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Iran, al-Jazeera spat continues 14 May 2007

Posted by foray in al-jazeera, crackdown, iran.
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Iranian embassy officials in Abu Dhabi, UAE, today ordered the al-Jazeera television crew to leave the Emirates Palace Hotel ahead of a press conference by visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reported Gulf News.


Jail for civil servant, researcher in ‘al-Jazeera memo’ case; UK media blackout 11 May 2007

Posted by foray in al-jazeera, al-jazeera memo, media.

Two men have been jailed in the UK for breaching the Official Secrets Act by attempting to leak a memo describing details of a conversation in April 2004 between British PM Tony Blair and US president George Bush.

David Keogh, a communications officer at the Cabinet Office, was given six months while Leo O’Connor, a researcher for anti-war Labour MP Anthony Clarke, received three months

British newspapers are all reporting the story, but not what the memo contains. Because they can’t.

As The Independent noted:

Throughout the trial, the public and press were excluded from parts of the hearing which referred to the contents of the highly sensitive memo. It is a contempt of court to publish details of the memo.

What is known is that The Daily Mirror reported on the particular memo on 22 November 2005 in a front-page story. The original article (full text still available on the Mirror site here) stated that the memo indicated that Bush “planned to bomb” the Doha headquarters of al-Jazeera. One source told the newspaper the president’s reference to bombing the Qatari capital was in jest. Another source claimed the conversation was serious. The memo also allegedly “included details of troop deployments”.

Several British newspapers are now appealing to be allowed to report on more details of the case – including the information in the above paragraph. Justice Richard Aikens said the British press could reveal some of the background, provided they did it in a remarkably contorted manner, as The Guardian explained:

The judge suggested that the allegations could be “recycled,” but only if they were published on a separate page of a newspaper from that containing references to the trial.

The Mirror today could only hint at what their previous story had said:

Much of the trial was held behind closed doors after the judge said that “some individuals or groups in the Middle East might react very unfavourably to the contents of the letter”.

Details of the memo had already been revealed exclusively by the Daily Mirror and are therefore in the public domain.

But although our story was flashed around the world and is freely available on the internet, the judge ruled it could not be repeated in reports of the trial.

The original Mirror story prompted some al-Jazeera staffers to set up the “Don’t Bomb Us” blog. A flotilla of bloggers subsequently stepped forward – under the motto “I’ll publish the al-Jazeera memo” – to proclaim they would risk jail to release the contents of the letter.

Iran parliament bars al-Jazeera journalists after al-Sistani “insult” 7 May 2007

Posted by foray in Bila Hudud, crackdown, iran, iraq.

The Iranian parliament has banned al-Jazeera correspondents from its premises after accusing the host of one of the channel’s talkshows of insulting Iraqi Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Bila Hudud (Without Borders) presenter Ahmed Mansour was said to have questioned al-Sistani’s leadership credentials.

Parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Hadad Adel said: “Parliament has decided to prevent al-Jazeera journalists from entering until this network makes a formal apology for insulting Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.”

“We consider this act as a plot of the enemies of Iraq. Al-Jazeera has insulted Ayatollah Sistani because it is well aware of his role in keeping Iraq united.”

After several Iraqi Shia rallies in Basra and Najaf, al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Sheikh said: “There was no offence directed at al-Sistani and al-Jazeera doesn’t approve of offending anyone. We have the utmost respect and appreciation of all religious leaders, foremost of whom is al-Sistani.”

Jordanian authorities seize al-Jazeera tape of Prince Hassan interview 23 April 2007

Posted by foray in crackdown, Ghassan Ben Jeddou, Ghassan bin Jadu, Hiwar Maftuh, open dialogue, talkshow.
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Hours after al-Jazeera’s Hiwar Maftuh (Open Dialogue) programme host Ghassan Ben Jeddou interviewed Prince Hassan bin Talal on Wednesday, Jordanian police confiscated the original video tape and photographs of the meeting as the producer was about to leave Amman.

Prince Hassan – the uncle of Jordan’s King Abdullah II – is said to have told the show that a national security adviser in Saudi Arabia was financing Sunni militants to fight Hezbollah. 

The Jordan Times has the inside scoop:

[A Jordanian] official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was a conviction that the Doha-based station “conducted the interview in a manner that would have allowed it to use it in a dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.”

The official said that the authorities know that the confiscation decision might cause damage to Jordan’s image, “but this damage would be much less than if the interview would have been aired, because then we would have to pay a heavy political price.”

“The country weighed the two options and decided that being accused of carrying out an act that is not in line with the freedom of the press would cause less harm to the country’s interests than the political repercussions of airing the interview,”  the official added.

AJE embraces Youtube 14 April 2007

Posted by foray in al-jazeera, al-jazeera english, youtube.
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Al-Jazeera English has opened a “channel” on youtube.com, providing official video clips from its broadcasts. The longest clip is 20 minutes, presenting AJE’s new programme Political Bytes, a show attempting to link “people from different backgrounds and perspectives via the internet and creating an online global conversation”.

Unofficial al-Jazeera clips continue to run on youtube. A current favourite doing the rounds is Egyptian comedian Mohamed Sobhi imitating al-Jazeera’s various on-air presenters

“Al-Jazeera? They show beheadings, don’t they?” – Anatomy of a myth 10 April 2007

Posted by foray in al-jazeera, beheadings, media, myth, myth watch, myths.

Al-Jazeera has never shown footage of a hostage being beheaded. So why do so many believe the station has broadcast such barbaric scenes from Iraq and Afghanistan?

The false decapitation reports started creeping into media stories about al-Jazeera as its international influence grew, and – much to the chagrin of the network’s media department – kept getting recycled.

So prevalent has the myth become that some al-Jazeera insiders wonder if it’s part of an intentional smear campaign against their channel.

The matter wasn’t helped when US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seemingly endorsed the story in June 2005, as he told a security conference in Singapore:

I think the United States is well aware of the fact that its circumstance and its position is such that there is going to be criticism and I suspect that from time to time the criticism is merited. But I also know that if anyone here lived in the Middle East and watched a network like al-Jazeera day after day after day, even if you were an American, you would begin to believe that America was bad. And quite honestly, I do not get up in the morning and think that America is what’s wrong with the world. The people that are going on television chopping off people’s heads is what’s wrong with the world. And television networks that carry it and promote it and are Johnny-on-the-spot every time there’s a terrorist act are promoting it.

Not true, al-Jazeera replied in a diplomatically-worded statement on the same day.

Here’s a select chronological list of incidents where the urban legend has been reported as fact in recent years. It includes numerous media outlets you’d think would know better: (more…)

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? (more…)

Al-Jazeera in print: bold plan for pan-Arab newspaper takes shape 1 April 2007

Posted by foray in al-jazeera, newspaper, newspapers.
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Al-Jazeera’s foray into print media appears to be on track with official confirmation that Abdel Wahab Badrakhan will be the editor of its pan-Arab newspaper.

Badrakhan today addressed the annual journalistic gab fest that is The Al Jazeera Forum. Details of what he told the audience are sketchy at this point and come from a number of bloggers reporting from the invitation-only event.

News Dissector’s raw jottings on the Badrakhan speech noted:

Spreading democracy in this part of the world has been disappointing. Sees Blogs as offering background on reality of situation.

Some intriguing remarks on the AIG blog suggest there are plans for something larger: (more…)

Report: US military jammed HotBird 8 satellite in January 27 March 2007

Posted by foray in jamming, satellite broadcasting.
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In a warning to international broadcasters that the US will not hesitate to interfere with what it perceives as enemy satellite signals, its military reportedly blocked the transmissions of the HotBird 8 transponder on 23 January.

According to an article in the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, the attack on Eutelsat’s HotBird 8 lasted 24 hours and was an attempt to interfere with the signal of the Iraqi militant-broadcaster al-Zawraa. The problem was, HotBird 8 doesn’t carry the al-Zawraa signal. It does however transmit the signal of another Iraqi channel called al-Zahra. Was it all a blunder? (more…)

New book focuses on culture at al-Jazeera 27 March 2007

Posted by foray in al-jazeera, books.
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The latest al-Jazeera-related tome, due out in June 2007, is: The Culture of Al Jazeera: inside an Arab media giant by Mohamed Zayani and Sofiane Sahraoui. It analyses the TV station using Edgar Schein‘s theories of organisational culture.

Foray has gotten hold of the table of contents: