Al Jazeera’s Identity Crisis

Supporters of Bashar Assad gather in Beirut in solidarity with the Syrian regime. Placard reads: "Al-Jazeera the propaganda is over... Down with the lying Al-Jazeera." (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nowadays, it has become commonplace to hear comments such as these: You cannot be serious asking me about a story whose source is Al Jazeera! Is it reasonable to base your case on a news item from Al Jazeera? Do you feel comfortable within yourself working for Al Jazeera? Can you speak your mind or register your objections if you work for Al Jazeera? Do you really waste hours of your time watching Al Jazeera?

Nowadays, it has become routine to be sent dozens of Internet links that direct you to professional, political, or moral scandals associated with what Al Jazeera broadcasts. You would only be surprised and astonished if someone were to ask you: Did you see how that Al Jazeera anchor grilled his guest from the Syrian opposition?

What has changed is that you can now find many opponents of the Syrian regime – especially activists in the local coordination committees – who reject any attempt to implicate them in Al Jazeera’s broadcasts.

They do not attack the channel, or call for it to be boycotted, and they appreciate that it strongly supports the regime’s opponents. But they do not want to be blamed for what one activist describes as the “daily disasters” that feature in its output. This includes footage that has been fabricated, or stage-managed on behalf of the channel in return for financial rewards. It also includes appearances by supposed opposition figures who’s backgrounds are not known, while it is also not known “who they speak for, and whose ideas they are promoting.” It even includes Al Jazeera’s attempts to exaggerate the scale of the state’s repression.

It is hard, nowadays, to encounter any professional journalist who is prepared to defend Al Jazeera’s behavior, not just in Syria, but in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain too. Some of the highest-profile Arab journalists, for whom appearances on Al Jazeera used to really matter, now turn down the channel’s invitations. They realize that they have been used as tools in a dirty game. Has anyone, for example, wondered why Al Jazeera has ceased cooperating with Mohamed Hassanein Heikal?

Also new is the wave of resignations that Al Jazeera has witnessed. This has not been confined to people who can afford the financial consequences, given that Al Jazeera pays its staff multiples of what they would earn at other channels. The scale of the resignations, actual and under consideration, has effectively left editorial control of the channel in the hands of a cabal whose professionalism and integrity have long been compromised. Day by day, it has become increasingly apparent that those who refuse to work without observing minimal standards of professionalism and credibility are being purged. Others have lost their enthusiasm for putting forward ideas, or getting involved in work projects. They have become mere employees, who pray to God day and night that they are spared being assigned to another disaster.

Al-Jazeera’s problem is not its political stance. It is entitled to that. Its problem is that it has dealt a blow to every genuine attempt to build strong and reasonably independent Arab media. The channel will allow no discussion of what has become of it, and has taken us back to the days of the “no voice rises above the sound of the battle” media. It casts aspersions on the motives of anyone one who criticizes it, defends fatal mistakes with feigned naivete, and at the same time refuses to concede that its “logical justification” for what is happening today is: “we are implementing the policy of our funder, period.”

If a few million viewers boycotted the Arab world’s most famous channel it would not, of course, give it a ratings crisis. But because of Al Jazeera’s policies, the Arab media scene is now in need of a shake up of sorts. This is a task for those who have the capability and the financial and human resources, to produce more professional media, that is more credible and debate-provoking to viewers. These need not be a group, state, or media organization. It is also a task for all those who suffer daily dilemmas, and agree to do battle with Al Jazeera via media outlets that are even less professional and credible.

To delay taking such a decision is to fail to understand that media will remain, until further notice, the first line of attack, or defense, in the battle of public opinion.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

A fact-free rant. Not a single one of these hysterical claims is supported by a shred of evidence. The most relevant conclusion that one can draw from this diatribe is that the editor in chief of Al Akhbar has a vehement bias, one that he dare not disclose.

It's ironic that the author of this article is calling for more professional and credible reporting when his entire article is based on vague and unspecific accusations.

If there are certain fabricated videos or unrepresentative individuals speaking on Al Jazeera (and there very well may be) then the author should be specific and name those instances/interviews/episodes so that readers can debate and judge for themselves. Yet in 9 flowing paragraphs of text he has only provided virtually nothing concrete whatsoever.

If the author is serious about credible journalism, he needs to start practicing what he preaches and stop relying on empty rhetoric in the place of specific detailed arguments and actual reporting and analysis.

If Habib is serious, he could read some other A-A articles where is a lot of examples of how AJ is abusing their viewers trust, patience and even common sense, for ex, about the e-mails of AJ journos.

The general situation with media - and especially TV - in arab language is much better than the situation with media in German language.

In German language all media have a huge pro-zonist pro-US bias. Apart from two very small socialist dailys and some small websites there is absolutely no media in German language that provides counter narratives to the zionist US-american narrative.

I think in arab language the situation is much better: besides Al Hurra, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya there are lot's of media providing different narratives from Hezbollah over Syrian and Iranian up to Russian. So the people have a good chance to compare the news and make up their mind after comparing the news.

I see three main problems with arab media: The first problem is that many people don't compare. They stick to one or two channels with simillar views an that's it. To solve that issue would need to educate people to switch the channel more often.

The second problem is Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera built up a good reputation over a couple of years with high qualitaty journalism, but now they use this credibility to mislead people with a heavy bias and outraging fabrications and many people don't understand what's happening. To solve that issue would need to educate people that Al Jazeera became a propaganda outlet similar to fox news.

The third problem is that their is hardly a media channel good for debating various views. There is a space what needs to be filled.

I have been watching Al Jazeera English for the last three years and I have noticed a change of late too. I don't know too much about the politics of AJ, I can imagine, but I read since Wadah Khanfar departure, much has changed there. I am guessing it has to do with Doha and Washington relations.

That is why I started to look for other English Middle East News and found al akhbar through Max Blumenthal.

I will start reading your website daily. Look forward to hearing more news from your organization.

Thanks from California.

This what most of the Arabs today feel about this channel.
You have no idea how much we hate Al-Jazeera !

Bashar is it you or your father speaking from Hell to us.

kh has a lot of love for pro-NATO/GCC/Zionist media, providing it fits his sectarian bias.

either you are with us or against us. this is what Bush said after 9/11. The Problem is that it doest not work. iran was complizit in the war on Terror. bashar Al Assad tortured Terror suspects for the CIA. Russia used it to finally Crackdown on Chechnya. Iran used it to get rid of the Baath Party and the Army of Iraq and get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The US used it for there own geopolitical Intrests and so on.

Lidia, stop your trolling. Hezbollah had no problem with its' Iraqi allies cavorting with the Zionist NeoCons and American right-wingers during the runup to the Iraq War and appearing in their media and their deafening silence on their treachery is proof of this. We don't need lessons in self-criticism and confronting from the treachery of the Gulf countries from charlatans like you and As'ad Abu Khalil. How many As'ad Abu Khalil followers are there in Saudi dungeons?!

Abu Umar has a gall to speak about "trolling". If Hezbollah is NOT 100% free from Imperilast/Zionist ills, it means that self-admitted sectarian Abu Umar could be 100% for Imperialists/Zionists? And if ANYONE has a right a skill to tell us about GCC, it IS As'ad, because he also is critical of Hezbollah for their sectarian sins.

"They do not attack the channel, or call for it to be boycotted, and they appreciate that it strongly supports the regime’s opponents."

So they are happy with support by Qatar prince - a real sign of their democracy inspiration :)

"Al-Jazeera’s problem is not its political stance. It is entitled to that."

Sure, and Murdoch media is as well. If they are rubbish as a result of such "political stance" aka founding from the most reactionary forces, who cares?

Arab world is NOT different form others, the media which are tools of capitalists or imperialist states are not better and not worse than AJ, and why should they not be?

So, if one need good (i.e. progressive) media, because any other media worth nothing in critical moments, one need to start from the beginning, for example, from Lenin's Party Organisation and Party Literature

"http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/nov/13.htm

I have been watching AJE for years, since it's inception even. AJE still has, and I suspect will continue to provide, brilliant content. As they've branched out across the globe they bring truly compelling opinions, and stories to life... I hope to always be implored by the coverage, to tune in, as it's not all bad.

I started to notice a bias and began questioning things, when the new Qatari administration took over and there was a quick exit by the former head who was rumored to be having regular visits from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Then the Libya, and how that coverage played out... and now Syria..

Something's just not right and balanced with the mainstream Syrian narrative.
By virtue of the fact it's getting so much western media attention, should speak volumes to any critical thinker. The Americans and the west do not care about their own people and proved that when the took the taxpayers to the cleaners to bail out the banks. So why in the world would they care about Syrians? Maybe, because it's the last stop on the way to Tehran...

The author's criticisms of Al-Jazeera can also be applied to Al-Manar, NBN, Ad-Dunya, Press TV, etc. and there is no talk or articles in Al-Akhbar about the one-sided biases or fabrications of these pro-Bashar channels.

Except that Al-Jazeera has much more influence and reach in the Arab world as well as internationally than any of the media outlets you name. THIS is why paying attention to what has happened to Al-Jazeera, especially journalists leaving the station, is important to pay attention to. If I'm not mistaken, the editor's comments above appear under "Opinion," rather than "News," so criticizing him for writing an opinion completely misses its mark.

We need a peoples news outlet then and bi-pass all these biased funded organizations and start getting the 4 Estate back representing people rather than multinational institutions.

Do you hear what I am saying. A peoples media!!!!!!!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top