[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/27/obama.arabia/art.obama1.gi.jpg caption="President Obama has taken an early interest in the Middle East peace process."]
Arab Affairs Editor
It's not the first interview Al-Arabiya has landed with an American president. As a matter of fact, since its launch in 2003, Al-Arabiya has interviewed George W. Bush on several occasions. But this one is different… President Barack Obama’s first official interview with any TV network. It is also his personal message to the more than one billion Muslims around the world - one fifth of the world’s population - and he chose Al-Arabiya as his vehicle to deliver it.
So, Al-Arabiya has a scoop and it wants the world to know it. The Dubai-based network owned by Saudi businessmen landed the interview with President Obama and it's wasting no time to brag about it..
The network’s US Affairs Editor, Hisham Melhem who conducted the fifteen-minute interview is now basking in the spotlight. He describes Obama as cool, kind and confident. Just how cool? He borrows an Arabic expression that translates to, "A mountain that no wind can shake!!"
Al-Arabiya Producer Mona Shaqaqi offers some insights into the interview like why there wasn't a US flag behind the president. She says, "When we asked them where is the US flag, they said they wanted the interview to be casual and friendly, not stiff and imposing.. so no flag was used."
Some of Al-Arabiya's smaller competitors stayed away from showing the interview or mentioning its exclusivity. But they reported on what President Obama has said especially the parts about listening instead of dictating to the Middle East and his commitment to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
While the interview captured the attention of world media, the most watched network in the Arab world, Al-Jazeera, stayed away from it completely both on television and on line. The Al-Jazeera networks, English and Arabic, did not report until now what the new United States President said in his first official message to the Muslim world. Al-Jazeera has not responded to our request for an explanation about their decision not to report the story.
It remains unclear if President Obama has snubbed Al-Jazeera by giving his first interview to their competitor.. But if this is the case, it seems that for now, Al-Jazeera has snubbed him back.
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