A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Presidential overtures: Hisham Melhem on the Arabiya interview

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 31, 2009

I hadn’t planned to write anything about the interview that President Obama gave on Arabiya this past week – for several reasons. That he would choose to give his first official news interview to an Arabic-language news channel is a wonderful first step; that he chose Arabiya – a weak, pro-Saudi channel -, and not Jazeera – the Arab world’s best, most neutral, and most professional channel -, was a huge disappointment.

Also, on a personal level, I don’t care for Hicham Melhem. I sat near to him at an event this fall, and he was incredibly rude: he insisted on chit-chatting (or rather, chatted up – see below) in Arabic throughout the entire event, ignoring the speakers in favor of the young women seated five feet away. In other words, his behavior was not only rude to the speakers, but it was also rude to the audience members around him, who (like me) might have preferred listening to the headliners’ talk than his own largely snide remarks.

My personal experiences aside, I can say that he turned out to be a fine interviewer, and that happily he did not ignore our President in favor of whatever comely young producer was working off-screen.

Anyway. If you watched the interview (its in English) and are curious to hear more about the interview process and reaction in the region, NPR’s On the Media has a very nice interview with Melhem that you can listen to here. Its not too long – 7.5 minutes – and quite interesting.

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