jay gatsby on Thu, 27 Mar 2003 21:16:43 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Aljazeera VS. U.S


By Jay Gatsby (http://principia_ny.blogspot.com)

      The 24-hour Arabic news network Al Jazirah has a very intersting place in
the scheme of current events in the Middle East. Since 1996, Al Jazirah has
become the most popular Arab news network, with over 50 million viewers. It has
been highly acclaimed by journalists around the world for its in-depth, quality
reporting. Like all quality news stations, however, it is
controversial--particularly for western governments and their Mid-East allies.
Jordan, kuwait, and Lybia, for example, have all banned Al Jazirah journalists
from their territories. 

     Over and over, whenever we hear anything about a Bin Laden tape or a
statement by Saddam Hussein, in the American news, Al Jazirah is the cited
source. News about the war on Afghanistan depends heavily on this channel,
since the Taliban doesn't allow western media crews into its territory and Al
Jazirah is one of only two Arab news networks that are permitted access. As
well, the network is particularly reknowned for its reporting of humanitarian
conditions throughout the middle east--especially the plight of Palestinians. I
wouldn't be surprised if Al Jazirah had a lot to do with putting Palestine on
the international agenda.

     Unlike the U.S media, they seem to give some historical context when
reporting mid-east conflict. For example, they always mention the fact that the
U.S put Saddam Hussein in power and supported him in the early 80's--things
that are absolutely NEVER mentioned in the American press. 

    The network did not exist during the first Gulf War.During the first 5 days
of Gulf War II, however, Al Jazirah has already presented a challenge to the
U.S: First by broadcasting Saddam Hussein's messages to the Iraqi people;
second, by broadcasting vivid pictures of the Iraqi people who have been killed
or injured by America's "shock and awe" campaign; third, by showing footage of
the recent U.S and British prisoners of war, something about which U.S and
British officials want to press 'embarrassment' charges; and fourth, by its
coverage of the war on Afghanistan.Thus, we are now witnessing a clash between
Al Jazirah and the U.S government. In fact, U.S secretary of state Collin
Powell sent a letter to the Qatar government, requesting that it sensor Al
Jazirah--to no avail. Within the past few days, Al Jazeera has been banned from
the NASDAQ and from the New York Stock Exchange.

      Rumsfeld has talked about destroying all television and radio
communication in Iraq. In recent days, the military has done just that, but
Iraq has been able to restore its radio and T.V transmissions after every
bombardment. During the opening stages of the war on Afghanistan, the U.S
bombed an Al Jazirah bureau in Kabul. U.S officials claimed that the hit was
'unintended.' All of this has raised serious concerns within the International
Federation of Journalists(http://www.ifj.org), which claims that the attacks
are a direct violation of the Geneva Convention and has called for a U.N
investigation of the destruction of Iraqi television stations.

     Al Jazirah is based in Qatar and a shut-down of Iraqi television will not
prevent everyone else in the Middle east --everyone else period--from knowing
what is going on in Iraq. Next to budgeting and finishing the war on terrorism,
Al Jazirah is just about the biggest problem the U.S has in the middle east. 

     Al Jazirah is available in the U.S through satellite T.V and an English
version is due to come out on cable soon. The U.S government has recommended
American businessmen to not advertise on this channel.

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