Arab Media Reports on Zarqawi Killing

Ramez Maluf, a professor of journalism at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, talks with Renee Montagne about how the Arab world is responding to Abu Musab Zarqawi's death. He says the killing is big news in the region and that Zarqawi's demise has generally been seen as a positive development.

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Within the Arab world, there are differing views of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Many deplore the terrorist campaign he waged in Iraq. Others see him as a martyr and a symbol of the resistance to U.S. occupation.

To learn more about how the Arab world is responding to Zarqawi's death, we called Ramez Maluf. He's professor of journalism at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Thank you for joining us.

Professor RAMEZ MALUF (Professor of Journalism, Lebanese American University, Lebanon): My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: How is Zarqawi being portrayed in the Arab media?

Prof. MALUF: Well, first his death received tremendous coverage. It's the leading story in almost every newspaper I've seen, and I've seen a number of them. It received wide coverage on the news last night, and I think, on the whole, it's being welcomed.

There are exceptions to that, but I think, on the whole, it's being welcomed, and this for the following reason: that even those who are against the American occupation believe that Zarqawi was not representative of the resistance they would like to see.

MONTAGNE: Now, Zarqawi was a Jordanian. Did the Jordanian media treat his death any differently than the other media?

Prof. MALUF: Jordanian TV - which you need to remember is owned by the state -treated his death pretty much with the same euphoria that the Western press did. This is a man, of course, that was responsible for explosions in three hotels in Amman. There's a lot of bad blood between him and the Jordanians.

However, one television station, al-Ahlam(ph), which is an Arabic-speaking TV station based in Iran, had interviews with people from his hometown, Zarqa. That's where his name comes from, Zarqawi. And the people there, with one exception, also welcomed what happened. There was one man who spoke to the camera in a very fierce manner, saying that he was happy for him because now he had become the martyr he wanted to become, insinuating that he was on the side of Zarqawi.

MONTAGNE: There have been reports since his death that Jordan played a hand in tracking down Zarqawi. Has that been played up or down in the Arab media?

Prof. MALUF: It's been played up very much. This is said repeatedly and they had people comment on it - not officially - but there was a gentleman who was a former member of cabinet who said that he, himself, also had information that Jordanian intelligence had been instrumental in locating Zarqawi.

MONTAGNE: And just finally, how does the Arab view of the United States play into this story? And I'm probably - I'm thinking here, what was Al-Jazeera doing last night?

Prof. MALUF: Okay, Al-Jazeera, last night, had a series of interviews with people in Iraq. Most of them seemed unhappy with the death of Zarqawi. However, one of the speakers on one of their shows, addressed the issue that thousands of people were actually participating in trying to find Zarqawi, and he wondered whether this was a turning point in the history of the occupation -meaning that if indeed thousands of people were trying to help the authorities to find Zarqawi, that maybe this was a turning point, that people had decided to go the peaceful route.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Prof. MALUF: Sure. My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Ramez Maluf is professor of journalism at the Lebanese American University. He was speaking to us from Beirut.

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