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January 30, 2005

Ailing Al Jazeera

Via Britain's "Al Guardian"

Surprisingly, Al Jazeera is not so popular in the Middle East. They are even (gasp!) censored in some countries and "harshly criticised." So says the group Reporters Without Borders. (I wonder if they're connected to Doctors Without Borders.)

Reporters Without Borders said that since the start of 2004, al-Jazeera has been "harshly criticised" by Saudi Arabia and America and has been censored in Algeria, Iran, Tunisia and Canada.

We regret that some governments have no hesitation in censoring al-Jazeera, the leading Arabic news channel, to protect their political and diplomatic interests," said the group.

Well what do you know? They object to terrorist propaganda being broadcast into their countries. It's not only the eeevil imperialistic American occupying forces objecting.

And Saudi Arabia has banned al-Jazeera from covering the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca for the third year in a row, the latest in a long line of obstacles put in the way of its operations in many countries.
The channel has also been blocked in Algeria since June 2004, the first time in 10 years that a foreign channel has been banned.

Like Algeria has ever been a paragon of freedom for the media, or anyone, for that matter?

Iran has threatened sanctions against the al-Jazeera bureau in its country on several occasions. In November 2004, the government in Tehran told the channel to remove a cartoon it considered offensive from its website or face restrictions on it operations in Iran.
The channel was threatened with expulsion a second time for referring to the "Arabic Gulf" and not the "Persian Gulf".
Reporters Without Borders also urged the US authorities to either explain its detention of al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj at the Cuban military base at Guantánamo Bay, or release him immediately.

Oh that poor terrorist accessory/mouthpiece!

And al-Jazeera is growing increasingly alarmed about the health one of its journalists who is awaiting trial in Spain on terrorist-related charges.

Talk about having access to insurgents...

Yet Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad (what a name!) Ballout offered the following comment:

"We are simple observers, and not actors. We do not apply any political judgment and we try to present a balanced coverage of the conflict. We give equal airtime to the Iraqi people as to the insurgents and the US forces."

I think it's safe to say that terrorists, or insurgents, if you want to call them that, don't easily grant access to any old Joe Schmoe. You would have to be in pretty tight with them to be able to film beheadings.

On another note, the government of Qatar is looking to sell Al Jazeera, as a result of complaints by top Bush administration officials. And they're not the only ones complaining:

"We have recently added new members to the Al Jazeera editorial board, and one of their tasks is to explore the best way to sell it," said the Qatari official, who said he could be more candid about the situation if he was not identified. "We really have a headache, not just from the United States but from advertisers and from other countries as well." Asked if the sale might dilute Al Jazeera's content, the official said, "I hope not."
Estimates of Al Jazeera's audience range from 30 million to 50 million, putting it well ahead of its competitors. But that success does not translate into profitability, and the station relies on a big subsidy from the Qatari government, which in the past has explored ways to sell it. The official said Qatar hoped to find a buyer within a year.

If a media property is not selling enough advertising, that's not good. From years of experience selling advertising, I can tell you that advertisers are *very* fussy about the placement of their ads. They *don't* want their ads appearing next to news of someone being murdered, or of an earthquake, or any other kind of disaster. So I can understand them not wanting their ads running after a segment where you have a hostage begging for his life.

Then again, it could also be that these advertisers don't want to give money to terrorists (although that's probably wishfull thinking on my part.)


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posted by Ace at 01:31 AM

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