Monday, February 18, 2013

Al Jazeera Criticized for Lack of Independence After Arab Spring

Al Jazeera's been in the news big time since Al Gore sold his failed Current TV to the network. But also important is the proposed expansion of Al Jazeera's programming in the U.S. It's controversial, although I don't care that much because I doubt the network will do very well. More interesting is the epic hypocrisy in the news of radical feminist Naomi Wolf negotiating a deal with Al Jazeera. James Taranto has some choice words on that:
"Naomi Wolf, the author and activist, is in early-stage talks with the global news network Al Jazeera," reports Politico. In a way this makes sense: Wolf is a hysterical critic of America's antiterrorism efforts. In 2007 she published a book called "The End of America," in which she claimed that the Bush administration was taking us down the road to fascism.

Still, the first thing one thinks of upon hearing this news is the irony of a leading "third wave" (i.e., hypernarcissistic) feminist joining a pro-Islamist news network. Is she going to wear a veil? Probably not, but it turns out she doesn't mind if Muslim women do. She spelled it out in a 2008 Sydney Morning Herald article...
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And there's a full report on the network at Der Spiegel, "After the Arab Spring: Al-Jazeera Losing Battle for Independence":
For over a decade, the Arab television broadcaster Al-Jazeera was widely respected for providing an independent voice from the Middle East. Recently, however, several top journalists have left, saying the station has developed a clear political agenda.

Aktham Suliman's wristwatch was always ahead. Although he lived in Berlin, it always showed him the time in Doha, the capital of the emirate of Qatar -- which is also the home of Al-Jazeera, the television news network that had been employing Suliman, born in Damascus, as a correspondent for Germany since 2002.

"Doha time was Jazeera time," he says. "It was an honor to work for this broadcaster."
One and a half years ago, Suliman, 42, re-set his watch to German time, having become disenchanted with Al-Jazeera. And it wasn't just because the broadcaster seemed less interested in reports from Europe. Rather, Suliman had the feeling that he was no longer being allowed to work as an independent journalist.

Last August, he quit his job. "Before the beginning of the Arab Spring, we were a voice for change," he says, "a platform for critics and political activists throughout the region. Now, Al-Jazeera has become a propaganda broadcaster."

Suliman is not the only one who feels bitterly disappointed. The Arab TV network has recently suffered an exodus of prominent staff members. Reporters and anchors in cities like Paris, London, Moscow, Beirut and Cairo have left Al-Jazeera, despite what are seen as luxurious working conditions in centrally located offices. And despite the fact that the network is investing an estimated $500 million (€375 million) in the US, so as to reach even more viewers on the world's largest television market -- one in which its biggest competitor, CNN, is at home.

Al-Jazeera has over 3,000 staff members and 65 correspondent offices worldwide -- and viewers in some 50 million households throughout the Arab world. But it also has a problem: More than ever before, critics contend that the broadcaster is following a clear political agenda, and not adhering to the principles of journalistic independence.

Such accusations have been leveled against Western broadcasters as well, of course. But the charge would place Al-Jazeera on a par with Fox News -- which pursues the agenda of conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch in the US -- rather than CNN.
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