In this blog I aim to look at how the Egyptian radio station spread the message of Arab Unity and increased popularity of Arab nationalism in Libya. As previously discussed in my third blog, popular radio station Voices of the Arabs also known as Sawt al-Arab, based in Egypt’s capital Cairo gained great popularity and mass audience across the MENA (Middle East and North African region.) The cause for the popularity across the region during the 1950s and 1960s was because of the appealing message of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.
President Nasser rousing speeches featured prominently on the Voices of the Arabs radio service. Nasser’s dominant message had an emphasis on revolutions and resistance against the exploitive Colonial influences within the region which the mass listeners knew all to well and thus shared similarly sentiments. Nasser also emphasised the message of Arab Unity and Arab Nationalism, it is evident that Nasser emphasis on the ideology of Arab Nationalism had a great casual effect within the region as there was a significant rise of the popularity of Arab Nationalism in MENA.
Voices of the Arabs began broadcasting in the aftermath of the successful 1952 Egyptian Revolution, the success of Nasser’s revolution could be said to have contributed to the success of the radio service as Nasser was able to show a realistic example to his audience that it was possible to break away from colonial rulers, gain an autonomous state and still survive as a nation. Voices of the Arabs also had great appeal within the masses as it was able to reach all, previously there had been more support for “the development of print media which would effect communication with the educated classes.” However, Nasser’s “new government realized that radio was an ideal means of reaching illiterates throughout the Arab World.”
Critics state that a year after the radio service was founded in 1953, due to listener popularity broadcasting schedule was increased to 15 hours a day. Voices of the Arabs gained prestige within the region as a “dominant broadcaster in the Middle East.”
Voices of the Arabs could be said the have a significant influence on the historical events which occurred within region of the Middle East due to its recurring message of Arab Unity and Nationalism. The radio service continually promoted the liberation of Palestine and increase of efforts against bringing down the corruptive Arab monarchies who had heavy Imperialist backing. This message had a significant impact within Libya who was under the corruptive rule of King Idris. One critic Ronald Bruce St John whose research focuses on Gaddafi and his changing ideology reinforces the idea that Gaddafi was the brainchild of Nasser, in his research it is highlighted that the Voices of the Arabs programming and Nasser’s speeches were highly influential during his youth. St. John states:
“His student days there were pivotal to his subsequent ideological development. For the first time, he had regular access to Arab newspapers and radio broadcasts, most especially the ‘Voice of the Arabs’ news programme, originating from Cairo. Many of his teachers were Egyptian, and the school curriculum originated from Egypt, stimulating his interest in the 1952 Egyptian revolution.”
Voices of the Arabs therefore significantly affected young Gaddafi’s action as a revolutionary leader as his admiration on Nasser’s concept of Arab Nationalism and Nasser’s revolutionary policies influenced his decisions in joining the Army as well as persuade his young academy classmates to form the Free Unionist Officers where they later overthrew the Libyan monarchy.
St. John accurately describes the prodigy of Nasser by identifying that:
“What separated Qaddafi from the remainder of his generation was his single-minded determination to bring the Egyptian revolution home to monarchical Libya.”
Therefore, it could be said that Voices of the Arabs had effectively set the course of the history of Libya in the years to come, from something as tiny as what some considered a radio then became a political revolutionary tool.