Ashraf Fouad, Smith-Mundt and Al-Hurra

In Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion (see review here), Steve Tatham interviewed Middle East media consultant Ashraf Fouad in 2004 on the creation of Al-Hurra, the U.S.-sponsored television station:

If you look at it from the positive side it is much needed and it is long overdue. They should get involved in the debate. But if you look at it from the negative side then it is unacceptable. How dare you come and air a channel like this to try and brainwash my people, when your law in the U.S. bans you from airing something like this in the U.S.? It is against the Constitution to broadcast a government channel in the States. How dare you say that we are sheep, and that you can show us this, but you can’t show it to the American people? …

While it’s not in the Constitution, the Smith-Mundt Act certainly does prevent Al-Hurra from being broadcast to the American public. Among the various reasons for revisiting Smith-Mundt, the perception it creates of our overseas broadcasts and the lack of transparency of the same is not a myth, even if the modern understanding for the purpose for the prohibition is.

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