Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Funding alternatives sought

A month ago, I wrote a post on Menassat, the news website based in Lebanon. Here's an extract:

When my friend Jax told me a couple of yers ago that he was working for Menassat, I asked who the funders where, and I showed disbelief that Menassat would be able to free itself from the autocensorship common to aid recipients. He defended Menassat and assured me that they have editorial freedom. Since then, Menassat has been publishing good stuff, not ultra radical, but radical enough. Here, they are at the center of a controversy for a report they collated from the Lebanese Press criticizing the Arab Human Development Report. The Jerusalem Post did not like the way the report was written, and is putting pressure on the Dutch government, Menassat's funders. Menassat courageously responded with this article carrying a great title.
Today Layal Haddad reported in Al-Akhbar on the Dutch government withdrawal of its support from Menassat. Layal is mourning Menassat but the title of the article: "Between surprise and sadness, what lies behind the closure of Menassat?" is very telling about the relationship between donors and recipients, where the recipients delude themselves into believing that funding has no strings attached and that it is all for a good cause. This is at best naive. The funders of this project, the Dutch Government, has a political agenda, and it does not include exposing Zionism. Rather, it includes staying chummy with Israel. One could also say that of all states offering aid (except, of course the Iranian state). So if we want to retain our integrity and independence, we should actually be pleased to see funding withdrawn and not sad. and we should start looking for alternatives, rapidos.


nicolien said...

If you knew anything about how Menassat was set up and run, you would know what there is NO link whatsoever between the fact that the funding has been stopped and the tone of voice of the articles.

Although we have the beautiful expression in Dutch 'whose bread one eats, whose mouth one speaks', there are moments when miss-management and of funds have more to do with cutting funding than political stances, and this is such a case.
There is also a reason why the Dutch NGO (which has been funding Menassat for the past year from their own pocket, long after Dutch government funding stopped - according to plan and proposal) is now filing a lawsuit against the 'owner' of Menassat, Samer Mohdad - who, for the record, has been absent from any editorial business for the past several months.

Yes, funding has strings attached: one has to do what one promised to do to get the funding. Which the owner of Menassat failed to do.

I know the Dutch government is horribly pro-Zionist, so I don't feel the need to defend 'my' government, but I do feel the need to correct factual errors and wrongly perceived causal relationships, such as in the final paragraph of this blogpost.

Former Menassat dabbler said...

I have to agree with Nicolien. And we'd all be yelling about it if we had even an inkling of a sense that the decision to stop funding Menassat was related to the content, though I agree in general that one should be careful about whom one takes money from. In Free Voice's case it seems there was little to no oversight, especially of where the funds were going, rather than scrutiny of the content.

The way that Dutch Free Voice shut down Menassat, however, could be taken issue with: they seemed absolutely baffled that a justification might be required for Menassat's readers and the press in a timely manner. Only upon our prompting did they respond with a letter to the staff and for the public. This is perhaps a case of "well-intentioned" westerners failing to see the unintentional irony behind the a sudden, unjustified closure of a media outfit-- which partially explains all the conjecture behind Menassat's closing.
Mismanagement, indeed, played a huge role in the closure, and sadly the editorial staff were not really aware of the agreements or that Menassat would be simply dropped over night.