In theory, Middle East Eye is a success story.
Around 30 000 pages read daily. 329 000 English speaking fans on Facebook and 62 600 French speaking fans.
Twenty permanent staff in the London bureau.
A dozen freelancers in several countries.
Many are professionals and their careers give MEE a mantle of seriousness and professionalism. Heading the website is David Hearst. He is the Editor of Middle East Eye and was for a long period of time, senior international correspondent for the Guardian. He worked on the conflicts in Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Ireland and Russia.
In two years’ time, the websites became unavoidable. Online Media Awards named Middle East Eye’s Peter Oborne best freelance writer of the year for his report on the siege of Damascus.
However, what kind of journalism Middle East Eye does?
« The moment activists come through this door they become journalists » #presswashing
Many activists who write in the media sustain adamantly that they are journalists and therefore objective. When David Hearst declares that MEE staff writers come in as “activists” and come out as “journalists” he plays on this ambiguity. As if, human beings, who fight passionately for a cause or an ideology, can turn off their brain when they write.
Some contributors of Middle East Eye are politically engaged. Fortunately so.
However, alleging that they stop being activists the minute they start writing, is an insult to the intelligence of the readers and the contributors of Middle East Eye.
The bias of political Islam
Hanan Chehata is a regular contributor of the site. She does not hesitate to call secular people “secular fanatics”. She says of herself a hostage of two parts of the population. On one side, the seculars (Muslim and non-Muslim) that she does not hesitate to qualify as “secular fanatics”. On the other side, those who are more fundamentalists than she is who she calls “religious police.” Hanan Chehada says she is the happy medium between those two extremes, forgetting however that the vast majority of Muslims in the west (and even in a growing number of Muslim countries) are in favor of the separation between religion and politics and disagree with political Islam.
Basheer Nafi is in charge of research in Al Jazeera Center for Studies. He wrote several articles for Middle East Eye, in one of them he calls Rashed Ghannouchi to order.
“Ennahdah can change its speech, but not the reality of political Islam.
The relation between Ennahda and the Muslim Brothers is not the result of a conspiratorial missionary effort; it is purely a Tunisian choice. It is absolutely wrong to pretend today that Ennahdah was for many decades prisoner of an Islamic political identity it did not want.”
“The forces of the mainstream current in political Islam, led by the Muslim brothers, fought for about one century for the independence of their state. They struggled for people’s freedom and the instauration of a fair system of governance that expresses the will of the majority and safeguards their interests. When it had to face the despotism of Tunisian leader Habib Bourguiba, Ennahdah was not an exception. There is nothing shameful in this history that justifies its condemnation.”
« Fear and sensitivity should not push a political movement with such a long history of struggle and sacrifices to take hasty and sudden decisions.”
Independent….yes, from the Hollywood studios and its great granduncle maybe.
In the English section “about”, we can read, “Middle East Eye is an independently funded online news organization founded in February 2014”
What does « independently funded » mean? Independent of the big media groups? Independent of the Hollywood studios? Independent of American pension funds? The only way to try to see a bit more clearly is to ask for the legal documents handed by the company. We can read there that the director is Jamal Awami Jamal known as Jamal Bessasso. He is director of two companies with quasi-similar names: MEE limited and Middle East Eye limited.
Jamal Bessasso born in 1969 in Kuwait is a Dutch national of Palestinian origin who lives in Great Britain. He was formerly director of planning and human resources for Al-Jazeera. He was also director of Samalink TV in Lebanon, which broadcasts Al Quds TV, the station close to Hamas.
Jamal Bassasso also worked for a real estate company in Dubai with Anas Mekdad, another Palestinian linked to Al Islah the Emirati wing of the Muslim Brothers, which is banned today, and many of its members are serving prison sentences accused of attempting to overthrow the government. Anas Mekdad is the founder of the Islamist web forum AlMakeed that praised Hamas. A forum in which Bessasso contributes.
Asked by the Emirati daily The National, David Hearst the editor in chief of Middle East Eye categorically denied that Bessasso played any important role in Middle East Eye. At most he conceded that Jamal Bessasso was a ““a colleague and the head of human resources and the legal director”.
Why deny that he is also represents the anonymous owners of Middle East Eye? If he is not himself the owner. His name is the only one that appears on the official documents handed to the British administration.
The name of Jamal Bessasso is also the only one showing for the company Middle East Eye Limited that owns the website Middle East Eye.
Also in the category, “independence” we must underline this important industrial gift: the lending of a coach, Jonathan Powell, an Al Jazeera employee since 2009. He spent six months in London to create the website Middle East Eye.
Another coincidence probably, the person who registered the website Middle East Eye is Adlin Adnan. Incidentally, he is responsible of development policies at Interpal an organization based in Qatar and linked for a long time to the Union of Good of Youssef Al Qaradhawi.
A coincidence as well, probably, we find in the staff of MEE, Rori Donaghy director from 2012 to 2014 of the Emirates Center for Human Rights, a structure aimed to support the Muslim Brothers in the United Arab Emirates. Rori Donaghy admitted that this structure was created thanks to Anas Al Tikriti, head of the Cordoba Foundation and a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
David Hearst published videos on internet in which he maintains he is politically and financially independent. However, he does not reveal the identities of those who make his financial set-up. To run a website of this size with spacious offices in central London, twenty permanent staff and tens of freelancers in various countries, let alone the cost of translation, you need more than 1.5 million pounds a year.