Al-jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That Is Challenging the West (英語) ペーパーバック – 2006/2/9
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Al Jazeera is one of the most widely watched news channels in the world. Journalist Hugh Miles uncovers the true story behind the most influential media outlet in the Arab world.
"An uncomfortable and indispensable book. Miles bluntly challenges assumptions many Americans hold about that part of the world. Indispensable because it gives readers a more vivid, accurate understanding of that world."
Discovering the phenomenon of Al-Jazeera had been discussed but had never been given an overview, Hugh Miles set out to rectify that lack. This son of a diplomat had solid credentials for researching the history of the new news channel. Fluent in Arabic, Miles was able to talk to station management, reporters and viewers in various places. His summation is an excellent example of investigative reporting, well presented. By the time Miles began his project, the subject had already undergone both amazing growth and intemperate vilification. He explains how Arab governments find Al-Jazeera a fomenter of sedition and rebellion. Some see it as a tool of the Isreali government seeking to destabilise Arab rulers, while others are certain it's an arm of the CIA. Americans, especially the Bush regime, view it as a mouthpiece for terrorist societies and probably anti-Isreal. Viewers, Miles finds, all have their own opinions about Al-Jazeera's political orientation, but still make it their first choice for Middle East news.
The key event in Al-Jazeera's progress was, of course, the 9/11 attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. Any news from the Arab world suddenly became of great importance and Al-Jazeera was clearly the leading voice. That situation probably led Al-Queda to use it as a conveyance for pronouncements to the world. Al-Queda tapes broadcast on Al-Jazeera immediately led to the branding of the station as a "voice of terrorism". Station management laughs at that, particularly when the western news channels are breaking down the doors to use Al-Jazeera news clips they cannot obtain elsewhere. The competition at one point was stiff enough to lead CNN to write a contract giving it Al-Jazeera video clips six hours ahead of the other broadcasters. The invasion of Afghanistan intensified the situation, since Al-Jazeera was the only news source on the ground when attacks began.
There's a risk being at the forefront of a battle to report events. Americans, certain that Al-Jazeera was "the mouthpiece of Al-Queda", "accidently" destroyed the Kabul office. Later, in Baghdad, more "accidents" occurred, this time killing one reporter. Al-Jazeera was the sole occupier of the Palestine Hotel, which was also attacked. No "accidents" happened to other news agencies. And the attacks occurred after Al-Jazeera had informed the Defence Department of their locations in the city. Correspondents are supposed to be immune from assault by military forces. Iraqis themselves avoided being interviewed because the station was presumed to be a target of American military forces.
It says much that the United States has demanded the Emir "tone down" the station's material. He has rejected these admonishments, both because they're self-defeating and because he funds the station without managing it. Meanwhile, the viewers increase daily and the addition of an English-language channel will broaden it further. Viewers now look for the "golden plum" logo on one corner of the screen to ensure they're watching an authentic news source. Subscription to Al-Jazeera is a minimal cost, considering you'll see news unavailable elsewhere. The Opposite Direction, a talk show airing a multitude of outlooks, may not be as valuable for facts, but it will likely give you information you wouldn't find elsewhere. Read Hugh Miles and learn why this new station is so important and so admired. And vilified. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
The Good - lengthy treatment of Al-Jazeera's origins, operations, evolution, and popular shows and personalities. The writing style flows well, and the first two chapters, which details troubles in start up and its rocky relationship with certain Arab countries (who aren't used to free speech) is rather amusing at times.
The Bad - This is not a scholarly work. No references are provided for any of the claims in the book. What's worse, is he seems to take everything the network tells him at face value, without challenge. He claims that more than one of its reporters were "tortured" by the Americans, with no proof or no reference for this information. He parrots the claims that Al-Jazeera's offices in Iraq and Afghanistan were deliberately targeted by US forces, but doesn't even attempt skepticism toward any of these claims or give us references for them either. You get the idea. It's very obvious he greatly admires the network, which leads to the next problem.
Is Al-Jazeera biased in its coverage of anything? According to the author, no. He repeatedly claims all the major US networks are heavily biased toward the United States and against Arabs (it might be true, but he doesn't offer much specific proof). But he doesn't even consider the possibility that Al-Jazeera is the one that is biased, or the third possibility, that they all are. That Al-Jazeera is the standard we should follow is taken as a given.
Also, some claims just leave you scratching your head. For example, in Chapter 10, he claims that after 9/11, the White House demanded that the Networks censor their news in the name of patriotism. He goes on: "Never have the major news organizations been less critical of an American government." Never?? Has he ever heard of WWII? The Office of Censorship? And that's just one example. Repeatedly he makes wild claims like this in this book without a reference, and apparently, without doing enough research outside of the Al-Jazeera network itself.
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