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Al-Jazeera’s fiery talkshows: the obligatory youtube post 5 April 2007

Posted by foray in Al-Ittijah al-Mu’akis, al-jazeera, al-kasim, al-Qassem, al-qassim, talkshow, talkshows.
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There’s a simple formula to al-Jazeera’s most famous political talk show Al-Ittijah al-Mu’akis (The Opposite Direction): get two guests with diametrically-opposed viewpoints on to the set and let them unleash their fury.

Below is one of the more spectacular recent examples, as two Iraqis debate the execution of Saddam Hussein.

This show was broadcast on 2 January 2007. It features Iraqi MP Mish’an al-Jubouri and journalist Sadeq al-Musawi. The translation and excerpting is from memri.org, everyone’s favourite (or not) Israeli-based Arab media watchdog.

There’s no question this stuff makes for compelling viewing. But does it enlighten the audience in any way?

Al-Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar was recently challenged with the oft-repeated accusation that his channel was guilty of focusing on the sensational (surely a trait of almost all media?). He replied:

In the last few years in the Middle East, the main hot spots in the world are here, around us, around the territory of al-Jazeera. If you speak about Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Darfur — wherever — Iran, Lebanon — these areas have all become open conflict zones. And a state of conflict also means a state of transformation. People become more emotional, more overwrought, and, at the same time, you may see less rational behaviour in dealing with issues related to the conflict than you would see with ordinary situations. Therefore, we Arab TV stations have to project a certain reality. On the ground, if you interview heads of political parties, all politicians, all ordinary people, all of them could have a degree of emotion that is higher than ordinary because of the conflict.

That is the reality that Al Jazeera is covering. So, I do reject the accusation that al-Jazeera is presenting sensationalism. I think that it is projecting what we have in the Middle East, rather than trying to influence a course of events.

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