Al-Jazeera in the States: Media Censorship or Acceptable Security?
March 26, 2003 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Al-Jazeera Banned From Nasdaq Floor. Despite having a history of questionable exclusives and recent debate over whether its imagery of POWs violates the Geneva Convention, the Arab news network still has a reputation for independent, outspoken viewpoints. Is this move a violation of free speech or a necessary security measure? Is Al-Jazeera a legitimate alternative to the Pentagon? Where makes an "embedded journalist" any different from an A-J reporter getting an "exclusive"?
posted by ed (57 comments total)
 
. . .then Iran, Syria. . .there will soon be Arab internment camps, again, in the United States. Let freedom ring.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:11 PM on March 26, 2003



posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:14 PM on March 26, 2003


Gee, I wish I had enough money to make an ass out of myself full-time.
posted by rotifer at 2:23 PM on March 26, 2003


Is Al-Jazeera a legitimate alternative to the Pentagon?

rrrg. Democracy == all voices are legitimate. dissenters are given special treatment in the constitution but not in this way...

Where makes an "embedded journalist" any different from an A-J reporter getting an "exclusive"?

maybe the A-J reporter is more accurate
posted by victors at 2:24 PM on March 26, 2003


That nutty Dan Rather guy got an exclusive with Saddam. He should be banned from the NASDAQ floor at once!
posted by ed at 2:25 PM on March 26, 2003


Way to stay on topic TJH!

al-J is basically a propaganda station, even more than Fox News. They report one side of the story: whoever is opposed to the US, then counter with occasional US denials, with no context whatsoever--and never a retraction when the Taliban or Iraqis or whoever's ridiclious claims (100 dead US soldiers and no bodies, for example) turned out to be nonsense.

You won't find al-J even pointing out the problems of relying on one side's information the way even the most gung ho embed does.

Regarding civilian casualties, they run sensationalistic images without explanations of any kind. Naturally they don't note that victims wounded by explosives of some sort could easily have been hurt by either side's weapons. Nope! "Victims of America's Attack on Iraq" is what the link says, in a dripping blood font over an image of a crying child that is not explained anywhere. Who is this kid and why is he crying? You won't find out.

They have mistaken attacking the US for honest reporting and admit spinning the news towards what their audience wants to hear rather than straight reporting.

I take what al-J says with a kilo of salt.
posted by ednopantz at 2:33 PM on March 26, 2003


Is this move a violation of free speech ... ?

*ahem.* State action?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:36 PM on March 26, 2003


forgive the captain obvious to some, but just so you know, al-jazeera has reporters embedded too.

This war will be Al Jazeera's crucial test. With 30 staffers in Baghdad, plus others in Mosul, Basra, and embedded with the U.S. military
posted by angry modem at 2:41 PM on March 26, 2003


*ahem.* State action?

Is the NASQ Floor private or public property?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:46 PM on March 26, 2003


Where makes an "embedded journalist" any different from an A-J reporter getting an "exclusive"?

The fact that he is aiding and abetting a war crime.
posted by toothless joe at 2:47 PM on March 26, 2003


It's my understanding that the NYSE and NASDAQ are private institutions. Unless I'm wrong, this is therefore much more like privately owned restauranteurs engaging in "Freedom Fries" vapidity, rather than government censorship.

However, it's still mighty stupid. How exactly is having al-Jazeera on the floor of the NYSE or NASDAQ any kind of threat? How is banning them anything but a PR problem for NYSE and NASDAQ and the US in general? Of course it's not a huge problem on the patriotic home front, but it can't help in the places the US absolutely needs good PR most: the Arab world.
posted by namespan at 2:48 PM on March 26, 2003


I think it's pretty blatant discrimination. If you read the article, you can see that the actions were initiated by some people on the floor "who really felt these guys should not be here." Hmm, why should those reporters not be there, specifically? How much $$$ do Arabs invest in the stock market? Al-Jazeera may play propaganda, but they are mostly independent, and have earned the wrath of both the US and the corrupt dictators of the Middle East. There is no valid reason why they should be kicked out of the stock exchanges.

It's a case of war fever, presumably and hopefully it will die down when this is all over. Business is more important than grievances over media coverage.
posted by cell divide at 2:49 PM on March 26, 2003


ednopantz: What's the difference between an al-J televised bloodbath and CNN scaring the bejesus out of readers with a 76 point font size on their website or going nuts with the pornographic repetition of the WTC falling after September 11? Both have the same intent: to sensationalize without rationale, to play on audience's emotions for bigger ratings, to pander to the lowest common denominator. And if that is the criterion used to ban media groups (and judging by the article, I expect it's something more sordid), then I suggest that (a) sensationalizing a news story in this manner is something so criminal that it cannot be judged by degrees or (b) conversely, it is the obligation of every media outlet to report without self-censorship, to offer the whole enchilada, however unenticing it might be.
posted by ed at 2:54 PM on March 26, 2003


I liked this one:
"A wonderful time--the War:
When money rolled in
And blood rolled out.
But blood was far away
From here--
Money was near."

-Hughes, Langston
posted by spazzm at 2:55 PM on March 26, 2003


Bye-bye, Freedom of the Press.
posted by spazzm at 2:57 PM on March 26, 2003


I'm going to go look for some relevent links, but before I do, I'd like to say that Al Jazeera has the right to report news in anyway it sees fit. The audience is the Arab world, so the views are slanted toward the Arab world. It's alot like Fox being slanted to fit the tastes of its audience.

Where makes an "embedded journalist" any different from an A-J reporter getting an "exclusive"?

The fact that he is aiding and abetting a war crime.


I don't think I understand your post, what crime was the Al Jazeera reporter commiting while standing on the Nasdaq trading floor?

Oh, and aljeezra.net appears to be down, which I find interesting. If it should come back, feel free to read it using this translation tool.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:05 PM on March 26, 2003


America: now with 20% more isolationism!
posted by skallas at 3:06 PM on March 26, 2003


aljazeera.net
It still doesn't work though.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:08 PM on March 26, 2003


Naturally they don't note that victims wounded by explosives of some sort could easily have been hurt by either side's weapons. Nope! "Victims of America's Attack on Iraq" is what the link says, in a dripping blood font over an image of a crying child that is not explained anywhere.

Um, it's a good bet that the child would not have been wounded by either side's weapons if not for "America's Attack on Iraq." That makes the headline pretty darned accurate.
posted by Slothrup at 3:12 PM on March 26, 2003


Okay, here's al jazeera reacting to its recent tensions with the US government.

And this is an interesting defense of the network, as written by a msnbc reporter.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:26 PM on March 26, 2003


Al-Jazeera is having technical problems with their website because they tried to launch English Al-Jazeera, but are having high traffic problems, or something like that.
posted by yonderboy at 3:30 PM on March 26, 2003


And if that is the criterion used to ban media groups (and judging by the article, I expect it's something more sordid),

Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

Are fox/abc/nbc/cbs/cnn allowed over there?
posted by thomcatspike at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2003


I'm nitpicking perhaps, but NASDAQ does not have a trading floor.
posted by boltman at 3:57 PM on March 26, 2003


It might be a good idea for someone to contact any of these guys and obtain a list of all media outlets allowed in NASDAQ, as well as the credentials required for reporting.

boltman: You're quite right. I was confusing the NYSE and NASDAQ again. Al-J is banned from the former as well.
posted by ed at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2003


And speaking of NYSE media outlets: We have CNBC, CNNfn, Bloomberg, Reuters, Japan, China, Recollectos, Yahoo!, the New York radio station 1010 WINS, WebFN, ABC, CBS, NBC listed in this press release (as well as Al-Jazeera).

The question is whether Al-Jazeera reported "responsibly" in relation to NYSE and Nasdaq reports.
posted by ed at 4:17 PM on March 26, 2003


the al jazeera site is down due to repeated denial of service attacks .
posted by sophist at 4:19 PM on March 26, 2003


"Naturally they don't note that victims wounded by explosives of some sort could easily have been hurt by either side's weapons. Nope! "Victims of America's Attack on Iraq" is what the link says, in a dripping blood font over an image of a crying child that is not explained anywhere."

What? A non-sanctioned invasion, and an independent news network reports that it's not all fun and games for the people being invaded?

The nerve!
posted by spazzm at 4:21 PM on March 26, 2003


My newsfeed, right or wrong!
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:23 PM on March 26, 2003


independent news network reports that it's not all fun and games for the people being invaded?

More like, an independent news station eschews information for sensationalist photographs of the dead designed to anger their audience and reinforce their core message: the Americans and their Zionist allies are engaged in a crusade against us long-suffering Arabs and this keeps happening to us for no good reason. Long on emotion, short on analysis. The depth of Entertainment Tonight, the gore of Rotten.com, and the bias of Fox News.

The tragedy is that the Arabic speaking world has few other outlets, although I have heard that MBC has a comparable market share.
posted by ednopantz at 4:30 PM on March 26, 2003


The English-language A-J site is down, but I read it the yesterday and the day before and was shocked at how openly propagandist it is.

I mean, I've long heard that it was definitely slanted, and a certain amount of slant is expected--after all, they're a commercial enterprise, and the majority of their customers don't care for the US ... but it's not just slanted, it's outrageously anti-American and, from what I can tell, about 30% "editorials" that could all be subtitled "... or why America is our enemy."
posted by KiloHeavy at 4:33 PM on March 26, 2003


Wether we like it or not:
There is a war going on, and people are dying as a direct result of this. Dead people look like the pictures you'll get to see if you set your foot outside of US-sanctioned web-space.

If you don't like that, what should you change - the war or the fact that some report that there is a war going on?

All I'm saying is that shooting the messenger won't change the reality of the message.
posted by spazzm at 4:49 PM on March 26, 2003


All I'm saying is that shooting the messenger won't change the reality of the message.

But the message isn't : there is a war going on.
The message is "Imperialist Zionist, oil grab..yadda yadda..."

A perspective that
1) doesn't reflect the causes of the confrontation between the US govt and the Iraqi govt.
2) Is a call to action to exactly the same kind of numbskull sacrificial sturm and drang that has made Arab politics a melange of fascist state power, ineffectual terror, and impotent rage that has been so destructive to so many people's lives.

Example: al-J front pages the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis and totally ignores a like number of deaths of Algerians at the hands of other Algerians. One is politically valuable, and one isn't.
posted by ednopantz at 5:00 PM on March 26, 2003


Has anyone seen this article: In Defense of Al Jazeera?

The NYSE isn't the only place they've been banned. The network has been banned in Bahrain (for being Zionist!) and has run into trouble in a lot of middle eastern countries like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, so I don't see how it can be dismissed as merely some anti-American propaganda network.
posted by bobo123 at 5:01 PM on March 26, 2003


ednopantz wrote: al-J is basically a propaganda station, even more than Fox News. They report one side of the story: whoever is opposed to the US, then counter with occasional US denials, with no context whatsoever--and never a retraction when the Taliban or Iraqis or whoever's ridiclious claims (100 dead US soldiers and no bodies, for example) turned out to be nonsense.

Please read carefully:

Bodies of 500 US, UK Soldiers Discovered from Afghanistan

3/26/2003

The PakTribune reported today that around 500 dead bodies of American and British soldiers killed during military operation in Afghanistan after September 11 have been lying in a morgue at Shebhaz Airbase in Jacobabad, Pakistan.

The paper states that American and British authorities had kept the dead bodies of as many as 500 soldiers in a morgue established at Jacobabad Airbase instead of shifting them to their own countries, credible sources informed Online here Tuesday.


You have just read a detailed acount of massive US war casualties in Afghanistan. Al-J reported these casualties months before the West. Also, searching for "Shebhaz" at news.google.com only yields the aformentioned story (out of a possible 4500 news outlets?!). Why isn't anyone else picking this up?

Remember: absence of proof is not proof of absence. In the West, the proof always takes longer to arrive, if it arrives at all. (Don't call me out on generalizations plz.)
posted by ( .)(. ) at 5:02 PM on March 26, 2003


I'm British so I'm not quite sure of the legality issues here. I have no idea what the legal situation would be here either.

On what basis though are private enterprises and private individuals free to discriminate in a way the government can't? Why should that make a difference if the end result the same? I understand that it's not a censorship issue but isn't there any recourse for people or organisations who are denied access to trade / work due to politically motivated motivations?

Should there be?
posted by vbfg at 5:12 PM on March 26, 2003


I was wondering if the US media is reporting anything unbiased or showing images that might construed as critical of the invasion? I watched this link http://www.cbc.ca/clips/ram-lo/brown_market030326.ram and was wondering if the American public got to see a report as benignly critical as this.

I am outside the US right now and was under the impression that the news media is under the tight control of the US government.
posted by cmacleod at 5:14 PM on March 26, 2003


The PakTribune reported today that around 500 dead bodies of American and British soldiers killed during military operation in Afghanistan after September 11 have been lying in a morgue at Shebhaz Airbase in Jacobabad, Pakistan.

Readers of the PakTribune story seem unconvinced.
posted by homunculus at 5:29 PM on March 26, 2003


Al-J was founded out of a failed joint venture run by the BBC's Arabic service to challenge the state control of broadcast media in the region. It succeeded: few networks have managed to piss off as many regimes in as short a time. Now, you can say that if those on all sides accuse you of bias, you're doing something right, but that doesn't deny the fact that there's an ashamedly populist/sensationalist (not necessarily propagandist -- I've seen rebroadcasts of US networks here) edge to its work. And you're getting independent Arabic networks launched in its wake claiming to be more 'fair and honest' than Al-J, and that competition can only be a good thing. The US (and UK) might try it. As someone said last weekend, the only big difference right now between the BBC, ITN and Sky news channels is the colour scheme.
posted by riviera at 5:31 PM on March 26, 2003


I find it funny that this war is supposedly in the name of democracy (and a free press is an important part of democracy), yet everyone is pissed off at the only free news source in the region.
posted by spazzm at 5:36 PM on March 26, 2003


homunculus: Why not actually go into Jacobabad and verify the claim? BTW I've also see this reported on Russian media sites in the last 24hrs. Moreover, these dead solidiers may quite possibly be the products of the current war effort, which explains why there aren't any mothers crying out. Think about it. Read up on the Pentagon's liasons and "unofficial understandings" with mass media.
posted by ( .)(. ) at 5:38 PM on March 26, 2003


sophist said: the al jazeera site is down due to repeated denial of service attacks

Read the article carefully, there is no detail regarding a denial of service attack, it is merely the opinion of the web host administrator. On the other hand, the assistant to the managing editor of english.aljazeera.net denied that it was under such an attack.

So the article contains very few facts and lots of gratuitous drama.
posted by yonderboy at 5:43 PM on March 26, 2003


Is the NASQ Floor private or public property?

That depends on how much money is at stake, and whose money you're talking about.
posted by LowDog at 6:22 PM on March 26, 2003


So the article contains very few facts and lots of gratuitous drama.

a typical al-Jazeera production!
posted by ednopantz at 6:24 PM on March 26, 2003


( .)(. ), I'm not saying it isn't true, I'm just providing links. I suspend judgement until someone investigates more thoroughly, but I'm no journalist so that someone will not be me.
posted by homunculus at 6:25 PM on March 26, 2003


As someone said last weekend, the only big difference right now between the BBC, ITN and Sky news channels is the colour scheme.

So whatever happened to *hubba hubba* Daljit Dhaliwal, anyway?
posted by y2karl at 6:38 PM on March 26, 2003


Daljit Dhaliwal and James Rubin host Wide Angle on PBS.
posted by yonderboy at 8:34 PM on March 26, 2003


CNNi, y2karl: the Robin Oakley Path To Obscurity. But the BBC trumps her easily with Mishal Husain, who's taken a big role in the News 24 broadcasts from Washington.
posted by riviera at 8:34 PM on March 26, 2003


Mishal Husain
posted by homunculus at 8:59 PM on March 26, 2003


endopantz said: a typical al-Jazeera production!

endopantz, read the article, fuckwit. It's from the Associated Press. It's been regurgitated by almost every news source in the country, no one has followed up with any facts as yet.
posted by yonderboy at 10:12 PM on March 26, 2003


Where makes an "embedded journalist" any different from an A-J reporter getting an "exclusive"?
That's a fair and balanced question! The MSNBC defense by Michael Moran jibes pretty well with my experience as a longtime reader of the Arabic edition: These guys will put anybody on and politely let them make their case, from Osama bin Laden to Ariel Sharon and Colin Powell. It's a CNN clone born in reaction to Saudi censorship which has so far resisted the temptation of lapsing into infotainment — as CNN has not.

It does tend to be strongly pro-Palestinian in its cartooning and commentaries. Here's a surprise for you: many moderate Arabs are, unless you are one of those people who believe that one cannot endorse a just solution to the Palestinian dilemma (including an end to Palestinian violence against civilians) and remain moderate.
I suspect, however, that those "exclusives" it gets are more to be laid to its principled opposition to censorship than to its bias — not to mention the immensity of its audience.
posted by hairyeyeball at 10:19 PM on March 26, 2003


I looked at the FOX News website for the first time the other day...

I mean, I've long heard that it was definitely slanted, and a certain amount of slant is expected--after all, they're a commercial enterprise, and the majority of their customers are in the US ... but it's not just slanted, it's outrageously pro-American and, from what I can tell, about 30% "editorials" that could all be subtitled "... or why Iraq/Europe/France is our enemy."
posted by thedude256 at 3:06 AM on March 27, 2003


Example: al-J front pages the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis and totally ignores a like number of deaths of Algerians at the hands of other Algerians. One is politically valuable, and one isn't.

OK let's see:
BBC:In November [1999], Jordan ordered the closure of the Al-Jazeera bureau in Amman, accusing the station of "intentionally attacking the Jordanian people and regime". Other Arab countries that have complained about Al-Jazeera's coverage include Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt.

cpj: Governments from Algeria to Yemen have lodged complaints against the station at one time or another. Some, like Tunisia and Libya, have temporarily withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar's capital, Doha, to protest the appearance of political dissidents on talk shows or slights made against their leaders.

A few years ago, Algeria reportedly cut power in part of Algiers to prevent residents from watching a show about the country's brutal civil war. Kuwait temporarily banned the channel's reporters from the country after a caller phoned in and criticized the Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah live on the air. Recently, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority temporarily closed Al-Jazeera's Ramallah bureau because of a promotional trailer for a documentary series about the Lebanese civil war that contained an unflattering image of the Palestinian leader.


Time: Al Jazeera's talk shows are tackling crucial yet taboo subjects like human rights, women's freedom, banned political groups, polygamy, torture and rival interpretations of Islamic teachings. Opposite Direction has infuriated Arab rulers by bringing into the studio political dissidents from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Morocco and Iraq.

In short, Al Jazeera is great journalism tuned into mainstream middle class (rather Europeanized) Arab sensitivities.
ednopantz, I would suggest that commenting on the contents of a news channel which uses a language you don't understand and which apparently you haven't followed, is ill-advised.
posted by talos at 3:53 AM on March 27, 2003


Oh, I forgot to add: sample Al-Jazeera coverage of Algerian conflict.
posted by talos at 4:10 AM on March 27, 2003


Al Jazeera aired Bush's speech to the troops in Florida live and in its entirety. When was the last time CNN did the same for Hussein or Bin Laden? I'm not saying they are not biased, but at least they air views and/or propaganda from both sides.
posted by quirked at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2003


I have followed aljazera as much as possible in those troubled days, but unfortunately I don't understand the language they're using (some kind of arabic I think) so I will comment only on the images I've seen. I've seen images of war and the first "product" of wars: dead people.

That's exactly the first and most relevant product of any war, in my opinion it's the real non-monetary price of wars.It's breathtaking, sometimes disgusting, maybe horrible, but it's often REAL. And it's relevant.

What I don't understand is why shouldn't we be able to see as many details as possible of an ongoing event and why shouldn't somebody be able to show you this kind of details. You have the power of remote, if you don't like, just switch tv off or do something better: find a way to stop wars.
posted by elpapacito at 3:35 PM on March 27, 2003


(some kind of arabic I think) Farsi

Ed, read the post? read the comments? read your comments? Thought hard. Ethics. First Al-Jazeera showed images that most would say; ethically wrong. Even heard an Iranian spokesperson regarding the Geneva Convention on the topic, say, the journalist interviewing the US prisoners of war, were wrong ethnically by putting a camera in their face, not Iraq, blame them for the wrong.

But, Al-Jazeera was not allowed to film something that no one would find ethically wrong. Back to my second comment the Golden Rule.(did not try to prove my comment with the above, actually trying to figure out the post)
posted by thomcatspike at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2003


Iranian spokesperson = Iraqi spokeswoman...dang spell chk
posted by thomcatspike at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2003


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