Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Posts Tagged ‘coverage

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