Al-Jazeera’s woes

Tough times for the Arab news channel. First it was banned from the NYSE: “Mr. Al-Sankari, the only Arab-language broadcaster at the NYSE, said he was stunned. For years, NYSE officials had told him how much they welcomed his coverage because it reached a huge untapped group of investors. But that all changed last weekend when Al-Jazeera, a satellite news service based in Qatar, began broadcasting pictures of dead and captured American soldiers in Iraq. The exchange’s official position Tuesday was that Al-Jazeera’s credentials had been revoked as part of a reorganization of media positions, even though it was the only media outlet dropped.”
Then, its site was hacked and the page was replaced with American flag and the (deliciously ironic) message “Let Freedom Ring”.
And yesterday, an Al-Jazeera representative was on Larry King Live:
“KING: We’re back on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE with Omar Al Issawi, the correspondent for Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. How do you respond to General Shelton’s statement about your network showing the POWs?
AL ISSAWI: I think the general used the word “distasteful.” That’s his opinion and we respect his opinion. We don’t really use that criteria when we judge what we’re going to broadcast. We are just interested if the material that we’ve got is news worthy and that’s how we decide whether to go on air with it or not.
KING: So in other words, you don’t make a judgment decision, then, on taste or whether this thing might be objectionable to some? If you think it’s newsworthy you go with it.
AL ISSAWI: Well, basically, I think that’s the criteria for most news organizations. The threshold might be different. The level of tolerance might be different and I think that will vary from culture to culture. But if you examine Al-Jazeera’s track record, them you will find that we’ve done similar things in the past. As a matter of fact, just prior to the airing of the POW tape. We had some graphic images of casualties in Iraq and we broadcast that. They were the same graphic nature. Basically we’re just trying to cover the news from both sides of the conflict as we see it.
KING: General, are they just coming from two different viewpoints here?
SHELTON: Well, no doubt about it, but I would hasten to add two wrongs don’t make a right. And in this case, I think, being — reporting in a responsible manner and reporting — reporting in a balanced fashion is what most newsworthy organizations or what most international organizations do, making sure that in some cases, for example, that if you’re going to report certain items that you have at least two sources for that data. (…) And then, of course, abiding by international laws and international customs. And I think that’s where I have a real difference of opinion when it comes to showing not just the U.S. casualties, but also any other casualties, including Iraqi.”
I agree with Shelton about the POWs, but it’s kind of hard for the Arab world to take him seriously considering the U.S.’s own violations of the Geneva Convention at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. cleverly says that they’re just enemy combatants, that they don’t belong in a specific army, but nothing stops Iraq from coming up with another euphemism and flouting the Convention as well. This is at the heart of why people in other parts of the world dislike US policies: continued double standards.
By the way, Al-Jazeera is now back online at a temporary address:


One Response to “Al-Jazeera’s woes”

  1. erik Says:

    I find it rather atrocious that the AlJazeera site was attacked. How can someone defend press freedom by denying a newsorganisation the right to broadcast? AlJazeera is one of the few sources of insight to the Arab world. American generals should be studying their broadcasts for clues, not attack the station for its reporting. Perhaps if they had spent more time watching AlJazeera, the generals wouldn’t have been so surprised that the Iraqis are not welcoming them with open arms.

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