Concern Over Al Jazeera English Network Here

As coverage debuts in N.Y., is it ‘terror TV’ or ‘comprehensive reporting?’

08/09/11
Staff Writer
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It has been called “terror television” and a “mouthpiece for al-Qaeda,” and critics say its anti-Israel bias only serves to further demonize Israel worldwide.

Supporters praise it for its comprehensive coverage that tries to present all angles of a story.

Now, after being blacked out in virtually all of the United States, the Al Jazeera television network owned by the Qatar royal family has come to New York.

Time Warner Cable subscribers saw Al Jazeera’s English-language network for the first time last week on the Rise station, Channel 92. Because it is not a premium service, it is available to all subscribers. Verizon FiOS said it would soon also carry the network on Rise, Channel 466, throughout the New York area. Both systems will carry it for 23 hours each day.

Cablevision, which serves most of Long Island, said it has no agreement to carry Al Jazeera English but is “always evaluating the channels we carry, based on consumer interest and other factors.” Nevertheless, last week it began carrying Al Jazeera English’s weekday one-hour news summary on a two-hour tape delay at 5 p.m. on Rise’s sister channel, WRNN, Channel 48.

Richard French, general manager of WRNN, said his privately owned stations decided to carry Al Jazeera English because of the unrest that has spread across the Middle East. He said he had watched the network’s coverage of the Egyptian uprising and “found it to be quality programming. It has more resources in the Middle East than anyone else. … Reaction from viewers is anecdotal but overwhelmingly positive.”

Al Antsey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, said the network is operated with “editorial independence and editorial integrity. We can be anti and pro nothing, and we provide comprehensive reporting, giving a 360-degree view.”

“I started at CBS News and have worked at Reuters, the Associated Press and ITN,” Antsey added. “I’m a journalist, and we have hundreds of the best journalists on earth [working for us]. We have no agenda.”

But the network was severely criticized earlier this year for ignoring the Feb. 15 attack and sexual assault on CBS reporter Lara Logan by Egyptians while she was covering the Arab uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Although the global media reported the story, Al Jazeera English was silent, even though it had what was arguably the most comprehensive coverage of the uprising.

Noting that the network’s mantra is, “The heart of the story, every angle, every side,” Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post wrote: “That’s less believable now.”

Asked if Al Jazeera English had ignored the story because it would have shown the Egyptian protesters in a less favorable light, Antsey replied: “The events that happened to Lara were awful. I worked with her at ITN. … We broadcast to 130 countries around the world, and as a global broadcaster it was not so much on our agenda as it was in the U.S. We looked at the wider picture. We didn’t do a unique story on it, but rather we reported on the challenge of being a reporter there and the threats made to journalists.”

Those who monitor the media are less than sanguine about WRNN’s decision to carry Al Jazeera English.

In a statement provided to The Jewish Week, officials with the nonprofit CAMERA: Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America said it should not be overlooked that Al Jazeera “is run and funded by a state [Qatar] that itself stifles dissent — a subject Al Jazeera sometimes reports on, but rarely in detail.”

The statement said that even though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Al Jazeera earlier this year for offering “real news,” there is “good reason for caution in giving Al Jazeera unfettered access to U.S. viewers. Its brand of journalism comes with dubious baggage.”

CAMERA has documented “the unbalanced reporting and commentary” of Al Jazeera in its English-language service, asserting that the network “casts Israel as the aggressor in its response to rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza and obscures Hamas’s responsibility for starting the violence.”

Don Irvine, chairman of the nonprofit Accuracy in Media, said he is “disappointed” Al Jazeera was able to “come in through the back door [on someone else’s channel] when it would otherwise not get on.”

“We call it terror television because it has been used as a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda,” he said. “It is a network for Arab world propaganda, particularly for those who want to promote jihad against America. I don’t think WRNN, in deciding to carry it, understood the implications of giving it airtime.”

Irvine said that in reporting on terrorist attacks, Al Jazeera gives terrorist supporters a chance to justify their actions without letting the other side speak.

“There is no counterbalance,” he said. “They have a clearly defined view. They don’t have to ram it down your throat for 24 hours a day. But if they report on a terror incident for three or four minutes with a justification of what was done … it will eventually convince” the viewer.

Antsey admitted there have been errors at Al Jazeera, such as the time the Arabic channel held a birthday party on the air for Samir Kuntar, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization who was convicted of killing four Israelis, including smashing the head of a 4-year-old girl against a rock.

“The gentleman involved was fully reprimanded, and he no longer works for us,” Antsey said. “Clearly, that was taken very seriously. That is not the channel I run. I would not have run that. … Action was taken immediately after the show was aired.”

Irvine said there clearly is a difference between the English and Arabic stations. He said the “English version is more sanitized because it appeals to an American audience and it wants to look like CNN International. And so it covers soccer and does features so it does not appear as harsh as Al Jazeera Arabic. But that does not mean its mission has changed all that much. [Qatar] wouldn’t have launched this network if it didn’t want to have influence in the U.S. … They are not about facts and the truth. They have a point of view and want to push this propaganda, and there is nothing that says they have to be fair.”

During its first week of coverage here, the all-news English-language network carried a story from its reporter in the Gaza Strip in which she said that Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls the area, has begun distributing free food to residents in an effort to improve its image. Al Jazeera is one of the only news agencies with a news bureau in Gaza.

In another report, the network reported on the growing strength of Norway’s far right following the bombing and shooting rampage by Anders Breivik last month that killed 92. It also interviewed people in other parts of Europe who said the massacre occurred at a time a nationalist revival was taking root across Europe.

Cliff Kincaid, director of Accuracy in Media, pointed out that both networks “are paid for by the emir of Qatar, and we have documented that some of the management personnel for Al Jazeera English come from Al Jazeera Arabic. The editorial policy comes from the same people who run both networks. The difference is that with the English [network] they have hired a number of Western faces. But keep in mind that one of the first hires in the U.S. was David Marash. He claimed he would have editorial independence and be able to develop his own stories, but he quit after two years in 2008.”

In an e-mail interview, Marash this week described Al Jazeera English as, “Must-see TV news, probably the best news channel in the world (albeit with weaknesses in sometimes reporting its attitudes rather than the full story on American stories). I watch it almost every day.”

Asked about its coverage of Israel, Marash said it “clearly keeps its eyes on the interests and treatment of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, which gives them plenty of occasion to criticize the Israeli government. But in Israel they do try to report stories out, and to base them on facts or clearly attributed points of view.

“It may be anti-Netanyahu, anti-Likud etc. ... but it is not anti-Semitic.”

He pointed out that during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Al Jazeera English reported the attacks on Israeli civilians “with as much outrage as it reported attacks on innocent Lebanese, which is typical of their approach.”

“The Arab Spring can, I think, be called the Al Jazeera Revolution,” Marash added, “since the values of the revolution were promulgated to the revolutionary generation via Al Jazeera Arabic.”

Last Update:

08/23/2011 - 10:36

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Al-Jihadzeera is the best news network for pro-Islamic terrorist supporters. It's viciously anti-semitic, anti-Israel, anti-America. They appeal to the most hateful, violent bigots.
Miriam and the rest of the nazis who commented here should move to the Middle East so they can live among the savages.

It is very hard to please everyone it seems! After watching Al-Jazeera news for a good couple of weeks, I feel that this is the only news network that covers true international news--from the war against drug cartels in Guatemala to what's truly happening in the grounds in Libya--I feel it is the most comprehensive news network. I truly had no idea that anyone had anything to say against their coverage quality until I read this article!! As a loyal and long time TWC subscriber, I am very glad that they decided to air Al-Jazeera English 23 hrs a day. It is sooo refreshing to see REAL international news instead of the biased American crap! Before this, the only outlet we had for international news was the french and italian news they air on channel 25! Thank you Al-Jazeera for being such a comprehensive news network! If AJ has to answer to being anti-semitic (which they are not) then FOX news has to answer to being anti-intellectual! If TWC decides to cancel AJ, they can be assured that I will remove myself from their subscription and raise a HELLUVA LOT OF RUCKUS (and a petition or two)!! I am a true fan of AJ news and have made their website my new homepage (sorry BBC news!)

Seriously. CAMERA is some type of RIGHT wing way to pro-Israel-can do no harm organization. I used to see their stuff in college, not fact based at all. Or, they promote their own version of the story which is way off.. Too bad its being quoted in this article as an authority of some kind because its not.
As far as Aljazeera is concerned,been watching it for years and it is hands down, the best news outlet there is today. I mean seriously, you can watch Bill Moyers, PBS, Charley Rose, Mcneill Lehrer news hour or just shut the tv off . Fox is like the cartoon network, CNN has become like E entertainment television after Ted Turner got out and the rest, well , not worth mentioning.

been watching al jazeera more since i have been abroad for last few weeks. To be honest, its not anywhere near as bad as say Fox News (in terms of quality news coverage). As for Israel coverage, I am not expecting some kinda lovefest (hey its a arab network appealing to a billion muslims), but its not this sort of militantly bad coverage as was propagandized to be me before actually watching the channel. Hey they even covered with a reporter on the ground the recent israeli housing crisis, and interviewed an israeli...without any preconceived notions. The propaganda in the states is much worse then the actuality. I say this in terms of AL J english...what they report in arabic....anybodies guess

Since ? 2006 I've called on our satellite server (DISH) network which provides excellent service and variety ...asking "when will you provide Al Jazeera English?" since its been broadcasting out of Washington DC for years? they claimed to not have any knowledge of "english" version in the US...each yr I've called to request. Only small townships in Vermont and Ohio have had the freedom to bring AJEnglish to their communities but for remaining 99% of the US...bupkas. What about our free speech? and all the Democracy stuff that we merchandise everywhere ELSE? I am happy to learn that NYC will be "allowed" to get to watch AJE which seems to surpass most if not ALL US msm network news sources. I am also jealous...but not jealous enough to move to the East coast.....Enjoy...and put in a good word for us out West, please?!

personally I would feel more comfortable if the English version and the Arabic version were the same so that people would really know what A.J. is all about.

I have been watching it for the past week. Mostly I find it boring. I have to admit that their coverage of the rent protests in Israel were more comprehensive than any other broadcast media in the USA. Even better than the coverage given by CCTV9

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