenaries who don't respect any laws or human rights, who commit atrocities in cold blood, which was so clear in Iraq, as the Blackwater is military involved in the dilemma there. For a better image of the company and its role in Iraq, I made a report about it that was published in our graduation project magazine YOUTHINK.

"Blackwater" in the Iraqi quagmire

By: Ayman

Iraq, the issue that is tackled each and every day in media, is imposing itself again, but from a new perspective. Blackwater, which is said to be the most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world, is now active in Iraq, killing civilians in cold blood, with no observation or deterrence.

The Story

Erik Prince, the former US Navy SEAL, and the multimillionaire Christian conservative, founded Blackwater in 1997 on the belief that "Both the military and law enforcement establishments would require additional capacity to train fully our brave men and women in and out of uniform to the standards required to keep our country secure".

Erik comes from a very wealthy rightwing Christian dynasty in the town of Holland, Michigan. His family was strict Calvinists, and his father, Edgar Prince, who built up an empire called the Prince Manufacturing Corp., used his firm as a cash-generating engine to fuel the rise of what is said to be "The religious right in the US", as well as the Republican Revolution of 1994, when the Republican Party took control of the House of Representatives and Senate for the first time since 1952.

Thus, young Erik grew up in a very heady atmosphere that mixed the sort of free-market gospel with the literal Christian one, he later made up the formula of his political knowledge, religious commitment, and the experience he gained from his father, to establish Blackwater.

The US investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is one of a few to focus on the role of this private security firm in the Iraqi and Afghani scene. In his recent book "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army", published in 2007, Scahill wrote, "Blackwater is the elite Praetorian Guard for the 'global war on terror,' with its own military base, a fleet of twenty aircraft, and 20,000 private contractors at the ready. Run by a multimillionaire Christian conservative who bankrolls President Bush and his allies, its forces are capable of overthrowing governments".

Role in Iraq

It began on March 31, 2004, when the resistance in Fallujah city ambushed a convoy containing four American private military contractors from the security firm. In images broadcasted around the world, the corpses of the four mercenaries were burnt and dragged through streets, and two of them were strung up from a bridge.

Scahill, who worked as a correspondent for the "Democracy Now!" in Iraq, explained what happened. "People of Fallujah were very outraged because of the way the US and its allies treated them. In addition, many Iraqis believed that private military contractors, like Blackwater, were either CIA or Mossad. So it's very likely that when those guys rolled into the city that morning, Iraqis thought they were an attacking a CIA or Mossad convoy," he affirmed.

In response, the firm, with US orders, carried out devastating attacks that ended up virtually destroying Fallujah and setting off a new persistent wave of Iraqi resistance.

Meanwhile, instead of curbing the reliance on contractors in Iraq, the Bush administration has expanded the privatisation of war. Blackwater has been one of the biggest recipients, as it continued to pull in multimillion-dollar government contracts, mostly without accountability and in near secrecy.

"I think that one of the reasons why the Bush administration uses companies like Blackwater is because of the extraordinary amount of political cover it provides," Scahill concluded.

Nevertheless, the Iraqi resistance didn't stop attacking Blackwater's mercenaries. In April 2005, six contractors working with the security firm were killed when their Mi-8 helicopter shot down by rocket propelled grenades. Also killed were three Bulgarian crewmembers and two Fijian gunners. Moreover, on January 23, 2007, five Blackwater's militants were killed in Baghdad when their Hughes H-6 helicopter was brought down.

Crime immunity

Notably, Private security contractors are made immune to Iraqi legal prosecution due to laws in effect dating from the country's Coalition Provisional Authority signed by L. Paul Bremer, which means to kill, torture, rape, steal, and commit whatever crime with no consideration.

"There is a law called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. It is a mouthful that was passed in the year 2000, saying that any contractor working for, or accompanying the armed forces could be subjected to prosecution under US law for crimes committed on the battlefield," decalred Scahill.

"Yet, one of the major flaws of this law," he added, "is that Blackwater is not working for the military, instead, it has a State Department contract in Iraq. Consequently, it is not technically working under the Department of Defence, which means it could argue that it is not really subjected to that law."

Scahill pointed out that there is a big problem even in implementing the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. "There are 100,000 private forces operating in Iraq right now, who is going to go do the investigations? According to this law, it would be US prosecutors. Would they go from Virginia over to Baquba? Who is going to protect them? Who is going to interview the Iraqi victims? And how would any of this work?" he wondered.

Assuring this, the documentary film "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers" suggests that the Blackwater company has been partially responsible for the Abu Ghraib scandal.