Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

How’s your news, Al Jazeera?

with 5 comments

Al Jazeera English

Jörg Lau (in German) made an interesting recommendation to Europeans interested in what’s going on in the Middle East. He’s been watching Al Jazeera during the ongoing Israeli invasion in Gaza and brings up interesting points why the channel might be a positive addition to the media landscape. Al Jazeera has been the only news channel with a correspondent in Gaza from the start of the attacks, and it presents the conflict in a totally different light as compared to what we are used to.

These are the principal observations that he makes:

  •  The framing is set differently: It is “War on Gaza” as opposed to “War against the Hamas”
  • The civilian casualties of the invasion are at the centre of the coverage. 
  • At the same time, the reporting is not populist or unfair: The Israeli government is being interviewed and confronted with questions about war crimes in Gaza.
  • Al Jazeera is not a propaganda medium for Arab governments. Spokespersons from Hamas, the Israeli government and Arab leaders all get their share of airtime.

Lau concludes that a counterveiling power has been established when it comes to framing the Israeli-Palestinina conflict. Al Jazeera in his opinion is a credible and relevant news source that could rock the boat of “Western” media hegemony.

I definitely agree to this. But I would go further even. I think that Al Jazeera also has opened up a space for dialogue that has not been there before. By giving airtime to Hamas and the Israeli government, it creates new communication channels between groups who refused to talk directly and thereby it also undermines the propaganda machines that work best when there is no dialogue at all. It presents an Israeli perspective to an Arab audience, and at the same time it can legitimately ask critical questions to the Israeli government that the “Western” media seem to refuse to ask. Another aspect: for me as a non-Arab and non-Muslim it is new to listen to Hamas spokespersons directly as it’s not something that I usually get to hear. 

Lau says he finds Al Jazeera coverage of the war in Gaza too one-sided, and he laments that Hamas power in Gaza is a blind spot in the coverage. I agree. But it is not really the point, because this not a matter of presenting the news in a way that an please an Arab, an Israeli and a Western audience. It can’t be done. It is primarily a matter of all sides listening to each other and – while expressing concerns, grievances or even hatred – to at least recognise the other side as human beings and as potential partners in dialogue. That would already be a step into the right direction.


Written by henrik

January 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Interview Request

    Hello Dear and Respected,
    I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion.

    We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.


    Ghazala Khan
    The Pakistani Spectator

    Ghazala Khan

    January 17, 2009 at 6:20 pm

  2. I agree with all the above-mentioned and I value the al-jazeera webpage as a good source of news that I regularly use. Yet, you shouldn´t forget that al-jazeera english and the Arab version of this news network have different editors and do not necessarily present similar views. I am not sure whether the Arab news program, which is the one primarily watched among people in the region, not the english one, is equally eager to present a balanced picture.


    January 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

  3. Thanks for the comment, Toby. It’s a legitimate question. I was actually thinking the same thing when I was writing this text. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the Arabic version of Al Jazeera as I don’t speak the language.

    If you or anyone else can provide some info on how the Arabic and international versions of the news reporting compare, please do!


    January 17, 2009 at 8:42 pm

  4. Unfortunately, i don´t speak Arabic either so I can´t really base my observation on facts. In any way, I believe that learning Arabic in the West and learning Western languages (and Hebrew) in the Arab world is something that should be promoted a lot more, as it is one of the most simple and the most effective means to cross the hurdle of misunderstanding and mutual ignorance. (sorry for changing the topic 😉


    January 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm

  5. […] a comment » A while back, I ran a post here on Al Jazeera as a positive addition to the international media landscape. I now came across a […]

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