Censure The Censors

Source: MediaPost – By Frank Maggio

Last Wednesday’s intentionally provocative John Hancock post, concerning Al-Jazeera‘s efforts to penetrate MSO’s with their English-speaking spin-off, generated a record number of responses. The column’s unofficial “sentiment tally” would have one believe that media insiders are solidly — in fact, unanimously — pro-Al-Jazeera English.


Yusuf al-Qaradawi

The lack of any responses to the outlandish proclamations of Yusuf al-Qaradawi must, at a minimum, be construed that there is little angst (at least among TV Board readers) that the Sharia way of life — and its treatment of women — will ever gain traction here in the United States.

Even the response that began with, “Thank you for sharing what many others wouldn’t have the courage to reveal…” followed up with, “…that Al-Jazeera has a lot to offer Americans of any ethnicity or religion who want a broader opinion…”

One journalist who might have weighed in differently was understandably, and regrettably, unavailable for comment.  I’m speaking, of course, about Lara Logan.

Readers will recall that Logan was the victim of a horrendous sexual assault and battery while covering the Egyptian uprising, in her role as a 60 Minutes and CBS correspondent.

What some of you may NOT know is that Al-Jazeera – the same Al-Jazeera that one TV Board respondent cheered on as the alternative to Fox News – did not cover the Lara Logan story.  From every report, including Al-Jazeera’s own admissions, their failure to cover this story was NOT an oversight.

Said more clearly: news of the incident was censored.

Certainly, news of all kinds goes unreported every day.  Some might argue that if it’s not reported, it’s not news.  Alternatively, the New York Times has coined the phrase, “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” creating the idea that unfit news is still news, just not print-worthy.

Regardless of your definition of news, the assault of Logan should have been newsworthy to Al-Jazeera, especially since it prides itself on getting to “the heart of the story.  Every Angle.  Every Side.”  The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capeheart’s post of February 18th echoes these sentiments:

“Never mind that what happened to Logan IS a story. Leave aside the fact that she is a correspondent for an American broadcaster. How about the fact that a woman could be swarmed by a mob of 200 people, attacked and sexually assaulted and was only saved by the actions of a group of women and 20 Egyptian soldiers? Was Logan the only one? Is that not newsworthy? I’m at a loss for what would drive a news network to ignore news…”

Al-Jazeera’s refusal to cover this story is censorship in its highest, most insidious form.  I’m thankful that the press flagged it.  But what do we do about it, other than report about the unreported?

How do we censure — but not censor — the censors?

Here’s where I come down on this. It’s important that Americans have the opportunity to see what Middle Easterners see (and DON’T SEE), when our fellow lovers of democracy look for “the heart of the story, from every angle and every side.”  We Americans have a difficult enough time, with hundreds of TV, print, radio and online news outlets vying for our attention, in our constant quest to pry the truth from what others want us to believe.  At least we can choose our delusion.

That’s why broadcasting a sanitized, Al-Jazeera English network, with a different line-up than Al-Jazeera Arabic, appears to be as much about propaganda, as it is about news reporting, or culture.  It’s more about “here’s what we want foreigners to see” as opposed to “here’s what we show our own culture.”

Effectively, it’s just more censorship.

A far more valuable choice — and one that MSOs might support — is the retransmission of the unadulterated Al-Jazeera Arabic feed — with English subtitles.

If you’re curious about the difference between the two feeds, those of you with iPhones, iPads, Symbian, and Windows Mobile phones can download free apps for both Al-Jazeera English, and Al-Jazeera Arabic.  The surface differences are striking (though I must admit that my Arabic is a bit rusty).

The AJE feed looks and sounds slick, and its content definitely appears to have higher production values.  The ARA feed, on the other hand, exudes a feeling of urgency; the guests, news content, and field coverage all seem to resonate with a sense of less-censored authenticity.

This idea hasn’t been floated anywhere else yet, so drop us a comment (or 10), and tell us what you think.

While you’re at it, help us solve one sticky dilemma: who would generate the translations?

Activist, Unplugged from the Matrix. Action for Freedom!

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