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5 female Al Jazeera anchors resign 31, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera.
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At least five female presenters of Al Jazeera’s Arabic news have resigned. Numerous reasons are mooted for this (relatively) mass exodus. The most prominent reason (seriously…) appears to be (no, really…) issues relating to their clothes and make-up (honestly…). This could be (and I sincerely hope that this is), however, some kind of ‘muddying of the waters’, so to speak, to camouflage more serious issues.

Other rumors suggest that the grievances are more to do with:

  • “the imposition of one political and ideological view” in the newsroom i.e. ‘Islamist’-type views
  • Cumulative “unprofessional policies” over several years
  • Harassment

The anchors in question are Julnar Moussa, Jumana Nammour, Lona Ashibl, Lina Zahreddine, Nawfar Ali. Several others are also voicing their support so that number could well rise.

Al Jazeera’s contentious ‘poverty in Bahrain’ reports 28, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Bahrain, Qatar.
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Here are the contentious Al Jazeera videos on poverty in Bahrain that some say is the cause of the recent Qatari-Bahraini issues.

Bahrain bans Al Jazeera 19, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Qatar.
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The Bahraini Government has, according to Arabian Business, banned Al Jazeera from operating in the Kingdom. Their offices have been closed by Bahraini police for “breaching professional media norms and flouting press and publishing regulations.” Whilst it is unclear what the precipitant of this draconian action was, an educated guess could be Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Qatari-Bahraini naval spat last week where the Qatari coastguard opened fire on Bahraini boats encroaching on Qatar’s territory. During a similar incident between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia last month, no regional media covered the story for all too apparent reasons.

This kind of spat is not unusual. Since Al Jazeera’s founding in the mid-1990s every Arab country has launched a complaint at one point or another, withdrawn their Ambassador or closed the local office over Al Jazeera’s temerity to actually tell people what is happening in their country. Currently, for example, Al Jazeera’s office in Tunisia is – I believe – still closed. Moreover, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Saudi Arabia led to Riyadh withdrawing their Ambassador for 4 years until an agreement was reached in 2007, widely thought to have included some kind of mandate on Al Jazeera to ‘tone down’ its coverage of KSA. Today, for example, I have been told that all editorial decisions regarding GCC politics must go up the chain of command to the senior editors and managers to avoid just this kind of incident.

Overall, relations between Bahrain and Qatar are good. Their long-running border dispute was settled by the ICJ in 2001 and Bahrain supporting the counter coup against the current Emir in the mid-1990s is considered ancient history. Indeed, there will soon(ish) be a train line linking Bahrain to Qatar, something that will have an interesting effect, I think, on the demography of Qatar and Bahrain, with Qatar being far and away the richer partner.

Update:

Al Jazeera have suggested that the reason for the ban might be a report on poverty in Bahrain that they recently aired.

Bloomberg suggest that it perhaps has more to do with Bahrain wanting increased rent from Qatar for use of the Hawar islands which the ICJ ruling gave to Bahrain.

Al Jazeera move into Balkans 5, April 2010

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The National reports that Al Jazeera news international are seeking to expand into the Balkans. They are in the process of buying Studio 99, a TV and radio station in financial difficulties based in Sarajevo. Reports suggest that Al Jazeera will pay roughly £150,000 for the station, which they are expected to use as a regional base.

This is, as The National point out, but a part of Al Jazeera’s recent expansion.

– July 2009 – Al Jazeera finally break into the US market

– November 2009 – Al Jazeera bought Arab Radio and Television, unequivocally making it the Middle East and North Africa’s biggest sports broadcaster.

This news will find a mixed reception in the West. Some view Al Jazeera as something of an insidious propaganda machine spreading extremism, whereas others take a more moderate view.

Hat Tip: ML

Playboy played on children’s TV & Al J’s birth 18, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Qatar.
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There is some consternation in the US at the moment after TV directors mistakenly played Playboy adult TV adverts during children’s programmes last week. Apparently, parents were none too pleased. The reason that I mention this on thegulfblog.com is that a very similar thing happened back in the mid-90s without which Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s most popular TV channel, would not have been able to get off the ground.

[Please excuse my vagueness at times as I can’t remember the technical terminology involved and I don’t have the source book with me right now.]

When Al Jazeera was originally broadcast it was only available to a relatively small number of people. This was because there is only a finite amount of ‘bandwidth’ for all TV channels and there simply was not the space for Al Jazeera. However, fortuitously – so to speak – a TV station broadcasting in Saudi Arabia (of all places…) accidentally broadcast what I seem to remember being described as really rather hard-core pornography during the day during children’s TV shows. Need I say that this really did not go down too well in the Kingdom of the Two Holy Mosques. The upshot was that the TV station in question (French or Italian, I think…) had its license and ergo ‘bandwidth’ stripped away freeing up otherwise rare ‘large scale’ bandwidth necessary for Al Jazeera to reach a far wider audience.

Twitter not instrumental in Green Movement? 23, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Iran.
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A recent Al Jazeera study sought to dispel the notion that Twitter was instrumental in the organization and popularization of Iran’s Green Movement. The head of new media at the Doha based news organization concluded that there were less than 60 twitterers in Tehran at the time. This number subsequently fell to only 6 owing to subsequent media restrictions. Such a conclusion would be a blow to those that trumpeted the social networking revolution provoking near revolution in Iran.

However, before any firm conclusions can be drawn, the role of Tor and similar proxy redirecting servers needs to be evaluated. These services reroute ISP addresses redirecting traffic through foreign servers instead. Whilst I am no technological whizz, I don’t quite see how Al Jazeera could have taken this into account. The whole point of Tor is, after all, to keep the original ISP address (ergo its country of origin) a secret. I am willing, however, to be corrected…

Hat tip: Abu Aadrvark

Iran’s TV channel taken off Arab satellite 11, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Media in the ME.
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(Go to 10:23 for the relevant clip)

Two of the Arab world’s biggest satellite broadcasting companies, Nilesat and Arabsat, have taken the Iranian channel Alaam of the air for breach of contract. Needless to say, no specific, verifiable breach has been mentioned. It doesn’t take much of an imagination or much understanding of the Middle East to believe that this was done for political reasons and that this ‘breach of contract’ business is but the laziest of covers. Hezbollah, for example, Iran’s proxy, have come out and decried this change, citing political pressures.

In numerous fields, Arab Sunni states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have, for years now (or for centuries in different ‘formats’), been engaged in what can broadly be described as a cold conflict with Iran/Persia. Occasionally this conflict bubbles to the surface in, say, the form of the Iran-Iraq war or even verbal jostling as to the name of the Gulf separating the Arabian Peninsula from modern-day Iran. Alaam must be seen in this context. As a font of Iranian soft power, broadcasting Iran’s point of view across the Arab world directly into homes.

This kerfuffle is reminiscent of many Arab states’ outrage at Radio Cairo’s pan-Arab exalting, Arab monarchy decrying broadcasts during Nasser’s pomp. These were believed to incite the local populations against their rulers, advocating Nasser’s wholesome, brotherly and lofty pan-Arab ideals against, for example, the morally corrupt, Western supporting, elitism of Saudi Arabia’s monarchical rule.

Al Jazeera’s broadcasts in recent years, often bitingly critical of, well, all Arab regimes at one time or another have enraged Arab leaders. Indeed, so far as I can recall, all Arab states have either sent petitions to Qatar’s Foreign Ministry to demand that they control Al Jazeera or have broken off diplomatic relations with the small, thumb sized Emirate.

(Incidentally, I am sure that there is an interesting article there: comparing Radio Cairo to Al Jazeera…)

Hat tip: A jolly good one from Abstract JK

Al Jazeera’s cheeky Burj Khalifah headline 5, January 2010

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Al Jazeera’s headline on a lead article discussing the opening of the world’s tallest building in Dubai is, I believe, an example of the type of journalism that angers various people around the region.

دبي تتجاهل الديون وتفتتح برجها

Dubai ignores the debt and opens its tower

My translation is, I think it’s fair to say, a kind one. The root of the verb that they use for ignore  VI جهل means, according to the universally recognised most authoritative arabic-english dictionary:

to ignore; to refuse to have anything to do; shut one’s eyes, disregard; to affect ignorance, pretend to know nothing

Whilst my arabic is in no way, shape or form good enough to pronounce something to be the case, I really would suggest that this is a really rather cheeky headline. This word has well-known connotations and other meanings that are rather negative. There is, incidentally, no way of knowing what the author really was trying to get at: he could have been meaning to say ‘Dubai pretends to know nothing about its debt and opens its tower’; both are written exactly the same in the Arabic language but mean, of course, different things. This kind of naughty quasi-double entendre is par for the course for many journalists as an interesting headline to attract attention. I doubt, however, whether the powers that be in Dubai would be quite as forgiving.

Update:

Poor form, I forgot the Hat tip: Abstract JK and his tip-top blog http://alajnabi.blogspot.com/

Jewish businessman to buy half of Al Jazeera? 8, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Qatar.
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Micheal Collins Dunn turns Sherlock Holmes over the rumour that Jewish-Egyptian mogul Haim Saban is seeking to buy a large stake in Al Jazeera. Dunn comments that the notion that strong Jewish supporting tycoon buying Al Jazeera off the Qatari Royal Family sounds anywhere from bizarre to ridiculous (the latter of which being the end of the spectrum at which I stand). A bit of digging and Dunn goes to the source of the story, Egypt’s fairly scurrilous and tabloidish Al Misryyoon. Given the papers penchant for publishing – how to put this – not necessarily 100% corroborated reports and Egypt’s general antipathy towards Qatar these days and there is a perfect recipe for a naughty little story to stir up a bit of trouble.

Al Jazeera to show Israeli sport 16, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Qatar.
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al jazeera logo

…reports the Palestinian News Network. No stranger to controversy, Al Jazeera covered Israel’s Maccabi Haifa’s 3-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday night on its sports television channel. Some see this as a good sign of regional if not quite rapprochement, then at least vague normalization, whereas others fervently believe that Israel should be boycotted in all forms possible.

When it was first broadcast in the mid 1990s, Al Jazeera shocked the Arab world by interviewing Israeli politicians and military personnel whenever merited by a story. Whilst this may sound odd – that people were shocked by this – such interviews had never previously been conducted by Middle Eastern media.