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The state of Gulf newspapers 4, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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The more I read Gulf newspapers the more I despair. Not only do many articles resemble sycophantic drivel peddled under the thinnest guise of theoretical impartiality but the English is just so poor, the construction of sentences so painfully amateurish and the tone so flagrantly unprofessional that it boggles the mind.

The article below that I look at is taken from the Kuwait Times, one of the oldest and most respected newspapers of the region. I worked at the paper for an internship and know that there are some good journalists and editors working there. So how can a torrid little article like this one be published under their supposed good name?

Nice start

Nice start? That is the title? It conveys no information whatsoever.

It has been less than 24 hours since the Amiri Diwan happily announced to the nation the start of the implementation of “Kuwait Vision 2035” project.

‘Happily’ is not a good choice of adverb. It is weak and incongruous when used in this context.

A beautiful vision which aims to transform Kuwait into a financial hub which could make Kuwait one of the leaders in the world.

Impartiality…anyone…heard of the concept? No. Seemingly not.

‘One of the leaders of the world.’ Unequivocally the worst line of the whole article. It is a truly meaningless phrase. Leaders at what? Commerce? Finance? Ping pong? Yahtzee?

This vision intends to transform the infrastructure and the minds of the people completely and to create a new generation of young women and men in the workforce who will lead Kuwait into becoming one of the most advanced countries in the globe.

So the vision had two aims, to transform the country’s infrastructure and ‘the minds of the people completely’. First, I don’t believe that. Second, any details…at all? Change Kuwaitis’ minds? How? From what to what? Kuwaitis are happy with having their ‘minds completely changed’ by a report written by Tony Blair? Information and analysis please, not breathless, empty, hyperbole.

We all laughed when Mr Blair was announcing his vision.

An unprofessional sentence, I would suggest, even in an editorial.

We all imagined our parliament and how hopeful it would be in implementing this vision.

This sentence does not make sense. Imagined what of the parliament? Why is the parliament hopeful?

No surprise. Yesterday, one of the MPs suggested to the government to ban women from travelling unless they have a mahram (first of kin male companion – a rule which adheres to the sharia laws) or unless she has a written permission from her legal guardian. Today, the only country that applies this rule is Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is exempted because it is the heart of Makkah and Madinah and the heart of Islam. There, women never broke the rules and it has been working under this rule for thousands of years.

What? How have we arrived at Saudi and questions of women’s rights? How are these two sentences linked?

Saudi is exempted? From what? I thought that Saudi ‘had’ this law? This is confusing.

Kuwait is a different story. It never applied the rule before.

Why are we talking about this rule? What does it have to do with the 2035 vision? Did Blair suggest implementing these rules?

Women are travelling for business, for leisure and with family for many years.

Wrong tense, poor English. An editor ought to have corrected this.

Imagine, every time I want to travel, I have to run to my son. Is my son my guardian now? Do I have to drag him wherever I go? Even if I accept the idea, would he be free to leave his family and work to accompany me? What about other women who have different circumstances and whose fathers have died or who are divorced or everyone else in their families is busy with
their own life?

Again, I don’t understand why this is being discussed. I thought that this was an article about the Blair-Kuwait 2035 vision?

I think the honorable gentlemen in parliament was enthusiastic to ask for this law because of the incident which allegedly took place at the airport between male and female officers who travelled to Sharm El-Sheikh without stamping their passports – a story that was later denied by the Ministry of Interior.

Ok. The article appears to have changed entirely and it’s focussing on a different topic. What happened to the vision?

This is a poor recap of a story. It is unclear what happened.

Suppose, it was true. Does this have to apply on the rest of the nation and become a law?
Anyway, the proposal was passed in the parliament’s legislative and legal committee in to study it which I hope they will reject. Nice start for the Vision 2035!

Ignoring the poor English, it seems that the author was going for an ironic juxtaposition of the vision versus this act in Parliament. Fine. A nice idea, poorly executed.

It was as if two articles were accidentally merged into one. In order for this juxtaposition to work, the Kuwait 2035 vision needed to be elucidated and its ethos explained. Then words like ‘however’ or ‘despite’ or a phrase like ‘in contrast’ ought to have been used to provide a link and highlight the incongruous contrast between the two.

All of this is, of course, just my personal opinion. If you disagree then please feel free to voice your thoughts in the comments.


1. Abstract JK - 4, April 2010

‘Nice Try: Poor Implementation’ would be a much better headline.
I think I understand this bit about KSA – “But Saudi Arabia is exempted because it is the heart of Makkah and Madinah and the heart of Islam. There, women never broke the rules and it has been working under this rule for thousands of years.”

I think the intent is to exempt KSA from judgement on their application of the mahram law – because it is the heart of Islam, and because women there ostensibly ‘never broke the rules’ – meaning traveling without a mahram. Basically, I think these ‘facts’ are given in a measly attempt to ‘exempt’ Saudi..or something like that.
wow, this is bad.

2. Elizabeth - 5, April 2010

I agree about the sad state of the Gulf’s papers. I think Khaleej Times, Gulf News and Gulf Times are especially crappy.
This is written in a pretty funny way: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/environment/a-walk-in-this-park-is-not-pleasant-1.607810?localLinksEnabled=false

3. Abu 'Argala - 5, April 2010

I’m a contrary sort of chap as you may have guessed.

So a contrary view.

When I read this I saw a radically subversive article – dripping with sarcasm.

The Amiri Diwan happily launches a profound vision for 2035 of modernization that will require a new modern mind set among Kuwaitis. A fundamental change that requires modern minded men and women. (Note both). So this is a “happy” event. The Amir is trying to lead the country forward.

We all laughed when Mr. Blair announced his vision. We “imagined” our Parliament taking action. Meaning of course we knew they would not. We know their mindset so there is “No surprise” as to their reaction.

The Parliament steps forth boldly to take the country backward. Since it’s only 1431AH, the comment about Saudi applying this law for thousands of years is either a flat out mistake or I think more likely a subtle point about the origin of these practices in the Jahiliyya.

Then an argument about the stupidity of modelling Kuwait on the only country in the world that applies this and other crazy rules.

A plaintive plea “Kuwait is a different story”. Some practical arguments about implementation.

And then a rounding again on the “honorable” gentlemen of the Parliament obsessed about something that did or did not happen which sounds relatively trivial and contained.

Back full circle to Nice Start. We have a national vision for progress and a Parliament focused on the past.

In places the language is admittedly less than eloquent but then sarcasm is hard to write in another language.

4. hamish - 5, April 2010

Kuwaiti journalism should not be judged by it’s paltry crop of English rags. however even the Arabic nrespapers, while much better grammatically and linguistically, still lack depth and precision not to mention the all important objectivity of which a a bare minimum is required to be a journalist.

the English papers in Kuwait? so bad the writers should be shot.

davidbroberts - 5, April 2010

That’s a very good point. I’d like to think that that was the intent. Perhaps you’re correct and it went straight over my head, but I still doubt it. If it was the point, I’d submit that the level of English severely impedes the author’s goal and it needs someone of superior intellect, such as yourself, to wade throughout mass of mistakes, trite colloquialisms and nonsensical phrases to discover the true meaning. Not for us mere mortals…

I shall endeavor to be more circumspect in the future. Thanks very much for the comment.

davidbroberts - 5, April 2010

You make a good point. I worked at Al Dar too when I was in Kuwait. It’s difficult for me to critique them too much but I would broadly agree with your point. There appears to be some kind of template that most Arabic newspapers seem to use across the Gulf which is followed rigorously. Whilst I’d never suggest that I was any kind of expert whatsoever on Gulf Arabic newspapers I’d also suggest that they are by far the worst culprits for printing statements verbatim from Ministries and for half the article being taken up with names.


Thanks for your thoughts.

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[…] Not only is the standard of Middle Eastern journalism fairly abysmal [as I've argued here, here, here and here] but given the youth bulge in many Middle Eastern societies not to mention the generally […]

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