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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mecca, Medina and the Media

By SALAH NASRAWI, Associated Press Writer
At least 15 pilgrims were killed Thursday and 39 injured when a building near the Grand Mosque collapsed around them just after they returned from midday prayers, the Interior Ministry said.

The tragedy in Islam's holiest city came as millions of Muslims converged for the annual hajj pilgrimage, which begins Sunday.

A statement from the Interior Ministry, quoting Ali al-Tuwejli, head of Mecca's civil defense team, said the death toll could reach 20 and the number of wounded could number more than 80.

A civil defense official told government-run Al-Ekhbariya television that the 40-year-old building's foundations were cracked and too weak to support the weight.
While this is of course a tragedy, there is an interesting media angle to this story:

How can the media report anything that happens in Mecca and Medina objectively when no non-Muslims are allowed in those cities?

If only Muslim reporters and photographers are allowed in the cities, and clearly they themselves regard the cities as holy, will they report news or just toe the official line?

How do we know that this building collapse wasn't a bomb that would embarrass the Saudi government, for example?