Saturday, July 01, 2006

Think Again: Al Jazeera

Radwan submits this piece from "Foreign Policy" titled "Think Again: Al Jazeera"

By Hugh Miles
July/August 2006
It is vilified as a propaganda machine and Osama bin Ladens mouthpiece. In truth, though, Al Jazeera is as hated in the palaces of Riyadh as it is in the White House. But, as millions of loyal viewers already know, Al Jazeera promotes a level of free speech and dissent rarely seen in the Arab world. With plans to go global, it might just become your network of choice.

Al Jazeera Supports Terrorism

False, though the network makes little attempt to disassociate itself from those who do. This claim is one of the loudest arguments that Western critics have levied against the Arabic-language news channel since its inception 10 years ago, when the Doha, Qatar-based network pledged to present all viewpoints. Just as it describes in its motto, The opinion and the other opinion, Al Jazeera has lent airtime even to hated political figures and extremists, including prominent members of al Qaeda. Its this willingness to present terrorists as legitimate political commentators that has prompted outspoken critics such as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to refer to Al Jazeeras coverage of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as inaccurate and inexcusable.

After all, when Al Jazeera offers its estimated 50 million viewers exclusive interviews of Osama bin Laden, its easy to confuse access with endorsement. And when a journalist who conducts those interviews is jailed for collaboration with al Qaeda, as Tayssir Alouni was in a Spanish court last year, the line between impartial observer and impassioned supporter is certainly blurred. In addition, al Qaeda is not the only terrorist group that reaches out to Al Jazeera. Besides the infamous bin Laden tapesat least six of which the network has still never airedAl Jazeera has also received tapes from insurgent groups in Iraq, renegade Afghan warlords, and the London suicide bombers.

But the network has never supported violence against the United States. Not once have its correspondents praised attacks on coalition forces in Iraq. The network has never captured an attack on the coalition live, and theres no evidence Al Jazeera has known about any attack beforehand. Despite claims to the contrary, the network has never aired footage of a beheading. As for Alounis case, conclusive evidence has yet to be presented to the public. And there is nothing to suggest that the networks funding is illegitimate. Allegations of supporting terrorism remain just that allegations.

For the full text of the article go to the link below or follow the link above in the heading

Hugh Miles is the author of Al Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel that Is Challenging the West (New York: Grove Press, 2005).

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