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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Al Jazeera tries to get into US

From the Huffington Post, by Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al Jazeera:
This has been an unprecedented month in Al Jazeera history. Transformational events in the Middle East have brought enormous demand for news about the region.

As director general of the region's largest TV network, I am proud to say Al Jazeera Network has been reporting from the region's hot spots well before they "mattered" in January 2011. From Sudan to Tunisia to Palestine to Egypt, our trademark "journalism of depth" has been on display for all who are able and care to see. ...

[I]n the United States, Al Jazeera faces a different kind of blackout, based largely on misinformed views about our content and journalism. Some of the largest American cable and satellite providers have instituted corporate obstacles against Al Jazeera English. We are on the air and on the major cable system in the nation's capital, and some of America's leading policymakers in Washington, D.C., have told me that Al-Jazeera English is their channel of choice for understanding global issues. But we are not available in the majority of the 50 states for much of the general public.

We believe all Americans, not just those in senior governmental positions, could benefit from having the option to watch Al-Jazeera English -- or not to watch us -- on their television screens.
What kind of American would be against freedom of expression? How can cable companies be so heartless?

But wait...he has another example of Al Jazeera's excellence in journalism:
Before Egypt's street protests exploded last week we made the historic presentation of the "Palestine Papers," an unprecedented leak of more than 1,600 records of secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Papers were produced by the newly formed Al Jazeera Transparency Unit, and became a world exclusive for both our Arabic and English broadcasts. It was also a top story of our colleagues and partners at the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom.

Through investigative and on-location journalism, our ultimate goal is to bring greater awareness, painting a more complete picture of the Middle East's realities. Armed with more information, we believe the people of this region and further afield can make better choices to guide their lives -- hopefully ones that will lead to a more peaceful and democratic future, regardless of where they live.
Al Jazeera's coverage of the Palestine Papers was riddled with lies, and with even more omissions. It was not journalism - it was advocacy. It was meant to embarrass both the Palestinian Authority and Israeli negotiators. They selctively quoted the papers to push their agenda.

While their Egypt coverage was quite dramatic, and frankly was great TV, Al Jazeera is acting in no less an advocacy role there as well. Perhaps it is a role that Americans are more naturally inclined to identify with, but it is still advocacy, not journalism.

It is also well known that the network will not say anything remotely critical of its sponsor, the Qatari emirate. Its news is skewed but AJ-English's bias is subtle enough that most casual TV viewers would not notice that they are being brainwashed.

So while Al Jazeera is recruiting useful idiots to push their pseudo-democratic cause, expanding their presence in America is not a good idea.

I am happy that Al Jazeera is on the web, and I visit their site. But to legitimize them as a major news network in the US on par with the others would be a big mistake. Their biased and anti-American views do not belong on US cable systems.