Reassessing al-Jazeera

This is an important piece on al-Jazeera. Olivier Da Lage starts off noting the commonplaces about al-Jazeera's pioneering role in Arab satellite TV and the political impact of its hard-hitting reporting and interviews. And then he makes this crucial point:

But Al Jazeera was launched in 1996 and this is 2010, 14 years later. We cannot be satisfied repeating the same clichés, however true they may be, about the pioneering role of Al Jazeera. In the course of these 14 years the media and political landscapes around Al Jazeera have profoundly changed, largely due to the role it played in disrupting the traditional media system in the Arab world. But these changes, in turn, affected Al Jazeera for two main reasons. The most obvious reason is that, in 1996, Al Jazeera's style of reporting was unchallenged in the Arab world. This is no longer true. By setting the standard, Al Jazeera created the conditions and the framework for real competition and pluralism, and everyone had to more or less adapt to the Al Jazeera model. As a result, Al Jazeera is still a figurehead and a major actor, but it no longer has a monopoly on professional and independent reporting in Arabic. The second reason might be less obvious but it is linked to the reason for which Al Jazeera was originally created. Irrespective of the sincerity of the new Qatari Emir regarding freedom of the press, Sheikh Hamad had set himself a major objective: put Qatar on the geopolitical map well beyond the size of its territory and population. Al Jazeera was instrumental in achieving this goal, as the subsequent years have proven.

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Taming Arab satellite television

From bendib.com

More moves to implement the 2008 Arab Information Ministers' Charter, which sought pan-Arab regulation for satellite TV programming:

RIYADH (AFP) – A proposal to create a pan-Arab television monitor is a "disturbing" move that could could lead to censorship of broadcasts critical of Arab governments, a media watchdog said on Saturday.
The Saudi-Egyptian proposal to establish a regional office to supervise satellite broadcasters is aimed directly at Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, the Palestinian Hamas group's Al-Aqsa TV and Hezbollah's Al-Manar channel, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.
"This proposal is disturbing, to say the least," the group said in a statement.
"The danger is that this super-police could be used to censor all TV stations that criticise the region?s governments. It could eventually be turned into a formidable weapon against freedom of information."
The proposal to create the "Office for Arab Satellite Television" is to be discussed when information ministers from Arab League countries meet in Cairo on January 24.
Reporters Without Borders said the proposal stems in part from a recent move by the US Congress to allow satellite owners to be branded "terrorist entities" if they allow broadcasts by television channels also branded as such.
Beyond a common interest in implementing censorship, this could also by a means to resolve the Arab media war taking place — with peaks and throughs — since the Gaza war. Egypt in particular is interested in calming al-Jazeera's coverage of the Rafah wall, and then of course there's always the Qatari-Saudi rivalries.
See alsoArab Media & Society had a bunch of in-depth articles about the charter, and we covered the ministers' meeting here (search for more).
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Saddam TV

BBC News - Mystery tribute channel to Saddam Hussein launched:

"The 'al-Arab' channel, dubbed Saddam TV in Iraq first appeared on Bahrain-based Noorsat and Egypt-owned NileSat on Friday and is also streamed on the Internet. An Iraqi member of parliament, Jaber Habib Jaber, condemned what he called the channel's 'glorification of a tyrant'. One Baghdad resident told the BBC that the channel has become his favourite even though watching it makes him sad for reminding him of when Iraq was safe. However the BBC's Natalia Antelava in Baghdad says that many in the city are indifferent to the news of the channel's launch. It comes as Iraqi authorities are gearing up for parliamentary elections that are due to be held in January 2010."
This story made me think: what' the programming grid on Saddam TV? His old ghostwritten biopics? Variety shows presented by Comical Ali? Cooking lessons with Chemical Ali? Documentaries about Stalin, Saddam's favorite historical figure? Tributes by the many journalists, think tankers, arms dealers and others who took money from Saddam in the old day? The Qusay and Udday Show, a sitcom based around two sons of an all-powerful dictator who get to drive around and terrorize Baghdad? Does every one and his dog have a satellite channel now in the Middle East? Via @Linaattallah.
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Links February 13th to February 15th

Links for February 13th through February 15th:

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Links for January 12th

Automatically posted links for January 12th:

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