Al-Jazeera’s Double Exposure

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The nation’s premier journalism school points to the Al-Jazeera TV network as a model for modern-day reporters. Meanwhile, America’s oldest media watchdog group is showing what makes Al-Jazeera run.

“Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite network, showed global media how to cover a people’s uprising—by getting right into the thick of things and keeping the cameras running, both witnessing and propelling events,” an editorial in the March/April Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) read. The CJR is published by the Columbia University Journalism school.

Apparently, Al-Jazeera’s unblinking cameras still managed to miss the sexual assault of a CBS reporter by demonstrators in the “people’s uprising.” “Al-Jazeera’s correspondents, like other foreign media, faced police harassment and worse as Mubarak’s forces attempted, unsuccessfully, to shut down reports that were usurping state media propaganda.”

“Watching Al Jazeera in the moments following Mubarak’s resignation was riveting TV: the correspondents stepped aside and let the roar of the jubilant throngs tell the story. It’s a pity that at press time no major US cable system was carrying Al Jazeera or Al Jazeera English’s signal; most of us here can only watch their reports via online streaming.”

“And there is reason to continue watching: it’s raw, straightforward reporting will continue to reverberate in Egypt and through other Arab countries.” The CJR is even more enthusiastic about AJ than it is about WikiLeaks. Nevertheless, the mavens at Morningside Heights seem to be missing the point.

For one thing, in the above editorial, there is no mention of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in Egypt. That’s like writing about Las Vegas in the 1940s without mentioning Bugsy Siegel.

As to AJ’s impact in the rest of the Middle East, look at how it operates on its home base.  “Under the matter-of-fact headline, ‘Amnesty: Qatari blogger detained,’ Al-Jazeera English reports that Amnesty International is calling attention to how Sultan al-Khalaifi, a Qatari blogger and the founder of a human rights organization, was arrested on March 2 and is being detained incommunicado,” Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media wrote on March 6, 2011. “Amnesty International reported, ‘He is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The reasons for his detention are unknown.’”

“After presenting comments by Najib al-Nuaimi, al-Khalaifi’s lawyer, Al-Jazeera reported, ‘The Qatari government could not be contacted for comment.’”

“What is not revealed in this propaganda piece masquerading as a news report is the fact that Al-Jazeera is an arm of the Qatari government.”

“As noted by the most recent U.S. State Department human rights report, ‘Al- Jazeera and the government claimed that the channel was independent and free of government influence, but the government exercised editorial and programmatic control of the channel through funding and selection of the station’s management.’”

“In other words, the regime and the channel are lying about Al-Jazeera’s supposed ‘independence.’ How is it possible that a channel based in Qatar and funded by the regime could not obtain a comment from those who pay its bills and pick its personnel?”

Kincaid, director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, has been following AJ’s activities for more than a half a decade. AIM even put together a documentary on AJ called Terror Television.

Terror Television’s Capitol Hill premiere was covered by none other than Al-Jazeera itself.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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