CNN tries to muscle out Arabic translation engines to promote its own website

Published September 25th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

An unprecedented step has recently been taken by CNN (Cable News Network) owned by American media giant AOL Time Warner (AOL). The corporation’s representatives have reportedly approached Arabic Internet sites who provide online translation engines demanding they stop allowing their users the ability to translate the contents of the CNN website. 


In a move that is apparently aimed at bolstering traffic on CNN’s own recently-launched Arabic site, AOL has asked the Arabic sites—including Al-Misbar and Ajeeb—to stop translating CNN’s news from English into Arabic, in compliance with intellectual property laws. 


Considering the news organization refrained from making the same appeal to other international sites, such as AOL Netscape (a CNN sister company) and Altavista, which provide online translation services to and from most European languages, local market sources suggest CNN’s difficulties in competing with Arabic news sites, drove it to try and put a stop to the translation of its news items into Arabic. 


A local businessman who wished to remain unnamed said he considered AOL’s demand arrogant and indicative of American companies’ hostility towards anything that pertains to the Arab world. “Why does AOL Time Warner allow other sites to translate its content into other languages while it refuses the same into Arabic?” he asked. 


When asked to comment on the issue, CNN Arabic Editor-In-Chief Caroline Faraj said, “I do not know anything about the affair, which concerns the mother company in the United States.” 


CNN’s Arabic site was officially launched on January 19, 2002, and is operated from Dubai Media City (DMC), in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Our Arabic news site and Dubai offices demonstrate our commitment to the Middle East market,” CNN's managing director for the Middle East stated in a press conference. 


So far, Al-Misbar has opted to comply with AOL Time Warner’s requirement, halting CNN translations, while Ajeeb discarded the request and is proceeding with the translation of CNN articles. Industry sources suggest that Ajeeb’s stance stems from its interpretation of a law that allows free information and content exchange on the Internet. 


Al-Misbar Manager Adnan Eidan confirmed: “We received a letter from the AOL Time Warner company asking us to stop translating their content. We complied with the request, in accordance with the British Intellectual Property Law, as our company is registered in Britain.” 


“It is a legal issue and we acted according to the law,” Eidan added. “Our site has not been affected by our action, and we have not noticed any decline in traffic. In fact it is a problem between CNN and the Internet users.” Eidan declined to refer directly to the refusal of other sites to comply with AOL’s demand, reiterating it was a “legal matter”. 


Despite the issue’s confidentiality, sources noted that a Kuwaiti court is looking into a lawsuit filed by AOL Time Warner against Ajeeb. Ajeeb’s former executive manager, Fahed Al-Sharekh, declined to comment or reveal the nature of the lawsuit, saying he no longer has any ties with the company, which is currently owned by a well known American firm by the name of eLink. 


Nonetheless, Al-Sharekh who believes the Internet makes a special case where intellectual property rights are concerned, asserted that when Ajeeb was launched, the company was keen on studying all legal aspects connected to the intellectual property and web work. 


Another businessman was asked whether AOL Time Warner would pursue its lawsuit against Ajeeb, which has recently become an American company. “The fact that Ajeeb is an American company, AOL Time Warner will be spurred to file lawsuits against other sites (like AltaVista) which translate CNN contents from English into other languages,” he said. — ( 

© 2002 Mena Report (

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