US Suspends Publication of Arab Youth Magazine

The US State Department announced it was suspending print publication of an Arab youth magazine once billed as a key component of US public diplomacy, but derided by critics as "brainwashing."

US Suspends Publication of Arab Youth Magazine

A statement said the department was halting the print version of "Hi" magazine, launched in July 2003, "to assess whether the magazine is meeting its objectives effectively."

"The purpose of this review will be to develop quantitative data on how broadly 'Hi' magazine is reaching its intended audience," the statement said.

"The review is part of a broader effort to develop a 'culture of measurement' and to evaluate regularly the effectiveness of the department's public diplomacy programs," it said.

The Arabic-language magazine had been distributing 55,000 copies in 18 countries. The department said its website, which is posted in Arabic and English, would remain active.

Hi was launched shortly after the invasion of Iraq by a private Washington-based publishing company with State Department backing. It was intended as a "window on American culture" for Arabs from 18 to 35 years old.

Distributed at a cost of 4.5 million dollars a year, "Hi" eschewed political content for puff pieces on subjects ranging from Internet dating to rock climbing, yoga and sandboarding.

Middle East watchers have not been kind to the magazine since its inception, accusing it of trying to sweep aside substantive concerns over US policy among Arab youth and feed them nothing but cultural fluff.

"Many critics think the magazine is too naive to be anything other than an exercise in brainwashing," the Al-Ahram Weekly wrote shortly after Hi hit the Arab streets.

The US-based journal Middle East Report was equally downbeat in a September 2003 review.

"In its present form, 'Hi' suggests to its target readership that the US administration has no substantive reply to sincere questions about US policy, nor even to adult questions about US society and culture," it said.

"At a time when the US really ought to be engaging in frank dialogue and genuine debate about ideas with people from the Middle East, it is hard to imagine 'Hi' failing more spectacularly."

An earlier campaign to promote a video highlighting Muslims in the United States was widely derided as ineffectual.

The magazine suspension comes after Karen Hughes, the new U.S. goodwill envoy, has struggled to improve America's image in the Middle East.

But the fast-talking, confident Texan, who had no previous experience in foreign diplomacy, found the U.S. image a tough sell as some audiences balked at what they perceived as her cultural insensitivity.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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