Seriously, what is a "Media NGO"?

Maan News Agency is now describing itself as a “Media NGO”.

Probably only in Palestine would such a phrase be heard…

This self-description appears in an ad that the Bethlehem-based Maan (or Ma’an) News Agency has published on the EnglishPal [Pal for Palestine] website, here.

The ad is titled: “Executive Producer for Media NGO in Bethlehem

The text reads: “Executive Producer for Documentary Unit at Ma’an Network — Ma’an Network is a non-profit media organization founded in 2004 to strengthen independent Palestinian media, build links between local, regional and international media, and consolidate freedom of expression and media pluralism as keys to promoting democracy and human rights in Palestine. Due to the success of our TV and film production, we are expanding our capacity in documentary-making by establishing a professional Documentary Unit at Ma’an Network, and require a professional film-maker to lead this process in the role of Executive Producer. The successful candidate will be responsible for managing and coaching 3-5 current TV and film professionals at Ma’an and assist in the development of a professional Documentary Unit and the production of a series of high-quality documentaries. This is a part-time position with a fixed term contract of 6 months”…

The ad also specifies that: “Working under the direct supervision of the Head of the TV Department the successful candidate will be expected to provide feedback, advice and insight on the development of documentary-making at Ma’an. At the end of the contract period, the Executive Producer will play a key role in nominating the most qualified staff member at Ma’an to take over the role of Executive Producer and Head of the Documentary Unit. The successful candidate will also work closely with the Fundraising Co-ordinator on written fundraising proposals, festival and award submissions, and will give advice on developing the Documentary Unit’s potential for external distribution, presales and international broadcasting”.

So, somebody is supposed to come in for six months, do all that — including working “closely with the Fundraising Co-ordinator on written fundraising proposals” — and more, then choose “the most qualified staff member at Ma’an to take over the role”, to replace himself or herself…


UPDATE: Via a Tweet exchange on Twitter, I have been advised to check out @Maannetwork, which indeed described itself not just once but at least three times over the period of a month (12 November to 12 December) as a “Media NGO”. Maan Network indicates, on its Twitter page, that it is “a non-profit media organization working to strengthen independent media, promote democracy, human rights and freedom of expression in Palestine”.

Ma’an News Agency is often also described, and describes itself, as an “independent” Palestinian media organization.

Meanwhile, it is privately-operated by one or two Palestinian journalists who are salaried and who also get expenses and more from this operation; at the same time, they play, and see themselves as playing, various political roles in the “national interest”, but all of this works primarily to raise their own public profiles.

And, like every other ambitious Palestinian in the West Bank, who all know perfectly well that it would be stupid not to maximize what they can get from the incredible donor bonanza being offered in recent years, they seek funding from major donors — European + American (particularly USAID).

Then, they hire internationals and pay them $800 dollars a month (perhaps they have gotten a small increase recently?) — and, as one of these internationals once told me, paying them this pittance at least five days late, and only after multiple reminders — counting on their “solidarity”, but being conspicuously minimal in support, if the internationals get into any trouble.

And, by the way, though these internationals are required to know some Arabic, their writing is not used on Ma’an’s Arabic-language website. (There is also a much-less read Hebrew-language website).
No. The translation goes in one direction only: from Arabic to English.

This is a “Media NGO” — apparently, a peculiar new hybrid that exists in this form only in the Palestinian territory, one of the few places on earth where it is both more advantageous and more lucrative to be an NGO than to be a government official, or a media operation, or a journalist, or even a business…

UPDATE: Just for context, another ad posted on the EnglishPal website is for a Proposal Writing & Fundraising Seminar in Ramallah [for a cost of 800 N.I.S., or shekels, after a “placement test”, for 24 hours of “class instruction” over a four-week period early in the new year]. This ad further states that: “This course will focus on:
identifying potential funding partners; composing written proposals; approaches to followup correspondence; closing the deal. The course provides a strong theoretical foundation and involves interactive practical activities, with the goal of enhancing participants negotiating skills and ability to secure project funding. Importantly, the approach used by AMIDEAST’s expert trainer is that NGO’s and project staff in search of funding are in a position of influence, offering appropriate donors accountable and transparent outcomes for in-need projects”. This ad is posted here.

UPDATE + ADD: Ma’an News Agency’s George Hale has written to me:
(*) “News operation independent in literal sense, also self-sustaining. [n.b. – What does that mean?] Network takes funding for cultural programming … Dutch and Danish, if I recall. But this was a few yrs. ago. Good initiative on their part, of course not editorially sustainable.”
(*) “Re: support: When Jared [Malsin – see our posts about this just over a year ago on this blog] got deported they paid big $$$ for futile legal efforts. Also made arrangements to avoid future trouble” … Re: Jared you’re right it was too late, but not too little. Lawyers are expensive and ours stuck on long time in relative terms … Also, he’s not gone. Still works for MNA out of Gaza. But I agree they handled visa situation idiotically before that fiasco”.
(*) “Re salary mine’s never been late, haven’t heard of it. In any case they know not to count on ‘solidarity’ lol, but secured visas … [Marian Houk responded; “Glad that salaries are no longer late. English news op started with Dutch + other (Danish?) funding. What are secured visas?”] Secured long-term visas for duration of contract, meaning did what they should have done long ago and went through Ramallah … Right so to be clear both times I said ‘secured’ meant as verb, this is normal in any country to arrange visas for foreign staff … Haha yeah just clarifying that I didn’t mean some special ‘secured’ visa like a ‘secured’ credit card or something lol”.
(*) “Re: Eng. copy how long ago was this? Can’t imagine we had ‘policy’ to prevent it, although I’d still love to see more in Arabic” … [Marian Houk responded: “if English original copy is now moving to Arabic desk, that is also new. Former policy came to my ear from horse’s mouth …] Seems like a strange and self-defeating policy … what would the point of that be? Maybe it was priority rather than policy … Did anyone ever clarify what it was about? I’ve only seen as it is now, which is use of three source languages in daily coverage … [Marian Houk responded: “I don’t know if I would use the word ‘clarify’, but as I said it was explained in a one-on-one conversation in your offices … the one-way translation policy was explained as designed to ensure all kinds of correctness, from a viewpoint of those here … so that those who were from here, and who knew the history, culture, religion, language etc would be the only ones to set tone”.] George Hale replied: “Bizarre. It’s certainly true now that not everything we want gets translated into Arabic and vise versa. But no rule against it … Well if it’s rule no one mentioned it to me. And they’d be doing a poor job enforcing it as my stories are routinely translated … Don’t think there’s such a policy. It is true that editors on each desk have much editorial freedom to publish what they choose”…

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